When a reader asked if it was possible to crate-train a cat the way you would train a dog, I immediately turned to my usual source of all things training, my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker. And of course, she had the answer!
Q: Can cats be crate-trained the way dogs can?
A: Cats don’t need to be crate-trained for housetraining purposes, but they can absolutely learn to go into a carrier or crate and stay in it comfortably.
Crate-training has a lot of important applications throughout a cat’s life. Of course, it’s useful for taking the cat to the veterinarian, but also for road trips — if you’re moving to a new home, for instance — or if you have to evacuate because of a natural disaster. Having a cat who will quickly and willingly enter a carrier or crate can be a time-saver, stress-saver and lifesaver!
Pheromones, treats and time are all part of the secret to teaching cats to love their carriers. Treat the carrier with sprays or wipes that mimic the calming pheromones cats produce when they feel comfortable or safe. Hide treats in it or lay a trail of treats that leads inside the carrier to encourage a cat to explore it. Place meals inside the carrier. Leave the carrier out in an area the cat enjoys or where the family likes to gather. Any time you see the cat go in the carrier on her own, praise and reward her. All of these are ways to help the cat develop a positive association with the carrier.
Once the cat is comfortable hanging out in the carrier, practice closing it for brief periods, gradually extending the amount of time the cat spends in it. When you transport the cat in it, hold it in both arms so it’s not swinging at your side. At the vet or any new place, set it down gently and let the cat come out on her own instead of pulling her out. Bring treats or a toy to reward her when she exits.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.