For people who like to travel but do not prefer to leave their cats behind, pet carriers are a convenient solution, and are widely available at most pet stores. The obstacle for most cat owners, though, is getting their cat to be comfortable in their carriers. This can be achieved with proper training and positive reinforcement.
The first step in carrier-training your cat is helping him be comfortable in a small, enclosed area, such as the bathroom or closet. Utilizing an area that your cat is familiar with and placing their favorite objects or toys with their own scent inside will facilitate this part of its training. Accompany your cat while they investigate the designated area. Speak gently to him and give him small treats throughout this process to further associate him with a positive experience. Doing this a few times a day will help develop a level of comfortability that will eventually apply in his carrier.
Once your cat is comfortable being in a small space, find a carrier that is right for him. There is a wide variety of carriers available both online and at pet stores, each with their own recommendations based on the unique qualities of your cat, such as size. Collapsible carriers that are easy to pack and stow away are especially convenient to have during travels.
Once you've selected your carrier, transition your cat's training into its carrier. It is important not to have your cat feel trapped during this process, so leave the carrier door propped open at all times during training. Encourage your cat to investigate its carrier by placing its favorite objects and toys inside. Catnip may also be used to lure him in. Being interactive in your approach, and integrating playtime and toys with the carrier, can also help encourage a positive experience for your cat. This step in training, although crucial, may take some time. Repetition is key - show your cat where its carrier is by placing him in front of it, and follow that with more positive reinforcement. As your cat starts to feel more comfortable with this process over time, gently place him inside the carrier while using more positive techniques; use treats, petting and toys to stimulate a positive attachment to the carrier. Be persistent with this training for a few days.
Once your cat is comfortable inside the carrier, practice opening and closing the door for small increments of time. Increase time intervals slowly, walking away from the carrier until eventually your cat is able to comfortably stay in its carrier with the door closed. Remember: repetition is key! Repeat this process for several days, and make it a point to reward your cat with productive prizes such as treats.
Lastly, practice slowly picking up the carrier with your cat inside. Walk around the room to familiarize your cat with movement. Once your cat is comfortable with this, introduce him to car rides, starting with short drives and gradually progressing into longer ones. Drive slowly and smoothly, as your cat may be sensitive to any changes in the road.
If you are positive in your approach, training your cat can be a great experience for both of you. Travel is meant to be fun and easy, and with dedication and patience, your cat will find comfort in its carrier, and you'll have yourself a great travel companion!