Time to carry the pet, some carriers seem designed for "outgoing" pets -
January 15, 2015 7:27 AM   Subscribe

What is the best carrier for fraidy cats?

I have a very sweet fraidy cat who was feral as a kitten. When she experiences anything novel she does the low cat walk and bails as fast as she can. Is it better to have a more open or more enclosed pet carrier for transportation? Will she feel safer with a more open design with "windows" or with a more closed design? I'll be using Feliway spray and some of my slightly unwashed clothes so she feels less scared. Pics. Worried kitty, not worried kitty.
posted by vapidave to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go with whatever works for you (put probably not a soft sided one) but have a drape over it that you can pull up or let down as needed.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:37 AM on January 15, 2015

I'd suggest two things:

1) Make sure her carrier is not novel. Not only can you leave it out as a fun place for her to hide and play, but you can also entice her to go into it (treats, play), and then follow a step-by-step s..l..o..w process of getting her used to being in there with the door closed, and then to being carried in it (and then riding in the car):

- Start with half-closed, then close for a second, then close for two seconds, then 5, 7, 10, 30, 1 minute, etc., giving her treats so it stays fun;
- then try slightly bumping the carrier with her in it, then pick up 1 cm and put it down, then gradually longer carries;
- then take her to the front door and back, then try opening/closing the door, then outside for just a moment;
- then out to the car to sit for a few minutes [always with treats], maybe a couple of times;
- then start the car and immediately turn it off, then maybe drive to the end of the driveway, then around the block; always do just a little each day).

2) I like the Sherpa carriers a lot because they have a floor/bottom that the cat can grip, so she won't slide around so much. Even if you put a small towel on top of the carrier floor, it won't slide because of friction with the woolly lining. Also, it makes it easy to slip your hand in the top so you can pet her, in case that helps (it may not with your cat, though).

One downside to the Sherpa carrier that I use is that you can't simply remove the top half to get to the cat (as one can with the common plastic carriers that bolt the bottom to the top with 9 or so screws). With some very scaredy cats, vets like to do that because the cat can just stay in position in the carrier bottom, and no one has to reach inside the carrier to get the cat to come out.
posted by amtho at 7:49 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

I can tell you from experience it is much easier to get cats into and out of the kind of hard carrier that has a removable top (like this). You remove the top and then put the cat in the bottom half and then close the top over them. To get them out you can just take off the top.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:49 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

amtho: "the common plastic carriers that bolt the bottom to the top with 9 or so screws"

The newer models mostly have 5 or 6 clips instead of screws to make it even easier.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:50 AM on January 15, 2015

The windows are important for ventilation. I know cats will happily hide in boxes for hours but carriers can get hot and stuffy, especially when pushed under an airline seat where everything smells like butts and shoes. So get one with plenty of windows but, as Buttons suggests above also have something to drape over it.

I have a very socially well adjusted dog who has traveled with me a lot, and sometimes even he gdtst upset by all the people crowding around (like especially when boarding a plane). My solution is just to lay my sweater over the carrier temporarily, which helps a lot.
posted by phunniemee at 7:51 AM on January 15, 2015

The newer models mostly have 5 or 6 clips instead of screws

I had one like that pop open in a parking lot with kittens inside - we were parked in front of a large chain pet store for an adoption event, so it was pretty scary. Fortunately, the kittens just hung out under our car, and my dude was with me, so we were able to catch them pretty easily. If they had been older and/or more adventurous, ugh, I have no idea what would have happened.

The clip itself didn't fail, it just brushed against something in the car (the top of the front seat, I think). Just a tiny bit of force sprung the clip open, then several more clips opened too. So, even if the clips are super strong when engaged properly, they are a significant point of vulnerability, and I'll prefer the screw-type fastener. Plus I worry that the clips might appear properly closed when just semi-closed, then I'd pick up the carrier (maybe off a table) without checking, only to have the cat fall out.
posted by amtho at 8:31 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have one very travel-averse kitty and use the kind of hard carrier with removable top like Rock Steady links to.

I really can't imagine being able to clip the top on while she sat in the bottom -- at the first sight of the carrier she's in full battle mode. And, maybe there are better models, but getting the top attached to the bottom requires a bit of fiddling. I can approach it this way when we're heading home from the vet -- she's ready to get back in the box and GO HOME -- but not for leaving the house.

What *does* work is standing the carrier on end (door open on top) in the bathroom out of her sight. I scoop her up from another room and plop her, butt-first, into the carrier and close the door before she's had time to see what's happening. (I've also closed the bathroom door behind me as backup containment protocol.)

Good luck.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:37 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

What panateri said or a Top loading cat carrier. Cats like boxes, and then you can just shut the lid. This is how we handle my scaredy cat.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:09 AM on January 15, 2015

Our cats love their carriers. The towels in them smell familiar, sometimes there are treats in there. They are the preferred sleeping quarters.

They still pitch a fit if we pick them up and move them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:41 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a hard carrier for my scaredy cat and I just stand it on its end, open the door on it, ambush her, pick her up and drop her in. The door closes on top, I gently turn the carrier onto its side and we're done. It takes her about a minute to settle down in there.
posted by essexjan at 12:05 PM on January 15, 2015

FWIW on the trip bringing our new cats home from the shelter they freaked out and broke out of the paper carriers that the shelter gave us. We stopped and got regular carriers on the way home that they happily crawled into and spent the rest of the drive in. I think they did not like not being able to see where they were headed. We left the regular carriers open and accessible to them w/ a towel in there and they'll sleep there and stash their toys in there now. They're not happy about going to the vet but they don't freak out about the carriers and seem to regard them as a safe place. I put a piece of rug gripper under the towel to keep them from sliding around.
posted by oneear at 2:59 PM on January 15, 2015

My cat is a fraidy cat and she seems calmer when she can see out of her carrier. Hers has a grill at one end, and she calms down a lot when that is facing me, so she can see I'm there. If there were no windows, I think she might panic more.

On the other hand, the one time she really panicked unstoppably, it seemed like she might injure herself with that grill, because she was biting it so hard and stretching her paws through it and so on. So I vote for a carrier with peep-holes, but not a wider metal grill.

Also it turns out that Feliway freaks my cat the hell out. She behaves around something treated with Feliway as though another cat is present: dropping down low, arching her back, hissing at it, backing off. (The above-mentioned super-panic in her carrier was when we sprayed some Feliway in there in the mistaken idea it might help her anxiety). So if you haven't used it before, test it before spraying the carrier.
posted by lollusc at 4:38 PM on January 15, 2015

Always let the Feliway settle/breathe for a few minutes before exposing the cat to it. I think maybe the propellant (or something) is unpleasant -- it can make humans sneeze and stings the eyes for a few minutes. After that, it's undetectable to humans.
posted by amtho at 9:23 PM on January 16, 2015

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