Acclimating your PET cat or dog to Airline Crate

acclimating cat dog to pet airline crateOne of the most important thing you can do for your pets when preparing for long car trips or travel on an airplane is to get them used to spending time in their crate. You can do this at any age even old dogs can learn news tricks. Acclimating your pet to his or her crate is much like crate training a puppy with a few twists.



      1. Introduction: The first step for acclimating your dog to his / her kennel crate is to let your dog explore the crate by placing nice things inside. Favorite blanket or bed, yummiest treats and funnest toys. Be sure and tie the door in open position or remove the door all together for the first few days. If your dog is still unsure of going in or is feeling stressed or suspicious take the top of the kennel off and just use the bottom portion for a few days. Remember it has to be his or her idea do not force them in and do not lock them in once they go in willingly or with a little coaxing. Also be sure and place the kennel crate in an area your pet enjoys most like in the living room, den or bedroom, not in a room your pet avoids like the laundry room or basement where furnace or washer and dryer noises may spook an already guarded pet.
      2. Increase Time: The next step, once your pet is going in and out of kennel willingly and seems to rest inside, is to slowly close the door and allow your dog to take short naps in the crate.  Start with a few minutes at a time then slowly increase the time in 15 minute increments.
      3. Reward Training: Now that your dog is used to being crated and seems to enjoy time in the crate it is time to “test the waters”. Load your pet in the car for a few short rides in the kennel crate. Have someone else drive so you are available to assure your pet. Be sure to remove all the toys and treats for this part, bedding or blankets are fine.  Each time you return home reward your pet with praise and yummy treats.  Make a big deal out of it make him feel he accomplished something very important and special.
      4. Flight Simulator: Last comes the big test… Take your dog for another car ride in his / her crate make sure the crate is securely closed, try rolling the windows down on the highway or make a trip to an unfamiliar environment, like to the landing and take off viewing area surrounding an airport or even better through an old fashion car wash. Again, be sure to have someone else drive so you are there to re-assure and monitor your pet. This will be a true test to see how your dog responds to loud noises, stress and possible startling while being crated. The inside of the car wash is a perfect test it is loud with lots of moving air noises, bumping, thrashing, dark, and a little stuffy. This is a great way to do a mini test run for what your pet will experience during take offs and landings. The only difference is your will be with your pet and be able to comfort and reassure him.  Make sure and bring treats with you so you can reward your dog as soon as this is over and make a big deal out of it, similar to the first time your dog sat or fetched. Remember this is just like teaching your pet a new trick.


    1. Introduction: Cats are much easier to to get to go into a crate. For them I suggest leaving the crate with the door open or removed and place it in a room your cat enjoys and ignore it. Be sure to place a nice bed or blanket in it or even some fresh catnip. Cats are normally curious and they love to climb into things to play, explore or hide when startled. Leave it there for a good week or two. If you do not see your cat in the crate or are just not sure if he is indeed going into it, leave a few of his favorite snacks in it and check later to see if they are gone.
    2. If your cat is still not spending time in it you can camouflage the crate by draping a small blanket over it just leaving the doorway exposed.
    3. Once your cat is spending time in the crate, you can follow the directions above for Reward Training and Flight Simulator although cats are not as easy to bribe with treats as dogs. One important note is to always line your cat crate with plenty of absorbent material I recommend DryFur pads, especially during any long car rides or flight simulating. Your cat will be forever afraid of her crate if she has an accident in the crate and is forced to ride all the way home to get dry and clean.

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7 Responsesso far.

  1. I have a 50 lb dog and am getting ready to move to hawaii. Of course we have to fly. I have tried crate training my dog many times, but inevitably she didnt like crates when we got her, and she does not willingly get into one. She generally likes being in “cave-like” places (under the desk, in the closet, under tables, etc) especially when we have strangers over. I have tried putting just the bottom of the crate out with her bed on the bottom, with a bunch of treats and toys she likes. She will look at it and try to get the treats out without going inside. Any tips on how we can get her over what seems to be a phobia of crates? We are leaving in about 1.5 months, so we have a little bit of time, but not much.

    • Hi Jamal, wow that’s a tough one! Have you tried taking the bottom half of the carrier and covering that part with a big blanket or comforter making it look like a big fluffy bed? You may need to move it to another part of the house so your dog does not outsmart you and already know what it is.

      If that works and he will go inside it hopefully lie down then after a few days or week try putting the lid on without attaching, just maybe sit it on top. Also have heard some good things about DAP spray might help with some of the anxiety he is feeling about going in the crate.

      Please post back and give us a progress report and the best of luck on this.

  2. For cats I also recommend being kennel training about 2 months prior to your trip. As the time to depart approaches you can put a pheromone collar in between the top and bottom to make your cat feel safer. You can also spray some lavender hydrosol in and around the carrier a couple of times a day (hydrosol ONLY, NEVER use essential oils around cats) and/or use Bach’s Rescue Remedy for Pets (the 10ml with dropper bottle) for your cat. No matter what being on a plane will be traumatizing for your cat but if you follow the above tips and the ones I listed hopefully your cat will make it through OK. I also suggest using the food and water bowls that your cats will have in-flight so that way they are not afraid of the small size and feel comfortable drinking and eating from them ahead of time.

  3. I have a question about crate training.

    We are having to fly in 2 weeks and wonder if this is enough time to get our pets acclimated to the crate?

    The dog has been in the crate a couple times to the vet but always gets car sick in the car. We had to force him to get in unfortunately but it was a medical emergency.

    The cat she freaks out anyway and has been in the crate a few times to the vet.

    Is it really possible to get them ready for a 4 hour flight in this short time?

    The crates will be new and different from their other ones as they aren’t airline approved.


    • Holy Moly Deenie…. you have a lot of work and not much time, I would try and work with them everyday a few times a day if possible with treats and rewards. below is a picture of my Susie MIN PIN she hated the crate at first she was all legs and was not going in for nothing. I found her weakness was chicken baby food and she would go in spend a couple of seconds licking it off the mat then I would tell her stay stay and when she came out I would give her another lick of baby food. But I started in a wire crate then moved to a plastic crate. It was only for pictures but same method… You can see her laying down in these pictures and I think it only took me a day or two…But get to work…and good luck!

      Susie in Crate

  4. I am moving to Thailand soon (in about a month and a half) and will either be moving my cat with me or flying her in spring with my mother. (Third option is hiring a pet shipping company but we have to cost compare) I’m not too worried about training her for a soft carrier but she has existing issues with plastic crates from vet visits. Any tips specifically for training cats? Also, would you recommend a hard plastic carrier over a soft carrier for traveling as a carry-on?

    • I prefer the soft carrier bag, cats seem to like them best too. They can be squished to fit many different airline size requirements. With the hard carrier if it is even a 1/2 inch too big the airlines will refuse since it will not fit under the seat on that specific airplane. As far as training I would just be sure you take her on plenty of car rides in the carrier even to the store or running errands. My cats all ride in the car in there soft bags and they love it… They enjoyed going once they over the constant crying for about the first few weeks of training them. Thanks for visiting