Many cat owners dread crating their cat. Cats aren’t dumb, and the know what’s coming when that carrier comes out. But if you start early, you can train a kitten to get willingly into the crate with minimal fuss and stress. Wondering how? Follow these steps will make crating your cat easier and less stressful for everyone!
If you’ve just brought your new kitten home, the most important thing you can teach him (after litter-box training!) is to get used to the crate. Not only will it make vet visits easier, but in an emergency situation, you’ll need to be able to crate your cat quickly in case of evacuation. An adult cat with no previous experience with the crate will also be easy to habituate. I taught my shelter cat to crate with minimal fuss when she was three years old.
Make the Crate Comfortable
Cats are naturally curious about small, dark spaces. Leave the crate out in your house with a soft blanket folded in the bottom. Our crate sits in our guest bedroom, away from the main bustle of the house but not entirely private, either. Make sure everyone, especially children, knows never the bother the cat in his crate. You’ll probably find your cat sleeping in the crate, or running for it when the kids or dog get to be too much!
Crating on Command
Just going in the crate is great, but you need to be able to crate your cat when you need him in it. This is where the training comes in. You need to find a treat or toy that your cat absolutely loves! Pick a time when your cat is already up and moving around, and sit next to the crate. Call your cat over. Say the word “crate” and then toss the treat or toy into the crate. When your cat enters the crate, don’t touch the door. You want to build up slowly to that step. When your cat leaves the crate, say “crate” and toss in another treat. Repeat this a few times. It may take five minutes, or many short sessions over the course of several weeks, but eventually your cat will come running over to the carrier when you ask him to “crate”.
Once he’s comfortable going in and out of the crate, you can start shutting the door. Ask your cat to “crate” and toss in a treat. When he goes in, shut the door. As soon as he turns around to exit, open the door. Then ask him to crate again. Repeat this process until your cat is comfortable with finding the door closed behind him, and will go right back in the crate. Slowly increase the amount of time the door is shut, watching your cat for signs of stress. You can even feed him a treat or two through the door to make the experience more rewarding.
If you’d like, you can extend this training process to get your cat used to being crated and then picked up, or extend the training to car ride. It depends on how often the cat leaves the house; a few yearly vet visits might not be worth it, but cats that go to shows could benefit from further crate training.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you only bring the crate out when it’s time to head to the vet, your cat is quickly going to catch on. Once you’ve trained the behavior, you have to maintain it. Leave the crate out full-time in place your cat can easily access, and ask him to crate at least once a week. If you get some regression after a vet visit, simply back the training up by keeping the door open until your cat is comfortable again.
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