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Why Does My Cat Sit In Her Carrier?

If your cat is sitting in its carrier for no reason you may feel that this is odd, and wonder why it’s happening…

Why does my cat sit in her carrier?

No matter how long cats have been domesticated, they will always keep a little wild cat instinct in their behaviors. If you find your cat has been sitting in their carrier often, it’s because they know it is a safe space that they can hide in. They can’t be startled easily or reached by predators when they’re in their carriers. 

So, now you know. But, how long can a cat just sit there, in the carrier? Do all cats like these carriers? Is a large carrier better for them? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

How long can a cat sit in a carrier? 

A cat in a carrier.

A cat in a carrier.

If your cat feels comfortable and safe in their carrier, then they can stay in their carrier for up to 8 hours. Of course, this is only for situations where they need to be kept in their carrier for a long period of time such as when traveling. Most cats will need breaks after 2-3 hours to stretch their legs or go to the bathroom.

If you need to keep your cat in a carrier for more than a few hours at a time and they don’t feel safe inside, you can talk to your vet about getting anti-anxiety medications or have them put on a light sedative so they can comfortably sleep through the trip. 

Do cats assume that your home is safe without a carrier? 

Your cat doesn’t know that your home likely doesn’t have any predators that are a threat to them, but regardless it’s a small space that they know to be safe. 

Instinctually, cats like small enclosed spaces which their carrier can provide for your cat. 

Do cats like carriers?

The short answer here is that it depends. Some cats are very comfortable in their carriers because it makes them feel safe and protected. Maybe it has familiar smells that make your cat feel comfortable and safe, or maybe they spent time in there when you first brought your cat home and it is familiar. 

Not all cats like their carriers. Many grow to associate their carriers with vet visits or car rides which can give them anxiety. Even the sight of a carrier can make a cat run and hide in a safe space like behind furniture or under a bed.

These cats can be trained to be more comfortable with their carrier with positive reinforcement. 

Is a large carrier more comfortable for a cat?

If you have a large cat, you should have a large carrier for that car. But you should buy a carrier that is the right fit for your cat and not worry about getting as big a carrier as possible. Your cat should have enough room to sit, stand, and turn around in whatever carrier you choose to get.

If you get a carrier that is too big for your cat, it will be harder to carry and your cat is more likely to be jostled around when you transport them. You may need a little more space in a cat carrier if you plan to fill it with a bed or comfortable blankets but again, it shouldn’t be so big that the cat is unable to balance when you carry it. 

Is it bad to keep a cat in a carrier?

If your cat is voluntarily spending time in their carrier because it feels safe and comfortable for them, then they can stay in it for as long as they want to. Allow them to go in and out as often as they would like and it is fine.

However, if you’re planning on keeping your cat in its carrier for travel or while you’re at work, it’s recommended that they stay in it no more than 6 hours maximum, but in reality no more than a couple of hours at a time.Cats like to run around and stretch their legs, even if it seems that they like to sleep all day. 

How do you calm a cat in a carrier? 

If your cat has anxiety about being in its carrier, the best thing you can do is figure out why it scares them. If they have begun associating their carrier with unpleasant things like trips to the vet, or trips to unfamiliar places, just seeing their carrier is going to cause anxiety.  Luckily there are things that can help calm them down.

You can try to acclimate your cat to their carrier by leaving it out with their toys or some of your clothes inside so they know they can come and go when they need and it’s a safe space. But if they’ve made up their mind about hating the carrier, pet stores do sell cat calming pheromones that you can spray in the carrier or on a towel that you put inside which should calm them down more while traveling.

You can also ask your vet about possible medications for them.

Do cats need to be in a carrier? 

Transporting a cat anywhere without a carrier can be very risky for your cat. If your cat is unfamiliar with its surroundings and gets nervous, it might try to run away. And if you’ve ever tried to hold on to a cat that’s trying to run away, you know how difficult that can be.

If you’re using public transport you might scare your cat with unfamiliar noises. If you’re driving your car with your cat outside a carrier, they can wander under the seats, or under the pedals, or in front of your line of sight. Some people are able to walk their cats on leashes, but they are not like dogs and can’t really be directed as easily to go where you want them to.

For your cat’s safety and your own, it’s best to transport them with a carrier. 

Do cats prefer hard or soft carriers? 

A cat lying down.

A cat lying down near a soft carrier.

The kind of carrier that is better for your cat depends on your cat. Just like some people like firm mattresses and some like really soft ones, cats have their own preferences for carriers. Cats that have a lot of anxiety around traveling will typically prefer hard carriers.

They let the cat have their space that they can move around in and generally hard carriers feel more secure. More mild-tempered cats can do well with soft carriers and they usually have multiple doors for easier access in retrieving your cat. If your cat is prone to getting carsick, soft carriers are harder to clean and may not last as long against kitty claws. 

Should I put catnip in the carrier?

You certainly can put catnip in a cat carrier. If your cat has anxiety around being in its carrier, a little bit of catnip might make them be more excited about going in. They might start to associate the cat carrier with catnip rather than vet visits and travel.

Many pet stores also sell catnip oil which you can dilute and put on a towel in the carrier which is a little less messy than loose catnip. 

Why does my cat sleep in its carrier after being neutered? 

They probably feel very safe in their carrier now. The carrier smells like you and it smells like home and getting neutered is pretty traumatic. There are new people poking and prodding at your cat, new smells, and new sensations.

So your cat is probably sleeping in a space that makes them feel really safe and comfortable.

Lindsey Browlingdon