Crates are one of the best tools to prevent cat stress and damage to a new house. When a cat bonds to its crate or carrying cage, it feels secure when it is inside, no matter where the crate is placed. This article will cover recommended size, introduction, usage and crate training tips.
Many new home owners have been inundated by horror stories about cats in new homes. Stains on the new carpets, shredded banisters, meowing at all hours of the day and night... it just goes on and on. I'm happy to say that a lot of these problems can be addressed and/or eliminated with the humane use of a crate.
Some people view crates as "cruel" because they restrict a cat's freedom of movement. I am of the opinion that a crate is only cruel when abused. Keeping a cat in a crate all day and all night without a break to stretch its legs and use the litter box is definitely a horrible thing to do. However, using a crate to strategically restrict your cat's freedom will actually help it adjust to its new home and eliminate a lot of stress from your life.
Ideally, Poofy will already be accustomed to a crate from kittenhood. Cats can be socialized as well as dogs can, so it's always worth getting Poofy used to riding in the car and riding in her crate. It helps if Poofy is taken at an early age to places where there's lots of activity, like shopping malls and playgrounds. If she's used to being taken strange places, she'll be a lot more likely to settle down in the new house.
A good sized crate for Poofy will allow her to go inside, turn around, stand up, and lie down. You don't want the crate to be any bigger - it's a space to relax and sleep, not play or run around in. Get the pet supply store person's advice and do some research on the best brand of crate to accommodate Poofy. You can get away with something as simple as a cardboard pet carrier carton or you can invest in a plastic/wire crate that will last several cat lifetimes; it's up to you.
If you're introducing a crate for the first time, don't just yell, "WELCOME TO YOUR NEW HOME, POOFY!!!", toss Poofy in and leave. This is bad. Pooky will be terrified and probably have a meltdown and never want to go near the crate again. You may want to go so far as purchasing two separate crates for trips to the vet and home use, so that Poofy doesn't associate being popped into a crate with a bad experience.
What you want is for the crate to become Poofy's preferred sleeping area. Do this by first introducing the crate as an interesting new place to play around and sleep in. Set your cat up by not feeding her during the day you bring the crate home. When you set the crate up, don't force Poofy to come inspect it. Cats are naturally curious and will often voluntarily go into a crate to check it out. Have her favorite blanket and cat treats or a dish of food waiting for her. Feed her something she REALLY likes every day - always with the dish inside the crate. Bungee cord the crate door to the crate body so that it cannot possibly shut accidentally and hurt or scare Poofy.
After a week of this, see if you can get Poofy to go into the crate voluntarily. It helps if you don't feed her beforehand that day. Don't force her; just carry her to the opening and put something she especially likes inside. She should go in. If she doesn't, see if you can gently lift her inside. Once she is in, close the door. She will probably turn around and try to head for the exit. Immediately have a piece of the aforementioned Food she really likes shoved through the crate grill to meet her. If she takes it, great! If not, proceed to the next step, which is opening the door and making a big fuss over Pooky. If you play with Pookie, have playtime happen right then. Make sure Pookykins knows that she is the best cat in the entire world (she already knows this, but it never hurts to let her know you know).
Gradually increase the time she spends in the crate with the door closed. Watch her closely - if she bumps around in the crate and then settles down, that's good. If she seems stressed, let her out and try again later. If she seems okay with the procedure, try leaving the room for a minute. Work up to leaving her in there for a couple of hours. Regularly come by with a treat or dab of food. Some people find that a new product on the market, Feliway cat spray, helps cats relax in the crate. This is a feline pheremone spray that naturally relaxes the cat by mimicking the natural chemicals that cats give off when happy with life.
When Poofy uses the crate as her primary sleeping area, you've won. Cats who bond with their crate as their "territory" are a lot less likely to be stressed when moving to a new house. They are also less likely to engage in territorial marking of the new carpets or scratching the new doors. A crate is your cat's best friend, especially during a stressful transition. Seriously consider crate training your cat to successfully move it to a new home.
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