Pet Travel Preparation Tips: How to Crate Train Your Cat
Planning a relocation that includes your pets adds a fair amount of prep work to the equation. Not only do you have to research pet import requirements, schedule vet visits, and buy an airline-approved travel crate, you'll need to help your furry friend feel comfortable spending time in the crate as best you can.
Some pet owners are lucky to have dogs or cats that tolerate or even like stepping into their home-away-from-home, but others have a challenge. Based on general personality traits, it seems easier to help dogs gradually accept crates and learn to treat them as safe and cozy places, but we all know that cats can be a different story.
Before you throw up your hands in defeat, imagining a lot of hissing, scratching, and yowling from your one-of-a-kind kitty, take a look at the following tips and try crate training. Your cat will probably never love the experience, but with time and patience applied to the situation, you can at least remove some of the discomforts.
*(Have a dog? Check out our dog travel crate training tips, too!)
It's a problem if cats only associate travel crates with being jostled around in the car and then taken into the vet's office to be poked and prodded. Try leaving the crate out in a room where the cat often goes so that the sight of it becomes less of an event and just a part of everyday life instead. We strongly recommend starting with the crate door off, so your cat is not intimidated by it.
- Introduce the crate gradually: Cats can be skeptical of new objects in their environment, so it's essential to introduce the crate slowly. Start by placing the crate in an area where your cat spends a lot of time, such as the living room or bedroom. Encourage your cat to investigate the crate by placing treats, toys, and comfortable bedding inside.
- Make it cozy: Cats love comfort, so make the crate as cozy as possible. Add soft bedding, familiar blankets, and toys inside the crate. You can also try placing a piece of clothing that smells like you inside the crate to make your cat feel more at ease.
Always place toys inside the crate to pique feline curiosity. When the cat goes near it or inside it, offer praise and maybe a yummy snack. Soon your little skeptics will begin to put two and two together and look to you for a handout each time they step inside.
Use positive reinforcement: As with all training, positive reinforcement is key to success. You can also try playing with your cat near the crate or using a favorite toy to encourage them to spend time inside.
Don't expect change to happen overnight. It might take weeks to see any progress, but with steady exposure and positive reinforcement, even the most stubborn kitty will show signs of progress.
- Take it slow: Crate training cats can take time, so be patient and take it slow. Gradually increase your cat's time in the crate, starting with just a few minutes and working your way up to longer periods.
- Create a hiding spot: Some cats like to hide in small spaces, so try turning the crate into a hiding spot. Cover the crate with a blanket or sheet and encourage your cat to explore and relax.
Once your cat no longer freaks out at the sight of the crate and begins treating it like just another box to crawl inside, it'll be time for some practice runs. Take a car ride around the block to start, then try some longer drives so that when moving day arrives, that long journey won't be such a shock.
- Consider a larger crate: Cats like space, so get a larger crate that allows your cat to move around comfortably. You can also try using a crate with multiple levels or compartments to make it more appealing.
Talk to your vet if you have any particular concerns about cat travel!
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