If you’re frantically trying to get an aggressive cat into a carrier to get them to the vet clinic (or another destination), you may be getting short on time after several failed attempts. You’re likely getting stressed, as is your cat. Nervous cats are more difficult to work with, so the best way to handle the situation is to stay calm.
To get an aggressive cat into a carrier quickly, you must:
- DE-ESCALATE THE SITUATION
- PUT ON PROTECTIVE CLOTHING & GLOVES
- PROPERLY POSITION THE CARRIER
- USE A TOWEL TO TRAP YOUR AGGRESSIVE CAT
- PLACE YOUR CAT IN THE CARRIER & SOOTHE THEM
Details on each step and effective ways to get your cat into a carrier can be found below.
Cat owners should remember that their cat isn’t trying to make their life difficult; they’re scared and anxious. This is especially true when dealing with feral cats. What may seem like an angry cat is actually a fearful cat.
Try your best to remain calm and always be gentle with your cat.
You may also be interested in: When Do Kittens Calm Down? (how to calm them)
1 – DE-ESCALATE THE SITUATION
Cats may not be able to understand the language you speak, but they can definitely understand your tone and feel your energy.
You’re likely frustrated and may have spent the last several minutes letting that come through in the tone of your voice, the volume of your voice, and maybe even through some abrupt movements.
Try to de-escalate the situation with the following tips.
Create a calm environment
Try to let your cat know, through your tone and your energy, that they’re safe.
Tell them “it’s okay” in a loving tone, move slowly, and even leave the room or put on some calm, soothing music for a few minutes.
If they’re hiding under a bed, they won’t come out until they feel it’s safe. So although you may be in a rush to grab them, trying to push forward will only make the situation worse.
Lure them into an open space
If they are hiding, you can try to use treats, toys, a laser pointer, or their favorite food to lure them out (only after you’ve let them be in a calm environment for several minutes).
You also want to try and get them into an enclosed room that doesn’t have a lot of furniture they can hide behind or under.
Alternatively, you can close doors to rooms in your house so they have fewer places to run and hide. Or, lure them to an area and then use some barriers to keep them within that space (e.g. cardboard boxes).
Keep their guard down
Once you have them in a better space, don’t attempt to grab them right away. Give them some time to continue to calm down and to see that you’re not trying to hurt them.
If they’ll allow you to pet or hold them, do so for a few minutes without trying to move them.
2 – PUT ON PROTECTIVE CLOTHING & GLOVES
While you’re giving your cat some time to calm down, it’s a good idea to put on some heavier clothes that cover your skin so you don’t get scratched.
In the following steps you’ll be wrapping your cat in a towel, but you’ll want to leave their head free so they can still breath and see; you don’t want to stress them out more than you need to.
Because their head will be exposed but they’ll be unable to use their paws, they may try to bite you as you hold them, so it’s a good idea to wear heavy gloves as well.
3 – PROPERLY POSITION THE CARRIER
Before you attempt to grab them again, get the cat carrier prepared.
It will be much easier for you to lower them into a carrier, so if your carrier allows, stand it on its end, so the door is facing upwards and you can lower your wrapped cat down into it, tail-end first.
Make sure the carrier is on a sturdy surface and won’t tip over. If you have someone else around, get them to hold onto the carrier as you place your cat into the carrier. They can also quickly close the door once they’re in there.
The best cat carrier for pet owners who have a difficult time is a top-loading carrier. This type of carrier has a top that flips up so you can lower your cat into the carrier and easily close the lid.
A carrier with a top that snaps on and off may also work if you have someone who can help you. You’ll need to quickly place the top on once your cat is in the carrier, so two sets of hands will be helpful.
You can find carriers that offer both; top-loading lid and a snap off top. Like this one:
You can also use a pheromone spray (like Feliway) to add some calming scents to the carrier.
4 – USE A LARGE TOWEL TO TRAP YOUR AGGRESSIVE CAT
If your cat is truly aggressive, they’re not going to let you simply pick them up. If they do let you pick them up, they’ll be kicking and screaming when you try to place them in the cat carrier.
