Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

How do you put a cat in a box?

Ok, this isn’t game related…

I’m moving house soon, and it’s my birthday soon, and this all conflicts with the whole ‘releasing gratuitous space battles’ thing as well, so its’ going to be an insane few weeks. The stress of both getting older AND releasing my new game AND moving house is all quite high, but it all pales into insignificance next to this:

Her name is Jadzia, and she is one of two cats we have. At an appointed time, with little margin for error, I need to stick her in a cat box, and drive hundreds of miles to the new house. She is likely to ‘resist’ this.

Jadzia has not been to the vets in years, because we just cannot put her in a box. She fights BADLY. She is normally fine, you can stroke her, and even pick her up for maybe one or two seconds at most. she will sit on your lap for hours, but she hates being put into a box, she has claws like wolverine, and she knows how to use them. She is very very aware of people ‘planning’ things, she moves like lightning and she picks up on the slightest unusual thing.

Tell me your tips, especially if you have a similar cat. Things we have tried:

1) Locking the cat flaps and trapping her in a room first. No joy, she will break through a locked cat flap by force, and chasing her around the room tires us before tiring her.  We are considering using paving slabs to effectively brick up the cat flaps.

2) leaving an open cat box next to her food so she isn’t scared of it. This works, she’s not scared of its presence, but knows when she’s going into it. She will not eat food if you place the bowl in there. She is that clever.

Everyone suggests wrapping her in a towel, which sounds easy, but I bet it isn’t. I’m also wary of suffocating her. My heart rate actually goes up when I even think about this, because it brings back flashbacks to ‘nam from when I’ve tried before. I’ve lost a fair amount of blood doing it in the past. A friend of mine offered to lend me his welding gauntlets, but I suspect that might tip her off. The vet says there is no safe sedative for a cat that isn’t given by injection.

If I could find a way to record my attempt on a webcam for everyone’s amusement I would, but I doubt that’ll happen.

31 thoughts on How do you put a cat in a box?

  1. Pack everything away into the removal van and keep her in the back seat for the journey – without a carrier? My cat manages to wriggle out of our carrier so she ends up sitting on my lap looking out the window for the journey to the vets.

    Is there anything she loves? Tuna, catnip? I’d try that angle and (very quickly) shove the container over her. Not ideal. There’ll be evil-meow sounds coming out the box and probably hatred for a few days, though…

  2. I’ve experienced this.

    We have a cat flap that can be set to open one way only. Set this to lock when the cat enters the house.

    Wedge the re-inforced cat box (better still dog cage) against the cat flap silently when your cat leaves the house.

    When she returns, she will enter, the flap will shut and she will be stuck in the cage. Pounce quickly before she breaks out.

    Use thick gardening gloves to lock the cage door.

    We no longer take our cat to the vet …

  3. Mhh I know your pain, bloody things.

    I came to conclusion that one they perceive is your mood AND determination. Be peaceful, gentle and FAST.

    If that doesnt work, may god help you.

  4. Dropping a towel over her is probably the safest and easiest, and I wouldn’t worry too much about suffocation. We’ve got two cats, and when it’s time to take them to the vets we just throw a toy into the cage and watch them run into it. Stupid cats. They’re probably not the best example tho, as they climb into everything.

  5. Jadzia sounds very Polish… hmm…
    I remember you mentioned something how you hated living in the UK and were thinking of emigrating. Did you happen to find a place that is cheap to live, safe, peacefull, economically stable, with good infrastructure, facilities, low taxes, mild climate, friendly and open people, beautifull women, untouched natural environment etc.? If so, I would be interested to know the name of the place :)

  6. I think Duncan’s idea sounds best – I was basically going to suggest a large cage instead of a box – perhaps the darkness and confinement is what bothers her.

    Jadzia … from Star Trek ? :)

  7. > “No safe sedative”? Try alcohol! Make her drunk ;-)

    NO. Don’t try this. :-P

    You could try a wire dog crate instead of a cat box. With it open, and her able to see out of it, she might feel better about it.

    Besides sedatives, you might ask your vet about muscle relaxants or tranquilizers. It’s sort of cruel, but I think acepromazine is generally orally administered even with cats. She’ll be fully awake and aware, she just won’t be able to move as much or as fast. This might be a one-use sort of thing. ;) If you figure out a way, you could also combine the move with a vet visit, as regular checkups ARE important…

    The heart rate increasing / palms sweating / nam flashbacks thing is precisely the change that she picks up on. When that starts to happen, she knows something is up. You’re going to have to figure out how to mask that, or have someone else with a calmer demeanor do the crating.

  8. safe sedative:
    Childrens Benedryl… the cough syrup? but you have to use a dropper and force her to take it.

    As far as cages go I reccomend this one because it has a top opening:

    Getting them in the top is about twice as easy as in the forward door. I have one that’s for medium sized dogs and can fit both my cats in there at the same time.

    As far as avoiding claws? Well I use a combination of my LLBean waterproof overcoat and oven mitts. …laugh all you want, it works.

  9. I’ve been holding off on buying GSB until it gets out of beta, but I may not purchase it now that I’ve found out that it was made by a big ole wussy.

    Cats are easy to deal with. You don’t even need a ketch-all pole or any other special equipment, just many layers of fabric between you and the animal, and at the very least two layers of gloves. Grab it, stuff it in the cage.

    Now dogs, on the other hand.

