Updated May 4, 2017.
With so much pet travel gear on the market today, it is hard to choose which carrier will best serve your cat’s needs. Remember, the cat carrier you choose will be your traveling cat’s home away from home.
Purchase a sturdy, leak-proof, IATA (International Air Travel Association) approved for shipping (flying) pet carrier with plenty of ventilation.
The carrier should be roomy enough so your traveling cat can stand up, turn around and stretch out after padding has been added to make it soft and comfortable.
Look for added features, such as: easy to sanitize, durable latches, ability to secure carrier with a seat belt, a place to attach a water bottle and a small bowl of food, and appropriateness for varying weather and travel conditions.
To buy the right size carrier for your traveling cat, use a crate size calculator.
When your pet carrier arrives, sanitize it to protect your cat from any foreign filth or germs before introducing it to your traveling cat.
Let the carrier bask in the sunshine outdoors for a few days to naturally complete the sanitation process, and to help deodorize any residue from chemical sanitization processes.
Attach a “Live Animal” label to the pet carrier, cat identification information, and a photo of your cat to the outside of the carrier.
Preparation for a trip with a traveling cat cannot begin early enough. Months in advance are better than weeks in advance.
Locate the carrier next to your cat’s favorite hang-out inside the house. Open all the carrier doors and begin to introduce your cat to the new carrier.
Place one of your cat’s favorite treats just inside the door of the carrier.
The goal is to make this strange new pet travel gear a positive place for your cat to enjoy.
At first your cat will be wary, circling, sniffing, and getting used to the presence of the carrier in your house. Eventually, curiosity will win out and your cat will begin to approach the carrier door to retrieve the special treat.
Prior to each approach, place a cat treat deeper inside the carrier so your cat must eventually completely enter to retrieve it. Never close the doors during carrier training, as this will create stress and fear. Always say, “Inside”, with each entry.
Once your cat is comfortable entering the carrier for treats, begin feeding regular meals inside the carrier, saying “Inside” when you put the food in the carrier.
Your cat will learn the word association, “Inside”, with entering the carrier, because great things happen there, like treats, food and affection.
Once your cat is comfortable going in and out of the carrier, line the inside of the carrier with your cat’s favorite blanket, towel or other soft bedding, things that smell like home, things it has scent marked by rubbing its cheeks or chin against.
If your cat has a favorite toy or snuggly, put it inside the carrier, too.
When your cat is inside the carrier, close the door for a few seconds and then open it. As your cat acclimatizes to being inside the carrier, slowly increase the time the door is closed, until you cat becomes accustomed to, and accepts spending time in the carrier.
Make “carrier time” a routine habit, just like mealtime, naptime and playtime.
Help your cat become used to being carried while inside its carrier. At first, pick up the carrier and gently set it back down. Next, carry it to another room and set it near where you might be working on a household chore.
Graduate to carrying the cat in its carrier outdoors, again, setting it down where you are working nearby, preferably in view of the automobile your cat will eventually be traveling in.
When your cat is comfortable and relaxed inside the carrier while being toted about from place to place inside and outside of your house, it’s time to transition to cat car training.