Today’s post is written by @henrythebully on instagram. They share a lot of their experiences with training their dog Henry, as well as their cat Frankie. I have seen a lot of trained cats, but Frankie is the first crate trained cat I have come across.
I took what I knew from crate training dogs and applied it to training with her. I knew the most important thing was that she felt like it was a positive and safe space for her. I began with a soft “travel” carrier crate and placed it in locations she liked to hang out (like on top of my desk). I made sure it was cozy with some of her favorite toys and a blanket. One thing that was really helpful for her was her purple purring toy we named “Grimace” – it always helps her self-soothe. Initially, I would place her in there with the door open when she had fallen asleep. I would give her affection while she was in there and we would also play with her toys in the carrier. Other people also feed their pets their meals in their crate. While we did not do this, I did feed her treats while she was in there.
When Frankie came into our lives, she had worms so she was very messy and had to use the litter box a lot. As a result, she spent most of her nights sleeping in the bathroom. This ended up being a great way for me to add a lot of value to the crate. I made it the coziest place in the bathroom and she slept in there by choice as a result. At first, I elevated it off the ground with a stool as many cats prefer this for their bed. In my experience training my dog, animals become comfortable fastest in the crate when it is their “best option” for a resting place. There are many ways this can be achieved and it usually is a combination of adding value to the crate while removing any competing alternatives (e.g., other beds).
Eventually, Frankie transitioned out of the bathroom, but because she was so used to her crate, we noticed her putting herself to bed in her crate in the main area every night. We decided to get her a larger wire crate that would be a permanent fixture in the main area. The size of the new one also allowed us to add a scratch board in there, which she loved! At this point she had never slept in it with the door closed, but when it came time for her spay that changed. I wanted to keep her contained at night for her safety. I had a good idea of her bathroom habits and that she didn’t tend to go at night so I placed her in there with the door closed overnight while she was healing. She never made a peep and seemed to enjoy the safe space. While I really consider her sleeping in it overnight with the door closed a “bonus,” it has proven to be tremendously helpful for travelling.
For me, crate training is one of those things that every pet should have some exposure to because there is likely a time they will need it. Any pet who spends time at the vet on their own will have to be crated during their stay and pets need to be carriers if they travel by plane. It has always been a goal of mine to expose my pets to things in a positive way so that it is not scary for them if they end up in a situation where it is needed one day. Beyond that, there are a number of safety benefits of crate training including travel and emergencies. It is very important to me that my pets are secure while travelling in the car.
As an adventure kitty, Frankie spends a lot of time in the car and a carrier ensures that she is safe and contained (she also gets to dine with us at pet friendly patios because of this also!). While this may not be a daily activity for many people, an emergency may require folks to collect their pets and leave their home immediately. Not only are pets easier to locate when they are in crates (and fun fact: firefighters are more likely to get your pets and prefer them to be contained in the event of a fire), it is more efficient to get them out of the house and provides them some comfort if they are in what they consider a “safe space” during the emergency. There are also other safety considerations that are less obvious for cats who travel.
Not all cats are created equal when it comes to their “naughtiness,” which is often determined by their age and stimulation needs. As a young cat, Frankie likes to get into things… she will eat food she shouldn’t and her favorite past-time is eating my earplugs. When we are at new places like hotels and short-term rentals, it is a huge peace of mind to have her contained when I am unable to watch her (like when I’m sleeping!). This would be really hard on the both of us if she didn’t like her crate, which is why I put so much effort into ensuring it was positive for her also.
Other benefits include recovering from surgery and my personal belief that everyone needs their own safe space for mental wellbeing. Cats, like dogs and humans, can become overstimulated and sometimes just need to take a breath! Because the crate has always been her “me time” place, it has an instant calming effect on her. This is something I noticed in my dog as a puppy and it seems to be ringing true for Frankie as well.
Something that is important to keep in mind is that this is not a one-size-fits-all aspect of training. There are cats (and dogs) who struggle tremendously with crate and confinement anxiety. We were fortunate with Frankie to have had her from a young age and by nature, she is extremely confident and adaptable. While it is possible to crate train a cat later in life, it can be more challenging. I like to think of all the decisions I make in my pet’s lives as choosing the option that maximizes benefit while minimizes harm. With this in mind, it is important to consider what training goals are realistic for a pet. This can help determine if your goal is “some exposure” in the event of emergencies or vet visits, or if it will be a daily feature of your cat’s life. All cats are different in the pace that they learn so patience is always key. You may be surprised when the weeks or months spent working towards a goal finally “works” one day!
Frankie uses a 24″ (length) sized wire crate. The benefits of a wire crate is better airflow, and you can drop treats inside without opening a zipper. She sure looks cozy in there!
Are you convinced to crate train your cat yet?
For Teddy, he is carrier trained so I can take him on short distances in a carrier or backpack, but I couldn’t consider him crate trained. He still makes a big fuss when he is enclosed for long periods of time. I would personally want to get him crate trained especially for the car, for safety. There are some crash tested carriers and kennels out there to keep cats safe in case of a car accident (more info: Car Setup for Cats). I would also like to train Teddy to stay in a crate when we are camping, because I don’t trust the long line system we use.
One thought on “Crate Training for Cats – With Frankie”
My last cat crate trained himself
He came to me with GI issues so I left his carrier open in the bathroom & he decided to use it for sleeping & playing with his toys he used it for private time or just tucked himself in each night for bed