Train Your Cat to Love the Carrier Basket

Occasionally every cat owner has to take their beloved companion on a trip. Usually this is to the vets, although there are plenty of other possible destinations such as a new home or a cat show. Whatever the destination, one problem is common to all trips – under usual circumstances cats simply don’t like cat carrier baskets!

The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, you can actually train your cat to love the carrier basket!

The Problem

The main part of the problem is negative association. You may have noticed that cats don’t actually mind being in confined spaces, and in fact most cats seek out confined spaces to have a sleep or just hang out.

The problem with the cat basket is that it is where one is involuntarily trapped for long periods of time and taken to generally unfamiliar places, where they may be poked and prodded by strangers.

You can see how this would make the cat feel that the basket is a bad thing, right? But trips are sometimes unavoidable, so what’s a responsible cat owner to do?

Simple – teach the cat that the carrier basket is a safe a friendly place where they can feel comfortable because good things happen there.

You may think this is not as simple as it sounds, and I’ll agree that it maine coon for sale may take some hard work, persistence and a bit of patience on your part, but bear with me, it really is a straightforward process.

The following steps will show you how this fantastic situation can be created with almost any cat.

Step 1 – Desensitise

The aim of this step is to remove the negative associations they have with the cat basket and show them that being around the cat basket has no significance.

The first thing to do is to desensitise the cat to the carrier basket. This starts with giving the carrier a thorough clean to remove any smells and then leaving the carrier around the house at all times with the door wide open. Allow the cat to ignore or investigate as it sees fit, just don’t make a big deal out of it.

Silently observe your cat’s reactions and interactions to the basket. Maybe pick it up a few times and move it somewhere else, see if they get nervous. If they do seem nervous around the basket then stick with this stage for a while longer.

After a few days (possibly a few weeks if a really strong negative association has built up) you should find that the cat is at worst indifferent to the basket, but possibly has now developed some level of interest.

With persistence they will eventually know that the basket is no threat, even when it’s being moved.

Step 2 – Positive Association

The aim with this step is to show that, far from negative things happening in and around the basket, most of the time good things happen when they interact with the carrying basket. To put is succinctly, this means making the cat associate the basket with something they already like, such as toys, food or sleep.

Once the previous step has been completed and any negative association has been removed, or at least lessened as much as possible, you can start to create a positive association much more effectively.

  • Food – Begin by putting some highly desirable food in the doorway of carrier, something like chicken or tuna usually works well. To start with leave the food right in the entrance so they can get to it without having to put anything but their head inside. Gradually move the food further inside until it is at the back If possible try to make sure the cat is in the area and is aware that you are putting something in the basket, but again, don’t make a big deal out of it. If they ignore it, be patient and just keep trying.
  • Toys – Try putting some toys in there, again start leaving the right in the doorway. Ping pong balls are especially good because with a good ‘Paff’ from the cat they will go flying about and the cat will be more interested in the ball than the carrier. One of our cats actually sees the ‘ping pong ball in the carrier’ game as a great treat, and sometimes lets us know that he wants us to put one in there for him. Purr toys or other toys with Purr on them can also help greatly with this stage.
  • Sleep – At other times, possibly after some success with the other two temptations, line the carrier with some nice soft bedding (Vetbeds are ideal for this) and leave it in some out of the way nook that offers invisibility for the cat, whilst also offering a good view of the surrounding area. (Under a dining room table or chair can be a good example of this type of place, especially if there is a radiator or other heat source nearby)

In general, the principle is to try to make good things happen when the cat has an interaction with the carrier. I’m sure you can think of some examples that would work in your own home that are not mentioned here.

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