For this reason, you’ll want to use a large towel or blanket to wrap around your cat to secure their legs.
If you have a pheromone spray on hand (like Feliway), spray it on the towel/blanket.
Get the right size of towel
You don’t want the towel or blanket to be too big; you need it to fit in the carrier and still give your cat room in there. You also don’t want a bulky blanket or excess fabric making it harder for you to get your cat through the carrier door.
However, you don’t want the towel or blanket to be too small. If your cat is really aggressive, you’ll need a big enough towel/blanket that you can toss it over them from a distance and ensure it will “trap” them under it.
Some people and vets suggest using the pillowcase method, which involves putting a pillowcase over your cats head and body and then tying the open end of the pillowcase closed.
I personally don’t believe this is one of the best methods. Imagine being scared and anxious and someone ties you up in a bag. Not to mention, you have to be able to hold the cat and put the pillowcase over them and pillowcase material is very thin. Chances are, if you’re dealing with a truly aggressive cat, you’re going to get scratched using this method.
As a cat owner, the burrito method seems much better to me. It allows you to wrap your cat in a heavy blanket to protect you, but keep their head free so they can easily breathe and see what’s going on.
Get the right weight of towel
You want a heavier weight of towel or blanket for a couple of reasons:
- It will make it less likely that your cat’s claws will come through the towel and scratch you.
- A heavier weight will help provide some comfort to your cat; just like a Thunder Vest or how a weighted blanket works to help calm humans.
Toss the towel over them
You may need to truly “trap” your cat with the blanket at first, but the idea will be to use the blanket to wrap around their body, up to their chin, so they can’t move their legs. This will allow you to easily place the cat into the carrier.
Be ready to move quickly for this step.
A) USING A TOWEL WHEN THEY’RE AGGRESSIVE
Toss the towel or blanket to completely cover your cat.
Although you may need to cover their head at first, it will only be temporary so you can get close enough to touch them without them biting you.
If your cat is really aggressive and you don’t cover their entire body and head, they may be able to quickly escape from under the towel.
Once the towel is over them, grab them around the sides of their stomach and begin to wrap the towel around them; trapping their legs/paws inside the towel.
You want the towel to be wrapped tight, so they can’t wiggle free, but obviously, not too tight that they’ll have a hard time breathing.
Keep in mind; if your cat is really worked up, they may be breathing heavier than normal from stress and an increased heart rate. So don’t make it more difficult for them to breathe by wrapping them too tightly or keeping their head covered.
When their legs/paws are secured, with a gloved hand, find the top of the towel and pull it down to free their head.
Again, ensure the top of the towel, where it’s wrapped above their shoulders/around their neck, is tight enough that they can’t get a paw up and over the towel, but not so tight that it’s making it hard for them to breathe.
B) USING A TOWEL WHEN THEY’RE LESS AGGRESSIVE
If, during step 3, your cat has calmed down enough to let you pet them or get within petting distance of them, try to distract them with some of their favorite food.
While they’re eating, quickly place the towel over their body, wrapping the top of it around their neck; keeping their head free.
Then pick them up and tightly wrap the towel around them to create a kitty burrito; trapping all four paws within their blanket and leaving their head free.
5 – PLACE YOUR CAT IN THE CARRIER & SOOTHE THEM
Your carrier should be standing on its end so you can simply lower them in; keeping their head up and tail end going in first.
Once they’re in, tilt the carrier back down so your cat will be laying on their tummy.
If you’re able to, before closing the door, loosen the towel so they can move around in there.
If you weren’t able to loosen the towel before closing the door, the holes in the carrier may allow you to pinch a piece of the towel and loosen it from around your cat, without having to open the door.
The important thing is to keep your cat as calm as possible. If you can, take a moment to hold your cat while they’re wrapped up like a burrito.
Continue to talk to them in a calm and loving tone, telling them everything is okay.
If you were able to loosen the towel from around them, consider giving them a treat while they’re in the carrier so they begin to associate good things with it.
