Cat training to a crate often is neglected, although it gets lots of attention with dog owners. Kittens learn more easily and quickly than adult cats, but even set-in-their-ways felines can accept cat training to crate.
Kittens and cats should always ride in a carrier when traveling in your car to keep them from distracting the driver. Pets become furry projectiles should you be in an accident, but a carrier protects the kitten and also keeps him from running away in fear and pain should he escape.
Cat Training to Crate
Most cats hate the crate simply because it’s used so seldom and associated with scary stuff. How many times have you pulled the kitty carrier out of the closet, only to have the cat disappear? Most felines only see the crate to be taken to the veterinarian or groomer. Kitty is no dummy—it only takes once for her to learn that CRATE means NEEDLES, or a thermometer placed in a rude location. In fact, surveys report that “hates the crate” is a top reason cats don’t visit the veterinarian as often as they should.
Instead, train your kitten to associate the crate/carrier with fun, positive experiences. This allows you to quickly confine and safely transport the cat whenever necessary, rather than play hide-and-seek during emergencies to find the frightened feline. Happy acceptance of the crate also means less stress, and a happier, emotionally healthier cat.
10 Tips for Cat Crate Training
- Make the crate part of the furniture—set it on the floor in a corner of the room for Kitty to explore at his leisure. If it’s out all the time, the “strange/scary” factor wears off.
- Take the door off so he can come and go.
- Toss a soft blanket or towel inside for a bed, especially one that you've rubbed over him so it smells like the cat.
- Spritzing a bit of Feliway on the inside of the crate can help calm kitty fears. Feliway is an analogue of the cheek pheromone that makes cats feel safe.
- If you’ve chosen a hard crate, toss in a ping-pong ball inside to create a kitty playground.
- For treat-motivated cats, leave tasty tidbits inside for Kitty to find so he discovers the magical-crate has the most delicious smelly bonuses for going inside. You want to make the crate the most fun place in the house.
- Consider using clicker training to inspire your cat to quickly go into the crate. Review how to “load the clicker” and locate the training treats for spur of the moment sessions. Then wait for the opportunity when you see Kitty approach, sniff, or enter the crate. Click the clicker to tell the cat THAT (touching/going inside/even approaching) the crate is what you want, and then reward with the treat or favorite toy. The more you practice, the better Kitty will become at hanging out near or even inside the crate.
- It may take a week or more for the kitten or cat to feel comfortable around the carrier. Once that happens, put the door back on, and wait until Kitty goes inside. Then shut the door while praising him in a calm, happy voice that’s matter of fact to convince Kitty this is normal and no reason for upset feelings. After a minute or so, let him out and give him a treat or toy reserved only for his best performance. Praise the dickens out of him! He should know that staying calm inside the crate earns him good things.
- Repeat training sessions at least once a day over the next two weeks, building up the time until the kitty stays inside three minutes, four, then five minutes and so on.
- Once he’s reached ten minutes and remains calm, pick up the carrier while he’s in it and carry him around, and then let him out. Take him in the carrier out to the car, sit there and talk to him, then bring him back into the house and release him--don't forget to offer the treat.
Soon, you should be able to take him for car rides in his carrier, without him throwing a fit. He’ll learn that most times, the carrier means good things for him--and the vet visit isn’t the only association it has.