How to Get an Aggressive Cat into a Carrier

Picture it: you’re relaxing in your favorite chair on a lovely day. Suddenly, you feel yourself being lifted into a dark, hard box! Once you put yourself in a cat’s shoes, it’s not a wonder why some cats get aggressive when they’re put in a carrier.

If your cat is anything like mine, getting him safely into a carrier seems like an impossible task.

Between four paws’ worth of sharp claws and a strong mouth of sharp teeth, I’ve wondered if there was a way to get him to the vet without my injury.

Studies show cats visit the vet less frequently than dogs. Experts suggest this is because dogs generally enjoy trips, where cats can put up a real fight.

Regular trips to the vet are vital, so it’s important to get your angry kitty there.
But how?

The Cat’s Carrier of Choice

Veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly instructs that the right size carrier is essential. Cats like dark, enclosed spaces.

Your cat’s carrier should match its size, with enough room for her to sit comfortably but not so much that she can run around.

Top-loading carriers are preferable for aggressive or feral cats. Lifting the cat in from the top instead of reaching in from the side will help keep your arms scratch-free. You can also cover the carrier with a towel or blanket to keep it shaded.

Take Baby Steps!

The best way to get an aggressive cat into a carrier is to get the cat used to it. Jane Kelley, an author, and blogger on Paws and Effect suggests a simple process to introduce a cat to a carrier.

Put the carrier in the cat’s favorite room and leave it open there for a week before the cat needs to be in it. Your cat will be free to explore and sniff out the new territory at her leisure, getting used to it in her own time.

If your cat already dislikes its carrier, Kelley also describes tips for desensitizing. This is a method of reducing the association between the carrier and anxiety. This is also useful for feral cats who prefer not to be handled.

Feeding your cat several times in the carrier might work. If your cat won’t eat with its bowl in the carrier, choose a spot for the carrier and with each meal, move the bowl a few inches closer, eventually ending inside the carrier.

Use Extra Attraction to Seal the Deal

Catnip can attract an aggressive cat to a carrier in two ways. Giving a cat catnip before a trip can make him more docile.

If your cat likes catnip, placing some inside the carrier may persuade her to come in.

Pheromones can also be useful. These substances can be bought at pet stores or online in the form of sprays.

Spraying a calming pheromone on and around the carrier can tell your cat it is safe.

Are You Still Struggling?

There are a few basic methods of cat restraint. Dr. Khuly suggests the “burrito” method. First, lay out a towel. Place the cat on his back at one end of the towel with the top edge at his neck.

Make sure you leave enough room at the end of the towel to fold over your cat’s belly, watching to keep her legs tucked in safely.

After that, wrap the long end of the towel around and around your cat until she’s swaddled snugly.

Finally, fold the extra towel on the bottom up towards the cat’s head. Make sure to hold the towel snug around the neck and fold so the cat doesn’t escape. Swaddling works best with kittens and small cats.

Jennifer Jacobson at Adopt a Pet detail how to get that burrito into the carrier. Take your carrier into a small room (like a bathroom) and position it so the carrier door is open and facing the ceiling. Bring in your cat and shut the door to the room.

Lift the cat into the carrier tail-end first so they don’t get scared. Then shut the carrier door. Don’t worry about unwrapping the burrito—the cat will be able to do that themselves.

At Paws and Effect, Kelley also talks about scruffing. This means grasping a fold of skin at the base of the back of the cat’s head, much like a mother cat does with its mouth.

This method is often used by vets, along with other more aggressive techniques.

Kelley urges pet owners not to fret about “manhandling” your cat too much. Cats are strong animals and will let you know if they’re truly hurt. Many proper restraint techniques look rough but are safe.

How to Get an Aggressive Cat into a Carrier

In this video, a vet named Megan (and her assistant, Sarah), walk through a basic vet visit with Max, a cat who had been “fired” from other veterinary hospitals because of his aggression.

She demonstrates putting on a cat muzzle, an excellent tool to protect you from a cat’s strong jaws. With this muzzle, the cat can open her mouth to breathe, yell, and hiss—but not to hurt you or herself.

Megan reminds the viewer of what should be communicated to the vet, the assistants, and the pet owner. Getting a cat in a carrier in his home can be much easier than getting a cat in its carrier after enduring a vet appointment.

Max is in the kind of carrier best for aggressive cats—front and top loading. It can be disassembled for further access to the cat.

Max is also too large and strong for a towel, so Megan shows how to restrain and move a cat with a blanket.

At the end of the video, they take Max from his kennel at the vet (which might resemble a place your cat would hide before being put in her carrier).

Megan has some great tips for moving an angry cat and getting him back into his carrier.