For many cats the only time they get in a crate or the car is to go for a vet visit. Your cat will quickly make the connection between the crate and scary things like cars and vets. Crate training your cat will lead to less stress anytime your cat needs to be transported and can provide your cat with a go to safe spot in your home.
Buy a crate that is comfortable for your cat, they should be able to easily walk in and stand up and turn around while they are in the crate. A crate that is too small will be unappealing to your cat and if it’s way too big it can be difficult to get your cat out.
Once you have your crate, add a comfy bed or blanket to attract your cat. You can also toss in a couple of treats or a favorite toy. Pheromone sprays, such as Feliway, can also help calm your cat.
Begin by feeding meals near the crate but far enough away that your cat is still comfortable enough to eat, the distance will vary by cat.
Slowly move meals closer to the crate and eventually move the food inside the crate so that your cat is eating meals inside the crate – be sure to keep the door open at this stage.
If your cat won’t go in for a meal, you can try luring your cat near and in the crate with toys. Clicker training can be used to get your cat to approach a crate or touch a target that is near and eventually inside of the crate.
Once your cat is comfortably eating and spending time in the crate, you can start closing the door for short periods of time.
Slowly increase the amount of time spent with the door closed. As long as your cat is remaining calm with the door closed, try to pick up the crate.
Once your cat is comfortable with the door closed and the crate being picked up, you can start walking short distances in your home and then putting your cat back where you started and opening the door.
Leave the crate out so that it becomes a regular part of your cat’s routine and becomes a safe place for naps and treats.
It is very important to go slowly enough to not cause a negative reaction with your cat, the point is to create a positive association with the crate.
If you really want to make vet visits less stressful, it’s time to desensitize your cat to riding in the car. Your cat should be comfortable in her crate before you move on to this step. Start by simply bringing your cat (inside the crate) out to the car, put the crate in the seat and just let her sit for a couple minutes and then bring her back inside. After a few sessions of sitting in the car without driving, you can start with short trips around your neighborhood. Keep practicing with short sessions so that your cat spends time in the crate in the car without anything negative happening. Keep up the practice sessions between vet visits so that your cat doesn’t form the association between the car and a vet visit.
Training your cat to be accepting of crates and car rides makes it easy to keep your cat safe in an emergency and will make regular vet visits so much easier for you and your cat.