6 Ways To Get A Cat In A Carrier Box

Updated March 24, 2021

At least once a week someone calls us saying “I can’t get my cat in the carrier”.

While it’s definitely not easy, you can do it. The right technique will not only improve your cat’s vet care but will also be easier and less stressful for everybody.

Before we start, it’s a lot harder if you have the wrong cat box. If you’re about to buy one, please visit our page on choosing the best cat carrier.

5 Methods To Put A Cat In A Carrier

I’ll start with how to do it when you’re in a hurry. As you’ll see later, being prepared in advance is far better.

For all methods involving an uncooperative cat, preparation is vital. Do not give your cat warning of what you’re about to do. Set the cat box up ready to go without your cat noticing and try to pick your cat up when he or she is still asleep.

If you have several cats, start with the ones that make the least fuss so the others don’t get upset.

The video shows the first three methods. For all of them, you have to be careful not to catch the tail.

The Cat Torpedo

  1. The box should be open, sitting at table height and against something so it doesn’t slide
  2. Pick your cat up from behind, holding the front legs
  3. Put your arms and elbows against the flanks to keep the hind legs tucked in
  4. You can instead wrap your cat in a towel as long as it’s not too tight
  5. In one quick movement, torpedo your cat into the box
  6. Close the door before your cat shoots out again

The Top Opening Method

Cat boxes that have hatches on the top are especially useful for difficult cats.

  1. Put the box on the floor with the top hatch open
  2. Pick up your cat under the armpits
  3. In one smooth motion lower them into the box and shut the lid

The End-On Method

This way is like the last one for when your box doesn’t have a top opening.

  1. Put the box on the floor standing upright on its back end with the door open
  2. Pick up your cat under the armpits
  3. In one smooth motion lower them into the box and shut the lid

The Disassembly-Reassembly

This is like the last two for when you just can’t fit your cat in the hole. It works because most cat boxes are shipped in two halves. Practice reassembly without your cat first!

  1. Check your box and see if it’s easy to split into a top and bottom
  2. Place the bottom in a convenient place with the door still on if possible
  3. Place the top within arm’s reach
  4. Pick your cat up and place them into the lower half
  5. Immediately put the lid on, not worrying yet if it’s on properly
  6. Making sure the door pins are in their holes (note that doors like on the red one above need to be open when you put the lid on- not ideal)
  7. Now fit the top accurately and do up the clips or screws securely

The Mobile Home

The fifth one is the best one but it takes more preparation and forethought. Plan to normalise the cat carrier so it’s not just the thing that takes your cat to the vet. For this to work well it’s better to start early.

Always remember the one universal truth: cats love boxes. Here are some ways to make a cat box popular at home:

  • Put your cat’s favourite bed in the carrier
  • Put the carrier in a special place where your cat likes to hide out
  • Feed your cat in the carrier (even shutting the door temporarily)
  • Place snacks, toys, catnip or Feliway® in the box on a regular basis

In other words, make the cat carrier an entertaining and positive part of your cat’s life. Then, when you need to, your cat should be easily coaxed inside.

If you do this, it has also been shown that your cat will experience less stress on the trip to and from the vet.

Anxiety Meds

It took me until 2020 to fully come around to the idea of cats receiving medication for routine veterinary visits. That’s because I hadn’t seen how well gabapentin can work. Of course, diazepam (Valium) is also a good drug, but its effects are more long-lasting and obvious.

If taking your cat to the vet or cattery is a fight, consider anxiety medication. Gabapentin can reduce anxiety and reactivity without visible adverse effects.

One Last Trick

There’s one more thing you need to know. Cats aren’t stupid. One terrible experience while in the box can be all it takes to change their attitude forever.

Drive carefully, and even get someone to calm your cat if it helps. And choose that vet carefully. If you don’t have a cat-friendly vet, all this effort can be wasted.

Related: Car travel with cats and dogs

Special thanks to Rajah, Acusla and Angel, who are no trouble to get in their cat boxes. All the owner has to do is leave them out and curiosity does the rest!

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.