Today, our Animal Care Team has some thoughts considering crates. Some pet owners feel uncomfortable about crating their pets or daily use of crates or carriers, but there are good reasons to get your furry family member comfortable and happy with their crate or carrier: It’s a true kindness.
Many pets only make one or two trips a year in their crate or pet carrier. Too often from your pet’s point of view, that rare trip is filled with loud sounds, strange smells, and sometimes those dreaded needles! Car travel is safer for pets when they are restrained in a carrier or crate, and if the only time they see or smell their carrier is for that annual trip to the vet, they remember it negatively and you are already faced with a struggle and a frightened, upset pet before your journey has even begun!
Is it a wrestling match to get your pet into their carrier? That struggle comes from fear and stress, usually from negative associations with the crate. Does storing the crate away in the attic or garage and only getting it out for a big stressful event make your animal feel safer, or more frightened? Wouldn’t it be kinder to have the crate be a happy place that makes your pet feel safe and secure?
Some questions to think about:
- When did they last see or smell their carrier?
- Was it a positive or negative experience for them?
- Have you made the crate warm and comfortable?
- Has the carrier ever been a place of comfort or safety for your pet?
If your animal’s crate is a familiar object that means comfort, safety, and even fun, your pet will willingly enter and travel in it. By making the crate a positive part of everyday life for your furry friend, you remove some of the fear and stress that you both feel when you have to travel, make a visit to the groomer or vet, or need emergency transportation.
Here are some simple things you can do to improve your pet’s opinion of their carrier and help start any trip with a happy pet!
- Make sure it is clean and fresh smelling. If your animal has had a fear-based or motion sickness accident in the crate before, a thorough wash gets rid of those scary smells and negative memories.
- Keep their carrier available as a bed, to make it ordinary and less frightening. You can remove the door, block it open, or even remove the top half depending on the style.
- Keep a durable, comfortable item such as a blanket or towel in the carrier that can be taken with you when you travel. Something that is easily removable, washable and absorbent (in case your pet gets sick in the car) is always best.
- Is your pet still skittish around the crate? Hide treats or toys under the blanket or towel. Finding a treat there every once in a while encourages happy exploration.
- Use the crate or carrier to travel to fun places, too. If you take your dog to the dog park in his crate, he will have happy travel memories in his carrier, not just negative ones.
You don’t have to use the crate or carrier as a training tool if you don’t wish to, but it is wise and kind to allow your pet to become familiar with it as a safe and happy space they enjoy. At Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital, we know many pets who use their crate or carrier as a peaceful place for snoozing or hiding from guests. Those pets have less stress and less fear when travelling to the vet, groomer, and vacations…and their owners are have less stress too!