Cat Crate Training Ideas

by catfood

The following is an excerpt from the live Facebook Q&A for the FurKeeps Kickoff hosted by about cat crate training ideas.



I have a five-year-old male Maine Coon who was tossed on my front porch four years ago. He has matured into a wonderful cat, friendly and affectionate. When his name is called, he runs up, sits, and waits patiently for his meal or treats.

The problem is that he keeps peeing in my house. He pees in my house no matter how many clean litter boxes I have or how electrified they are. I want to keep Rift since he has captured my heart, but I can’t have him urinating all over the place. How should I proceed?

ASPCA Community Initiatives – New York, NY’s Jacque Schultz, MA CPDT-KA, responds:

Urinary incontinence is the most common cat condition. One out of every ten cats is expected to have lapses at some time in their lives.

So, what can you do to attempt to make things better, especially since he’s had accidents for years?

To begin, have him examined by a veterinarian to confirm his health. A medical problem will not be solved by any amount of behavioral adjustment. Because some cats have persistent ailments, just because you addressed something a few months ago does not mean the cat will not become unwell again.


Second, presuming he has a clean bill of health, I would confine him for two weeks. This is how it’s done:

  • Walking with the carrier: Once you’ve mastered picking up the carrier with your cat inside while remaining calm, take a few steps before gently lowering the carrier, treating them, and releasing them. If he pees in bed, he will lose that for the next two weeks as well.
  • At that time, play with him, groom him, and love him up; but, if you are not directly engaged with him, he should be confined so that he has no opportunity to go on anything upholstered or carpeted. Because you’re developing a new habit, I strongly urge sticking to the two weeks and not skipping any steps.
  • If he’s content urinating in corners and outside the box, you could try what we did with one Persian: He was housed in a cattery cage with two resting platforms, one with food and drink, and the entire floor covered by two or three different types of litter boxes with diverse substrate alternatives. He didn’t have much of an option but to use a litter box.
  • He was allowed to leave the cattery for an hour or two after using the litter box after two weeks. We gradually increased his time outside the cattery cage and understood we had succeeded when he ran into the cattery to use the container himself. (By that point, we’d reduced the options down to the one he used the most.)
  • Finally, remember to use an outstanding odor neutralizer to sanitize every inch of anyplace he has ever been within an inch of its life while he is in confinement. A black light may be required to show you where the pee deposits are still present. If you don’t clean it all up right away, some cats will freshen it up with new pee. Best regards!

When it comes to cats, seeing the cat carrier is often the first sign that something bad is about to happen (i.e. a trip to the vet). So, the first step in reducing your cat’s anxiety about vet appointments (or travel in general) is to build favorable carrier associations, which may take some time and patience but is well worth it.


Try these ten basic steps first, then keep reading for more troubleshooting tips from Banfield’s professional veterinarian:

  • Start early: Because kittens adapt more quickly to new experiences and environments than older or elderly cats, start the carrier-training process as soon as feasible. But don’t panic, adult and senior cats (like my 9-year-old cat Mojo!) can learn that the carrier is secure.
  • Keep the carrier easily accessible: Too many cats only see the carrier when it’s time to travel, so when the carrier arrives, they fear. Instead, always keep your cat’s carrier open and on the floor. Your cat should have the freedom to come and go as they like so that they do not associate the carrier with being imprisoned.
  • Make the carrier a pleasant place to be: Add some soft bedding and a few treats, your cat’s favorite toys, or catnip when you first set up the carrier. Check and refill the supplies every few days at random.
  • Feed your cat inside the carrier: If your cat eats inside the carrier, place a food dish in the crate on a daily basis. If they don’t, try putting their food dish a few feet away and moving it an inch or two closer to the crate each day – just make sure your cat keeps eating. If they don’t, move the meal further away and bring it closer gradually. TIP: Some very intelligent cats will not enter the crate if you are standing nearby because they believe you will lock them in, so step away and observe from across the room.
  • Teach your cat the “in” command: Begin calling your cat over to the crate to receive treats when he or she is confident enough to enter the carrier to eat and receive treats. When your cat enters the carrier, toss a treat into it and say “in.” Praise your cat for remaining in the carrier for the duration. Once they’re gone, add another reward and keep going. You can start saying “in” gradually at first, and your cat should enter the carrier on their own if you treat them when they do so and while they’re still in the carrier. Working with your cat in the carrier brings together all of your cat’s favorite things – playing, learning, rewards, and you! – and shows them that the carrier is not only safe but also enjoyable.
  • Close the carrier door as follows: Continue with steps 1-5, but now begin closing and locking the door before giving your cat the treat following the “in” command. Once they’ve finished the treat, reopen the crate, let them out, and repeat. Experiment with this, progressively increasing the amount of time the cage door stays shut. Give your cat more goodies if they remain calm while the door is closed. If they appear agitated or attempt to escape, do not treat them and try again with less time in the cage.
  • Experiment with picking up the carrier: After your cat has learned that a closed carrier door is OK, try picking up the carrier with them inside and gently removing it. Include this in your workout program.
  • Keep him in a cthet crate, dog crate, or tiny powder room with no carpeting and nothing absorbent except a litter box and a bed.
  • Experiment with taking the carrier outside: You don’t have to go far at first; just outside your front door and back inside may enough. The goal is to keep the kitty quiet as you repeat the will be – gradually increasing your distance and time over time.
  • Take a walk around the block: Continue practicing with kitten until you can walk around the block with them inside the carrier while keeping calm. When you can accomplish this, you’ll know your cat’s dread of the carrier is gone.

For some cats, traveling in the carrier – or being confined against their will – will always be unsettling. Karen Johnson, DVM, of Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, OR, provided us with the following helpful troubleshooting advice:

  • If your cat refuses to enter the carrier with you nearby, try tipping it on its end and placing your cat in the back end first.
  • Make sure the carrier is the correct size for your cat and the function you require. (For example, cats flying in an airplane’s cabin will require a soft-sided carrier.)
  • Give your pet plenty of time, period. Even if you set up the carrier, Dr. Johnson warns that “it could be days or even weeks before the cat feels secure enough to investigate it.” Don’t be concerned; give your cat the space they require.
  • It’s fine if the carrier isn’t their preferred spot. “While the cat may dislike the carrier, he or she should learn that it is a safe environment,” Dr. Johnson explains. Your cat will be less anxious about being in the carrier if they know it is safe, even if they don’t like being inside it.

I’ve been doing this regimen for about three years, and my cat Mojo has changed. Previously, Mojo vanished as soon as the carrier appeared. She now prefers to nap in her carrier, willingly crawling into and finding comfort in the little confines.

Wondering about Urinating Outside the Litterbox? Check it out on our latest post!


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