How to Crate Train Cats

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No, not this kind of crate
No, not this kind of crate (Image: Creative Commons: jon_a_ross, Squid!, fofurasfelinas, Pinkpollyanna, litlnemo, dontfeedthetiki, Sage, hz536n, SisterPepperSpray, jasra, dclimb510)

Anyone who has ever lived with cats knows they can be stubborn and fiercely independent. How can a cat be trained to enter willingly and stay for a while in an enclosed space? For what reasons would someone even want to put any pet in a crate? What are the benefits of having a pet who is accustomed to spending time in a kennel? Are there any drawbacks? Is crating an animal cruel? How difficult is it?

Things You'll Need

  • Crate
  • Soft blanket or towel
  • Cat treats
  • Cat Toys
  • Small litter box
  • Water bowl

Give your cat a place of its own. As a territorial creature, it will enjoy having its own home may offer a sense of security, privacy and ownership. Your cat will appreciate having a familiar place to be in when you take it in the car, on a plane, to the vet, to a boarding kennel, or to a new home. Animals who love their crates are less likely to become scared and panicky during transitions or in new environments.

Relaxed cat
Relaxed cat

Teach cats while they are still kittens. Kittens are naturally curious and playful, so if a crate is there from the beginning, it will become a playground. It is possible, but more difficult, to train an adult who has been whisked off to unpleasant places after being put into what seems like a weird box lined with an old towel or strange-smelling newspapers.

Kittens are open to new things
Kittens are open to new things

Do research before you make your purchase by asking friends or your veterinarian for advice, and by looking online or at pet supply stores. Most crates are plastic and den-like, with a top, a bottom and a latching metal door, and can be disassembled for cleaning and storing. Some are metal and more cage-like in appearance; others are fabric with mesh zippered doors. Choose one that is the correct size so your cat will be able to stand up, lie down, stretch out and turn around comfortably.

Plastic kennels
Plastic kennels

Shop for and buy the crate, and when you bring it home, don't make a big deal about it. Just put it in a room your cat likes to spend time in, and let your pet make the first move. It will probably wander around it, smell it, climb it and maybe even rub against it.

I don't think so!
I don't think so!

Place a favorite blanket, towel or pad on the bottom of the crate to create a comfortable, inviting retreat. Add a piece of carpet or corrugated cardboard so the cat will be able to scratch at something with its claws.

Nap
Nap

Introduce the inside of the now familiar crate by sitting beside it with your pet while you offer lots of affection. Wiggle a toy on a stick inside the enclosure; the movement may intrigue the cat enough to venture in on its own to play. Once inside, it will find treats and a soft blanket, and you can reach in, stroke it and talk to it in a calm, soothing voice.

Cats need time to explore
Cats need time to explore

Let the crate become a familiar part of the room for a few days or a week. Feed your cat in its crate and encourage it to stay inside by using positive reinforcements like treats, toys and attention. Secure the door so it doesn't slam shut, or you may have to go back to step one.

Dinner time
Dinner time

Practice latching the door by closing it halfway, then opening and shutting it, and making it a game. When you actually latch the door the first time, let your pet choose whether and for how long it will stay inside and when it wants to come out. Do this repeatedly to desensitize your pet to being in there when you lock the door.

Pretty Comfortable
Pretty Comfortable

Put your cat in the crate when you are home. There is nothing wrong with leaving it inside with the door latched for brief periods of time, as long as it has food, water and a small litter box. If your cat wears a collar, be sure it is the breakaway kind so if the collar gets caught on some part of the crate, there will be no chance of a choking accident.

Kitten's hideaway
Kitten's hideaway

Keep your pet safe by putting it in its crate when you take it in the car. Once your pet adjusts to the new sounds, smells and motion, it will curl up and fall asleep. Some airlines allow you to bring a small pet on the plane if it is in the required airline-approved carrier and can be slipped under your seat like carry-on baggage. By the time you take a trip with any animal, it should be very comfortable being in an enclosure for long periods of time.

Look in the crate if you ever lose your cat somewhere in the house. You'll probably find it sleeping, oblivious to you and the world around it, because it is happy in its sanctuary and chooses to go there when life becomes chaotic. All animals need a quiet place of their own in which to hide, sleep, stash toys and treats, and feel at home, no matter where they are.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some people believe that crates are "cruel" and prison-like. Yes, they can be used in abusive ways, such as when people lock up their pets all day or night. If forced to remain for too long in a locked kennel, animals become depressed, anxious and lethargic. Teaching your pet to be comfortable in a crate is a completely different story and actually gives your pet more freedom by allowing it to go places with you.
  • Be sure the crate you get is approved for felines If your cat is wearing a collar while confined, make sure it is a Breakaway Collar. Never leave a crated cat outside in the sun or in very cold weather.

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