Be gentle as you can when you carry the carrier; don’t abruptly pick it up or allow it to swing around.
Consider carrying it in your arms and close to your body instead of by the handle.
If your cat is still really riled up, you may want to place a towel over the carrier so they’re unable to see out, which may help them calm down.
WHEN YOU HAVE TIME TO PREPARE TO GET AN AGGRESSIVE CAT INTO A CARRIER
If you have several days leading up to having to put your cat in a carrier, but you’re simply searching for tips because you know your cat won’t like it, there are several steps you can take to prepare.
Taking the right steps in the days leading up to putting an aggressive cat in a carrier will help ensure the event is less stressful for you and your cat.
1 – GET THEM COMFORTABLE WITH THE CARRIER
If the only time your cat sees their carrier is when you’re taking them for a vet visit, they’re going to associate the carrier with something bad. Help them create positive associations with the carrier.
Try leaving the carrier out, putting their favorite blanket inside, or even their favorite treats/food.
Allow them to go in and out of the carrier on days you don’t have to take them anywhere, so the carrier becomes less threatening to them.
If your cat does become comfortable enough to go in the carrier on non-travel days, try closing the door behind them and allowing them to sit in the carrier for a few minutes, without moving it. Give them a treat while they’re in the carrier and talk to them in a loving tone.
After a few minutes, open the door, allow them to come out, and give them another treat.
If they continue to go in and out of the carrier and will allow you to close the door behind them, you can eventually work your way up to picking the carrier up and walking them around the house.
Continue building on this very slowly, giving them a treat after each time they’ve been in the carrier, so they start to associate the carrier with something positive.
You may walk them out to the car and simply place them in the backseat. Once they become more comfortable with that, try placing them in the car and turning the car on for a few minutes (only if your car is parked outside, never sit in a garage with your car running, or leave your cat in the car while it’s running in a garage, even if it’s just for a minute or two).
Then work your way up to simply backing out of the driveway, then next time, go for a short trip around the block.
It will take time, but your cat should become more comfortable with the carrier and trips.
2 – TALK TO YOUR VET
Your vet may be able to prescribe medication that will help calm your cat before attempting to put them in the carrier.
If they give you the medication in pill form, you can easily sneak it into their food or use these handy treats with pockets for pills.
They’re a soft treat so you can place a pill in the pocket, then form the treat around it.
They are on the bigger side when it comes to treats, so you may even want to break the treat in half and form half around the pill and give the other half as a regular treat.
3 – USE OVER THE COUNTER PRODUCTS
There are several products on the market that don’t require a prescription from your vet, but can help calm your cat.
Keep in mind, none of these will be miracle products; they’re unlikely to turn an aggressive cat into a calm, laid back cat in a matter of minutes.
But each product you use can help reduce their anxiety and aggression a little bit, to make the situation a little easier on you and them.
If your cat won’t let you hold them, even during the most relaxed times, this product may not work. But if they’re a fairly calm cat, until they see their carrier, you may be able to strap a Thunder Vest on them hours before you bring the carrier out.
It applies gentle and constant pressure to your cat to help soothe them.
A pheromone spray, such as Feliway Classic Calming Spray, mimics a cat’s natural pheromones to help put them at ease. Spraying this in the carrier, on the towel you’re going to use to wrap them, and even in the areas they’ll be leading up to putting them in a carrier, can help to calm your cat.
Catnip is an herb that contains a chemical called nepetalactone. When cats eat catnip, the nepetalactone can have a sedative effect.
It won’t knock your cat out, but it may make them more docile and easier to handle.
4 – TIRE OUT YOUR CAT
Try playing with your cat closer to the time you must put them into a carrier.
This can help expend some of their energy, and again, make them less aggressive when it’s time to put them into a carrier.
BEST TYPES OF CARRIERS FOR AGGRESSIVE CATS
Each cat is different, but in general, a hard carrier with a top that snaps on and off is the easiest to get an aggressive cat in and out of.
