We require that every adopted cat from our rescue facility leave in a pet carrier, or the cat is not allowed to leave until the adopter purchases a pet carrier from one of the local stores. In the last decade, I have seen an overwhelming number of problems from making the decision not to buy a pet carrier to transport your new cat home. Before I opened the cat rescue, I worked in a local humane society, where even the police did not believe in pet carriers, no matter how many times you sent them literature on the importance of their use. That blatant neglect of safety ended in two police officers being bitten by a very stressed-out cat and cats escaping–never to be found again–which was entirely sad and preventable.
Cats can get lost during transit easier than people think, and pet owners can get scratched or bitten if the cat is spooked. A cat bite can become infected in literally no time at all, which can present further problems on top of the issues that you will already have. Everyone in the vehicle could get fatally injured if the cat causes a vehicle crash by his playful antics. There are plenty of excuses that people try to arm themselves with so that they do not have to spend thirty dollars on a pet carrier. The most common explanation provided at the time of adoption is that the man of the family is strong and confident about handling the cat, so they do not have any worries.
Pet carrier safety is less about masculinity or confidence in carrying the cat from one location to another and more about protection for all parties. Otherwise, cat behavior consultants like me could move a cat from one location to another location without the use of a pet carrier. Using a pet carrier is ultimately about safety for the cat and the family, always expecting the unexpected rather than hoping that nothing wrong could happen. It is also out of fairness to the cat, as he will feel safe in the pet carrier. You never know if a factory noise is going to scare the cat, a friend is going to drive by and honk at you, and the list goes on. A cat bite is going to hurt so bad that most people will likely drop the cat in the process due to the pain.
In the frigid December temperatures of 2018, our cat rescue organization was called into action at the local County Market for a kitten rescue mission which I could not miss for anything. A kitten was living deep down in the ditch next to County Market, which presented a problem because that ditch was right next to the highway. I observed the top of the ditch as the kitten was attempting to navigate the wooded area. The tricky part about trying to catch the kitten was that there was a stream of water the kitten could use for escape, and we did not want to scare her into the highway, where she could be hit by a car. We named the kitten Cocoa because of her precious tabby and white coloring.
We laid out two of our best humane live traps with food set in the back of them for several days with absolutely no luck. The ditch was huge, which presented a problem because other wildlife could steal the food, and our traps could be stolen if a nearby store got angry about it. Another ditch was just one small stretch of the pavement away, so we were scared that the kitten could conceal herself by running from one ditch to the other. Chasing the kitten was a fruitless endeavor because the kitten could hear you coming from 50 feet away. One of our board members was able to lure her with chicken to the top of the ditch, where she was able to quickly snatch her, which was a miracle, to say the least.
An Adoption That Almost Ended Badly
The family that adopted Cocoa insisted for nearly an hour that they did not want to use a pet carrier to transport the kitten home because the money could be invested better elsewhere. That adoption was the first time, and the final time, we have ever allowed ourselves to give in to such a haphazard request. The husband was terrible at handling the kitten, despite his military background and bodybuilding experience. The kitten got loose at the new house, with the temperature dropping below freezing, which was worse than if the kitten had gotten lost somewhere she knew well. She would have been better off in the ditch than in an unknown area with very few areas to hide.
It took our team nearly six days to track down the kitten and capture her with another live trap that was baited with tuna because canned food was not tempting enough anymore. We brought her back to the rescue for another month to recover from the ordeal and to be given some medications and fluids. Half the neighborhood must have been looking for that kitten. I had about 20 texts, 30 reported sightings, and personal Facebook messages throughout the time we were looking for her and starting to lose hope. This story turned out happy for all parties involved; however, these situations rarely do. I like to think about what could have happened, instead of what actually happened, so I can educate others. This story is the story we tell other people when they do not want to use a pet carrier.
CoCoa Cardboard Box Initiative
Cardboard box carriers cost our rescue organization only about $5, so we typically charge that amount of money as a deposit if the adopter does not bring a pet carrier with her. The money is refunded upon return of the cardboard box carrier within 30 days of the adoption. We do strongly prefer that adopters purchase a regular carrier because of the added durability and the fact that the cat is likely to need veterinary care at some point in his life.
