Transporting your cat in a crate doesn't have to be stressful! Cats have a reputation for being untrainable, but that's not the case. Cats are intelligent animals and by using positive reinforcement training techniques cat owners can encourage and teach their cats to find crates less stressful. By crate training your cat, you can teach them to enter a crate willingly instead of having to force or wrestle them into one.
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Crate training is a useful skill for all cats to have. A crate is the safest way for you to transport your cat to vet visits, if you move to a new home, travel with your cat, or if there is a natural disaster and you need to relocate. Crate training will help your cat to understand that crates are a comfortable and enjoyable place to be, and not a box they are shoved into against their will. By putting the time into helping your cat build positive associations with the crate your cat will eventually be able to go inside when cued instead of running and hiding when the crate gets pulled out.
Introducing the crate:
To help your cat develop a good life-long relationship with their crate you want to let your cat explore the crate without being forced in. This helps your cat begin to create positive associations with the presence of the crate. To do this, start by making the crate a part of your cat's natural environment. Many cats are nervous or uncomfortable with crates because they only see them when they are being taken to the vet and they can develop a negative association. To begin crate training we first want to leave the cat out so they can explore and investigate the crate at their own pace instead of being rushed into it.
To help encourage your cat to investigate the crate, you can put training treats or toys inside the crate. This will help your cat be interested in exploring the crate and will help your cat to start making positive associations. Most cats are naturally inquisitive and gravitate towards small, confined areas for napping When the crate has been properly introduced, your cat can develop a natural attachment to their crate.
Steps for crate training:
Once your cat is comfortable with the presence of the crate and not concerned about going in and out of it on their own it's time to start thinking about crate training your cat to go inside happily when you bring it out.
Step 1: Take treats or toys that your cat is excited about and toss them into the crate. Allow your cat to go into the crate to eat the treats and then leave your cat to be in the crate as long as they want. If your cat chooses to stay inside the crate after eating the treats, continue to toss treats into the crate. When your cat leaves the crate the treats should stop.
Step 2: After a few repetitions your cat will start to anticipate that going into the crate makes treats appear. At this stage, you can start to introduce a verbal cue of your choice like "crate", "box", "travel" etc. Toss a treat into the crate and then as your cat walks in use your verbal cue so your cat begins to connect the verbal cue to the action of going into the crate.
Step 3: When your cat is going into the crate for a treat the next step is to close the crate door behind your cat. When you close the crate door, verbally praise your cat and drop treats through the openings of the door. Then, open the door right away and allow your cat to leave the crate if they choose.
Step 4: During each repetition start to slowly increase the amount of time that you have the crate door closed. While your cat is in the crate praise and treat your cat.
Step 5: When your cat is comfortable in their crate with the door closed you can start to carefully lift the crate with your cat inside and slowly over training sessions start to put your cat's carrier in the car.
As you are crate training your cat, it's important to vary the length of each session. For example, in one session your cat might be in the crate for a short car ride, while other times your cat will go into the crate and then be immediately released. By planning ahead and helping your cat develop positive associations with crates right away instead of being forced in your cat will be less stressed and see the crate as a safe place.