Instead of trying to put your cat in a carrier through a small opening, you can take the entire lid off, place your towel-wrapped cat inside, then snap the lid back on. This will definitely be easier with two people.
There are also carriers that have a top opening, like this PetMate Two Door Top Load Carrier. The top of the carrier doesn’t come off, but it does have a top opening to lower your can into.
This carrier, has both a top door and a top that completely snaps off, so you get the best of both worlds.
You want the carrier to be comfortable for your cat once they’re inside, which means it should be about 1.5 x the size of your cat; allowing them to sit up and move around if they choose.
Another reason a hard carrier is preferred over a soft carrier for an aggressive cat, is that it’s easy to clean. A stressed out, anxious, or nervous cat may urinate, defecate, or vomit while in the carrier. It will be easier to wipe up those messes when using a hard plastic carrier.
The hard surface is also more stable for your cat to sit or lay on, which may make it more comfortable for them.
If you have a cat that doesn’t mind going in carriers, they may enjoy a cat backpack for getting to and from your destinations.
HOW DO YOU KEEP A CAT CALM IN A CARRIER?
Once your cat is in the carrier, continue to do your best to soothe them.
- Keep a comfy, familiar blanket in the carrier
- Talk to them in a loving tone
- Continue talking to them on the way to the vet clinic
- Give them treats along the way
- Put their favorite toy in the carrier
- If your cat won’t bite you, put your finger through the vents or grate and pet your cat
- Let them see your face every once and a while so they see something familiar when they’re out of their regular surroundings
- Hold the carrier close to you so it doesn’t bump around when you walk
- Face the carrier forward in the car to reduce motion sickness when driving
- Strap the carrier into the car so it doesn’t slide around when you drive
- Take corners slowly when driving
HOW DO YOU TAKE AN AGGRESSIVE CAT TO THE VET?
Once you have your cat in the carrier, if you have to take them to the veterinarian clinic, there are ways to help keep stress levels low, so you don’t traumatize your cat and make it harder for the next time you must put them in a carrier.
PLAN THE VISIT WITH YOUR VET CLINIC
A calm cat will be easier for the veterinarians to handle, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to make your cat as comfortable as possible.
This means, talk to the clinic and choose a time to bring them in when it won’t busy. That may be setting the appointment for the first or last of the day.
They may also be able to help you coordinate having to spend the least amount of time in the clinic as possible by having a separate room ready as soon as you get there, or allowing you to sit in your car with your cat until they’re ready for you.
FACE THE CARRIER FORWARD IN THE CAR
Cats can get motion sickness, just like humans, so try to make the car ride as easy as possible for them.
Face the carrier forward as you drive and allow them to see their surroundings outside of the carrier.
Be sure to strap the carrier in so it doesn’t slide around when you turn corners or stop and start.
WAIT IN THE CAR WITH THEM
Once you arrive at the clinic, call to let the receptionist know you’ve arrived but are waiting in the car with your aggressive cat to help keep them calm. Or, if it will only be a minute, head into the vet clinic without your cat, to let them know.
They can give you a time estimate for how long it will be before the veterinarian is ready to see you and your cat, or even call you once a room is ready.
COVER THE CARRIER
Your cat will smell the other animals once you head into the clinic, but it may help if they don’t see them.
If you have an old towel, cut a slit in the middle of it, drape it over the carrier and pull the carrier’s handle through the slit. This will allow you to safely carry the carrier while keeping it covered.
USE THE RIGHT TYPE OF CARRIER
The right type of carrier can make it easier for the veterinarian to handle your cat and place them back in when the appointment is over.
I had a very sweet and calm cat until it was time to go to the vet. He was extremely aggressive at the vet clinic and the veterinarian let us know that our hard carrier with a top that snapped off made it easier for them to handle him. It was very similar to this carrier.
They had to wear X-ray gloves when they handled him, but one person was able to place him in the carrier, while another could snap the top back on.
I hope this article has helped you get your aggressive cat into a carrier 🙂
You may also be interested in: