Cat Crate Training: Instructions and Tips

headshot of an orange cat

Crating a cat can make trips to the vet and other traveling much easier. It also can be extremely helpful to have a cat who’s comfortable in a crate if you ever need to evacuate your home in an emergency. But first you’ll likely need to do some cat crate training to teach your kitty to relax in the crate.

Steps for crate training a cat

How do you crate train a cat? First, buy a crate large enough so that your cat can stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Put the crate on a stable surface, and keep it open. Make it an inviting place: Put soft, comfy bedding inside, and add treats inside the crate daily. If your cat likes catnip, you can add some of that or a small catnip toy. Watch to see whether the crate becomes a place in which your cat naps or grooms.

If the cat isn’t using the crate, try this exercise multiple times each day:  

  1. Call your cat by name. When they’re looking at you, place a small treat (something your cat really likes) next to them.  
  2. Now that you have a motivated cat, dole out more treats, moving the treat closer to the crate each time you call your cat.  
  3. Once you are at the crate, place a treat just inside and step away.  
  4. The next time you call your cat, place a larger treat or two treats in the back of the crate, move away, and watch your cat.
  5. If your cat still doesn’t go into the crate with these steps, try spraying pheromones (such as Feliway) on the bedding inside the crate. You can also try using wet cat food or changing the treat for a stronger motivation.

If your cat isn’t going into the crate and relaxing in between treat times, move the crate. A different location might help your cat to enjoy crate time more. Keep offering enticing treats in the crate multiple times each day.  

After the cat is spending time in the crate, start going to the crate and calling the cat to you. When the cat arrives, practice picking them up and putting them in the crate, with a treat waiting in the back of the crate. Place them inside, and release them to eat the treat and walk out if they want.

Taking a cat in a crate for a car ride

You can take the crate training even further. The next steps can be getting your now-relaxed cat to adjust to being lifted and carried in the crate — and then to being carried to the car and back to your home. You can put the crate in the car, start the vehicle, and let the engine run for a few minutes without the car moving. Then, bring the cat back into the house.  

Next, you can practice driving to the nearest corner and back home. Then, drive to the vet and back home. Remember to give treats every step of the way.

If your cat has had an unpleasant experience in the crate — such as being taken to the vet — it might take some extra effort to again have your cat see the crate as a positive thing. Try doing the exercise above using especially tasty treats inside the crate, and entice your cat to enter the crate several times a day for a while.

In your home, always keep the crate open and equipped with clean, soft bedding; freshen the catnip periodically, and add new toys sometimes. When you have a cat who enjoys spending time in the crate, you can pop them in and take off whenever you need to.