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The essentials

  • Don’t be afraid to switch it up — There are plenty of ways to get your cat safely into their carrier that don’t require blood, sweat, or tears. 
  • The easiest carrier to get cats into will depend on several factors — Focus on the right areas and features to make sure you’re getting the best option for the needs of both pet parents and cats alike. 
  • Travel with cats doesn’t have to be difficult — If you feel like you need a little extra help ahead of an upcoming trip, talk to your veterinarian. They can connect you with some pet-friendly resources that can help.

What comes to mind when you think about getting your cat in a carrier? If you answered fear, frustration, or pure avoidance, you’re not alone. Many pet parents have a hard time getting their pets comfortable with a crate, leading to some less-than-desirable travel experiences. 

The good news is It doesn’t have to be that way. Our list of vet-approved, tried-and-true methods is here to make your travel prep as simple and as comfortable as possible. Read on to learn more about how to get a cat in a carrier (and how to choose the best and the easiest carrier to get your cat into).

How to get a cat in a carrier

Whether preparing your cat for a car ride or flight, learning how to get a cat in a carrier is the first step to a successful travel experience . There are many different techniques you can use to make your experience pain-free—and it’s a good idea to experiment to determine which way works the best for your specific cat. 

Here are a few helpful methods to try if you’re working on carrier training with your feline friend: 

The swaddling method

The swaddling method is a similar method that parents use with babies—and it can be equally effective and safe for your cat. Here’s how to do it:

  •  Find a soft blanket or towel for your cat. Ideally, avoid choices with fringes or that feel rough, as this can be irritating for your cat, or may get snagged on their claws. 
  • Gently place the towel on your cat. Strategic placement is key. You’ll generally want to avoid the neck and tummy area, placing it on their back and scooping them up into your arms. 
  • Tuck your towel. You can do this however works—just be sure to confine the limbs gently enough so that you won’t get scratched, but the cat can still breathe well. Avoid any placement or tightness by the sensitive neck or airways. 

🌯 We do want to note—there are plenty of ways to do this method, which is also affectionately known to many pet parents as the “purrito” method. 

If you’re looking for a little extra help getting started, there are plenty of tutorials online that can help, like the video below. 

Try the head-first technique

Pet owners might also find success with the head-first technique, which can be useful if you’re in a rush and need to get them in the crate quickly. For example, this is especially useful if you have vet appointments to get to, or if you’re trying to travel with an unwilling cat!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the head-first technique, written for cat parents by cat parents: 

  • Pick up your cat as you normally would. Be sure to gently place the heel of your hand on their chest, leaving your fingers free to manage your cat’s front legs. Your other hand can be supporting the rear area of your cat, specifically their legs, butt, and hips. 
  • The next step? Move them to the carrier. It’s best to do this slowly, so you don’t disorient your cat. However, it’s also important to do it confidently and in a single, fluid movement to avoid an untimely game of the wiggles. 
  • Shut the carrier door. As soon as your cat is safely in the crate, shut the door behind them and safely secure it using the lock feature, being careful to avoid any injuries by getting a loose tail caught in the door. Be sure that the lock is securely held before transporting your cat. 

The cannonball technique

If you’ve done a cannonball in a pool, you can do this technique. It can be even easier to use the cannonball technique if you are working with a top-loading carrier, or with a front-open carrier. However, this method requires caution, as we don’t recommend simply tossing your kitty indiscriminately.

Here’s how you can use the cannonball technique to make a safe splash in your cat’s crate training journey: 

  • Set up your carrier properly. This generally requires you to stand the front of the carrier on a large book or a medium box, ideally 2-3” off the ground. Make sure your door is open and ready to receive your cat. 
  • Safely pick up your cat and cannonball them in. As you do this, keep hold of their butt area to avoid any last-minute back-wrenching. Take the time you need to get them to feel safe and secure. 
  • Close the door. Do this part as soon as your cat is clear of the hinge. You don’t want an escapee! 

Encourage them to go in on their own

Of course, there’s always a chance that your furry friend will go in on their own—which could be the best stress-free option for both you and your furry friend. This can be even more likely if you’re somewhere far from home; in which case your feline might feel like that’s their safe “hideaway” from what they feel is new and scary.

Vet-approved tips and tricks on how to get a cat in a carrier

Your cat is hard-wired to love enclosed areas (we see this often with the love-love relationship between cats and boxes, which has taken the internet by storm.) 


That being said, there are plenty of different tips to try if you want to attempt this method, such as those listed below: 

  • Make it cozy: If you want your cat to feel extra comfortable as you go through the familiarization process, toss in a blanket or shirt that they’ve laid on to give them a whiff of home. This not only offers them comfort; it also gives them some traction on often-slippery plastic bottoms. 
  • Leave it alone: Cats are inquisitive and love to explore by themselves. Sometimes jumpstarting the process can be as simple as leaving your carrier unattended in your cat’s favorite room with the top undone, allowing them to explore freely. This should be initiated a few days before any transport to ensure the best results.
  • Try it with lots of treats: It can’t hurt to create a positive association with the cat’s carrier and space. After all—new boxes can be a scary place for a scared cat! Try dropping a few yummy, new treats (or your go-to cat treats of choice) near the front door of the cage, incentivizing your cat to explore the small space. 
  • Make it smell goooooood: Cats, like many other mammals, are responsive to pheromone spray. Dabbing some Feliway pheromones around the door of the cage or the top opening, where they go in, can be a helpful tip to make the process less stressful for your cat. You can also dab some on a large towel and place the towel inside the cage for bonus smells. 
    • If you use Feliway sprays or wipes, please follow the package directions and apply at least half an hour before you plan to put your cat in the carrier. 
  • Make it fun: Tossing in some of your cat’s favorite toys can be enough to make this new, strange palace comfy for your cat. You might start by just placing them at the entrance, placing them deeper into the carrier as your cat becomes comfortable.

😣Some cats are nervous travelers—and that’s okay! Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to take the edge off your furry friend, making traveling a stress-free experience.

Always make sure that your cat is completely comfortable and secure in the cage before traveling anywhere outside the home. Felines can escape quickly from poorly designed or faulty carriers, leading to stress and higher risks down the road. A little preparation is key to keeping both you and your furry friend safe! 

Selecting the right carrier for your cat

Open carrier? Removable top? Soft-sided carriers? Seatbelt-friendly carriers? The choices are nearly endless. Don’t worry, though. We’ve made your selection process simple; narrowing down a few key areas of focus to keep in mind as you search for the perfect “temporary house” for your furry friend. 

Consider your cat’s temperament

Believe it or not, the temperament of your kitty can play a role in their choice of carrier. For example, more active cats generally appreciate extra space to walk around when possible, whereas more calm cats (or those who may be senior cats) might enjoy a tighter, snugglier space. 

There are plenty of carriers to consider as you try to match your choices with your cat’s temperament. Best-sellers include:

  •  Hard-sided carriers 
  • Soft-sided carriers 
  • Cardboard carriers (best for temporary or short-term use only) 
  • Wearables 

🐈 Not sure where to start? Consider reaching out to your vet for their recommendation. They can help you size up your choices based on your cat’s specific needs, helping you to buy in confidence. 

Choose a size-appropriate cat carrier

Size-matching is critical, especially if you’re looking into the best cat carriers for your kitty. Too small, and they’ll likely have a negative experience feeling cramped in a strange place. Too big, and you might wind up with a nervous cat that feels very small and vulnerable. 

Many pet parents believe that the best way to avoid this is by measuring your cat’s length, girth, and height, and looking at carriers that match well with your needs. The reality is that your cat likely won’t sit still long enough to get those numbers written down—at least not accurately. 

If you’ve got a wiggle worm on your hands, you might want to shop in-store—selecting options that allow your cat to comfortably turn around and lie down; even after bedding is placed in the bottom for them.

Ensure ventilation and security

Your carrier should be a safe place for your cat. With this in mind, be extra careful to only choose options that offer complete security and adequate ventilation. Your carrier should have multiple points of entry and exit, all of which can be secured in seconds. It should also have plenty of breathing holes, enough to where you can see your furry friend and they can see you back. This is critical; as this is your feline’s only source of airflow while in the carrier. 

Select one that’s accessible and easy to clean

Accidents happen. Future you will thank yourself if you choose an option that’s both easily accessible and easy to clean. Anxious cats might pee and poop a lot more than usual, so most pet parents opt for a simple-to-clean, hard-bottomed carrier that can be wiped dry and clean as needed. Another feature you can look for includes a removable, washable pad—which can keep your cat comfy and make cleanup a cinch. 

Choose a carrier appropriate to their needs

Different carriers work best for different needs. Only going on a short vet trip? You might opt for a cardboard fold-up option. However, if you’re planning on flying, driving, or otherwise going far from home, you’ll want to go with something far sturdier and washable. You’ll also want to check with your airline to ensure that your cat carrier type of choice works for their specific restrictions.

It takes some trial and error to build out your fleet of carriers for different needs. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your furry friend as you work to find an option that suits you both. Your vet can be a helpful resource to turn to as you go through this process. 

Getting cats in carriers isn’t an easy process, but it can be made easier with the tips and tricks we’ve covered in this article. Choosing the right cat carrier is key to your learning process, allowing your cat the space and comfort they need as they transition to being travel-ready. Your vet can help you to further streamline this process, offering tailored recommendations and insights based on your furry friend’s unique needs.

Frequently asked questions

How do you get an unwilling cat in a carrier? 

The “purrito” technique (wrapping your cat in a towel), the head-down, and the rump-down techniques are all safe, convenient ways to get even the most nervous cats into their carrier—keeping you and your furry friend as secure and as comfortable as possible. 

How do you transport a scared cat? 

Travel can feel overwhelming to cats. While transporting, speak to your cat in a quiet, calm voice. Avoid loud music or excessive sensory stimulation when possible. Try to drive smoothly and safely, keeping the carrier secure on the seat. 

Why is my cat afraid of the carrier? 

While some cats might appreciate the comfort and coziness that a carrier brings, others hate it—no questions asked. They may feel as if it signals unpleasant things (like long car travel) or they may be afraid because it is “new.” Creating a positive association is key to dissolving this fear. 

How do you grab a skittish cat? 

There isn’t a great way to grab a skittish cat. It’s best to let them come out themselves, or with a little extra help from their favorite cat treat or toy. 

Should I put a blanket in my cat carrier? 

Your cat might enjoy a blanket or cat bed lining the carrier, especially if it has a familiar scent to them. This can be both calming and comforting, giving them a soft, “safe” place to be in an otherwise overwhelming situation.