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San Diego Humane Society

Cat Crate Training

Crate training for any animal is very important. Traditionally cats can be quite scared of a crate due to bad experiences they may have had riding to the vet, being pushed in,  getting shots, etc. Teaching your cat that crates are a safe place is especially useful when going to the vet, traveling, in case of a natural disaster, car rides, etc. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to introduce a crate successfully to your cat or kitten. 

Step 1

Put the carrier down to introduce your cat to it. It may be best to do it near where they eat. Leave it open (tie the door open or remove the door completely) and let your cat check it out at their leisure.

Tip: You can drop some treats in there to make the crate extra exciting!

Step 2

Lure your cat to the crate before dinnertime using wet food or treats. Once cat is regularly eating from the food near the crate, you can start moving it closer and closer each day or for each meal.

Tips: If you don’t meal feed your cat, we’d recommend changing your cat to feedings twice a day (morning and evening) or as your vet recommends. This will ensure your cat is hungry when you’re working with her.

  • Use wet food before dinnertime to lure your cat toward the crate. Move the food as far away as needed so that she’ll eat. Some cats are more shy than others. Gradually move it closer. As long as she’s eating the treat, you can move it a bit closer. Do this in small, gradual steps.
  • You may need to create a trail (“Hansel and Gretel”) of treats that end at the crate.
  • Try mixing in a tasty treat if wet food alone doesn’t work, like tuna, boiled chicken or all meat baby food.

Step 3

When your cat is comfortable walking up to the crate, you can move the food into the crate for her to eat. Go very slowly and make sure that the door is latched open or not on the crate so it doesn’t scare her.

Tips:

  • You may have to start with just front paws in the crate, then gradually have her all the way in the crate.
  • If you have a “top loading crate” or one with a door in the front and on top, you can open the top of the crate too at first to be less confining.

Step 4

Try play! Play with kitty in the crate, around the crate and on the crate to make it an even more fun space.

Step 5

Continue feeding dinner in the crate and begin to close the door.

Tip: If she looks anxious, be sure to open the door immediately and go back a few steps to just having her eat near the crate or just barely inside the crate.

Step 6

Close the door and lift the crate. Within a few seconds, put it down and open the door again.

Gradually increase the time the cat is being carried in the crate.

Step 7

Cover the crate with a towel and take it to the car with cat inside. Sit in car and feed cat very high value treats before bringing her back inside and opening the crate door.

Step 8

Take covered crate and cat for a short car ride! Make sure cat has treats and/or a Kong in there. Bring back inside and open crate door.

Step 9

You should be ready for vet visits, to go to a class or in case of emergency!

More Tips:

  • Make sure cat stays relaxed through this process.
  • Always cover the crate when you’re out of the house.
  • Keep practicing going in and out of the crate and going for short car rides once in a while so your cat doesn’t associate the crate with vet all the time!
  • Below is a video on kitten training; for cats, our trainer made this video of her cat's first training session with a crate.

Behavior Helpline: Contact our Behavior Team

Behavior Helpline

For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing behavior@sdhumane.org or filling out our Ask a Trainer form

Questions About Public Classes

San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.

Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, it will also strengthen the bond you share.

Our website includes a current schedule of training classes or call 619-299-7012, ext. 2398. 

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