The rabies vaccination should be done yearly, as required by law, regardless of whether you have indoor or outdoor cats, and you should prepare well in advance for potential disasters like a tornado or earthquake. I often see families who have multiple cats without even owning one transportation carrier, which is completely reckless. We now microchip every cat that leaves our rescue as an integral part of this initiative in case owners do not heed our advice. We spend a ton of time on the cats that we take care of and would hate to see all of our hard work gone to waste if the end result was not good.
Choosing A Great Pet Carrier
The perfect pet carrier is durable, easily sanitizable, and designed to fit the needs of your cat. I choose my pet carriers for their functionality, rather than their aesthetics, but I often try to select the best of both worlds if I can manage to do so. I am very picky about the pet carrier I use for my cats and have listed some criteria below that you might consider when you go shopping for your next pet carrier:
- Top and front openings
- 1 1/2 times the cat size
- Can be taken apart
- Easily cleaned
- One cat per carrier
- Leak-proof bottom
- Good ventilation
It is not a pleasant feeling for your cat to be thrown into a transportation carrier that is too small or too large. A cat would prefer to have his back against a solid object because it creates a feeling of security. The perfect carrier is about one and a half times the size of your cat, which means that you may need to upgrade your carrier as he ages. Your cat will feel much more confident if he is allowed to rest his back against one or more sides of the pet carrier you decide to purchase.
You often find that a frightened cat will hide in the corner of a new home or veterinary office because she knows she cannot be ambushed from behind. When the carrier is too large, the cat will end up sliding from one side to the other, which creates the feeling of insecurity, uncertainty and a complete lack of control. The task of carrying the pet carrier can be difficult since there will be balance issues as the cat slides from one part of the carrier to the other.
Multiple cats, just like siblings, may fight when forced against their will into a small location for a long time. I do not allow multiple cats to go home in the same carrier unless they are 16 weeks or younger, for it could be potentially traumatic. Redirected aggression from the fear or anxiety of being poorly transported can cause injuries, especially if they get spooked. That redirected aggression can go on even when you get home. Placing multiple cats in one carrier can make it difficult and awkward for your veterinarian during his examination if he wants to see just one cat. I would avoid this practice at all costs.
I would also avoid soft-sided pet carriers because they are quickly ruined and are not durable if you were to have a car accident. All it takes is for your cat to spray or urinate on the fabric one time, and it will be almost impossible to clean. The nylon mesh panels can be destroyed, and escape is possible if the cat is stressed out enough. Soft-sided carriers also tend to be hard to sanitize appropriately if your cat has an illness at some point in her life.
SleepyPod Pet Carriers
I recommend the Sleepy Pod Mobile Pet Bed since it features ultra-plush and foam material, which provides optimal comfort and security for your cat. The size options tend to work well for a cat of almost any size. I have used the Sleepy Pod Mobile Pet Bed for Maine Coons and Ragdolls without any issue. The cover unzips easily, allowing you to adapt it to the sleeping preference of your cat. Some cats may love having the top removed, and others may not like it that way. The Sleepy Pod Mobile Pet Bed can be used as a pet bed and carrier, which is precisely what I love about it for training a cat to love her carrier.
The strategy is to set up the carrier as a bed in a high-value location for your cats so that they will sleep in it throughout the day and build a positive association with it. Including tasty cat treats, feeding canned food inside of the carrier, and playing with a wand toy inside of the carrier will help build additional rapport. Choose a spot where you feel comfortable leaving the pet carrier out, as you want to make it a permanent fixture of your house. I set the carriers out in the family room, where everyone–including the cats–spends the most time.
The final benefit of the Sleepy Pod Mobile Pet Bed is that it has a five-star safety rating, and Sleepypod will replace your product for free if it is damaged in an auto accident. The Sleepypod safety test program requires that every product sold to pet owners meets the highest standards of safety.
Veterinarians and cat rescuers love carriers that open up from the top because those carriers are ideal for fear-free veterinary visits, and top-loading carriers cut down on stress tremendously. Having the option to unzip the entire top of the pet carrier is nice, so the cat does not have to be dragged out against his will or dumped out, which can lead to further stress. In most instances, you can leave the cat in the bed for the examination.