Updated: Feb 21
Most cats only see their carrier when it comes out to take them to the vet. This creates a very bad association. Think of why a toddler cries every time they see anyone in a white coat, every time they see someone in a white coat, they get a painful shot. This is just a simple association. Whitecoat = pain, carrier = scary car trip.
The only way to get our cats not scared of the carrier is to make new happy associations with it. At my house, I have a couple of carriers that sit out and open all the time. I found a nice quiet corner, where it doesn’t get in my way, I put a towel in it and the door stays open or off 24/7. Now that carrier is somewhere quiet to sleep away from all the household hubbub. Or somewhere to hide from the other cats or dogs in the house. This is a positive experience!
If you’ve been hiding the carriers away, kitties will likely fear it at first. They may avoid it for months! I’d suggest finding that quiet corner, taking the door completely off, and covering it with a towel even. And when you have some spare time throw some super yummy treats in there or catnip even. Give them a reason to go inside the carrier and have a positive experience. When we think of where cats naturally hide when they are scared it's small cramped dark areas, under the bed, behind sofas, or back of closets. They cram themselves into tiny dark holes, let’s make the carrier that tiny dark comforting hole to retreat to when stressed.
I and most vet professionals prefer hard top carriers. They are much easier to get a nervous cat into and offer better safety in case of car accidents. When you’ve got a flailing scared cat, you don’t want a bunch of soft fabric they can grab with their claws or a soft carrier that collapses as you try to shove kitty in the door. Granted we’re trying to make the carrier not scary so hopefully, they are not too freaked out at this point but let’s set ourselves up for success right?
At my house, I like the hard top carriers that have a door on top also, so I can let gravity do my job and drop kitty through the top vs shoving in the front door.
Another really lovely carrier is the Sleepypod. The Sleepy pod is awesome because the whole top zips off and can sit out and looks like a regular cat bed. Now we have a carrier that can sit out in the house that the kitty can enjoy as a nice cozy bed and when we need to take them somewhere the top just comes down and gets zipped on. It is a soft fabric carrier, but I’ve never had one collapse on me while trying to get a cat inside because the design does not have a small door that you have to get the cat through.