  10. I’d like to point out that I have a scar that looks exactly like a third nipple, because I tried wrapping a cat in a towel and dropping it into an (empty) bucket.


  11. Duncan’s suggestion was more or less what I was going to say, except that if she’s in the habit of going through the flap fairly slowly, she may get her head in and realize that what’s on the other side isn’t what she expected, and go back. My version of the plan involved two boxes. One you put outside the cat flap as the trap… then you chase her with the other, decoy cat box in order to induce her to charge out the flap at maximum velocity and straight into your cunning plan.

  12. Yes! Please not only YouTube it but also put it in the intro cutscene…
    And you thought unlocking the Empire was hard… =D

  13. Don’t use a cage. She can be free in the car/truck. This shouldn’t be a problem. Try it, see if she likes riding in a car. You could try gradually taking her on longer car rides (without a cage). Or else, rub your car with catnip… it’s worth a try :P

  14. There is a spray here in the US that is basically the same chemical that cats leave behind when they rub their cheeks on something. It means ‘safe’
    I have sprayed it in the cat box about 20 minutes beforehand then sit with the cat next to the box scratching her. The smell is strong to her, and curious since its screaming ‘safe’ at her. She is usually curious enough for those few seconds to get her in the box.
    She’s always pissed on the other end though…

  15. For the claws, consider trimming them right before you go, that will lessen their Wolverine-ness and any pain you may subsequently endure. Consider getting some heavy gloves too.

    Secondly your cat fights so hard because he/she knows that in the past, they fought hard and got out of it. Never let the cat win.

    I like just leaving the cat in the car without the box/cage, but that all depends on how bad your cat is (I put my cat in a box but he just meows and doesn’t fight it really).

  16. Yeah, definitely try catnip. It varies from animal to animal, but some of them love it and it might be a way of coaxing her.

    A harness and a bed might be better than a cage too.

  17. I have a cat much like yours, who hates the vet box and knows when it is coming. To be honest, what I’ve found works best is just not to be scared and pussy foot around with the cat. This leads to more trauma for you AND kitty.

    My guess is that it’s not some incredible psychic ability that this cat has that lets her understand when you’re going to try something with her – it’s your own nervousness that gets translated into body language and voice tone that the cat understands as “Fucked up shit is happening” and makes her react as she does.

    The towel thing does work really well, but don’t be scared of grabbing the cat with the towel pretty strongly, loudly and clearly saying “No” when she starts to fight you, and holding the cat quite firmly in it while you put her in the carrier.

    The more in control you seem the more the cat will be will understand that she is going into the box. And the faster you accomplish it the happier ultimately you’ll both be, rather than chasing the cat around for hours.

    So yeah, psyche yourself up, go in there, and face that battle soldier!

  18. full motorbike leathers might help.
    but the idea of a wire cage outside the catflap might have promise.. a cat box is unlikely to work as it’ll be dark i’d have thought.

    have you considered getting someone who isn’t massively stressed to do the catching for you? :)

  19. Chace her into the smallest room in the house, then use cardbord or phomebord to slowly shrink the space she has to move so she cant get past. then put the box down over her. Or pick up the cat.

  20. We had a cat that was impossible to get into a box. And so we let it run free in the car.

    It freaked out approximately one million times more than with the box, only now we are locked inside a moving vehicle with a rampaging claw machine.

    I do not recommend this approach.

  21. Obviously bbot hasn’t every battled a determined cat before. :)

    I can’t really think of too much that others haven’t already mentioned except to wish you good luck. I hope you survive to create GSB2. Getting a cat to do anything it doesn’t want to is fraught with peril.

    If you do decide to go with the “Let her roam free in the car” approach, I’d recommend putting her in the car a few times before the actual trip. First time just sit in there with her for a few minutes, second time a little longer, eventually start the car with her in there but don’t go anywhere, etc.

    If you decide to go the box/carrier route, make sure to keep an eye on her for the entire day, even to the second leading up to the big event. My little sister’s cat can also tell when we’re going on a trip and will hide in some obscure little corner as soon as she can tell something is up. More than once we’ve had to leave her behind (there was someone there to take care of her of course).

    Again, good luck.

  22. When you know you’re going to do this, sit the cat box up vertically, so the openning is facing upward and open the door in a manner that will keep it open (if it won’t sit open on its own). Since she’ll sense you’re doing this to put her in, do it a far enough in advance as you can (a few hours should do it).

    As you get closer to your departure time, key an eye out for an opportunity to pick her up. You’ll want to pick her up by holding her body from under her “arm pits”. She might wiggle at first, but if you hold her securely, she won’t be able to bite or scratch at you. Now with her lower body dangling below her, simply drop her into the box and close it up. It will be difficult for her to brace against anything for resistance.

    If you catch the timing right you should be able to scoop her up and drop her in the box in a few seconds, before she has a chance to fully realize what’s going on.

  23. Cats sure can be a pain!

    However letting a cat roam free in a car is idiotic. They don’t understand what’s going on and that their lives (and yours!) depend upon them not jumping on you while you are driving or getting themselves between the floor and the brake pedal.

    I’ve dealt with dozens of aggresive cats over the years and Paul’s comment about confidence was right on the money. At the end of the day you are many times stronger than your cat and will be able to control it. The fear I think you have is that you’ll hurt the cat in the process. This is highly unlikely. You just need to be calm, forceful and get it over with as quickly as you can.

    One trick that works with many cats is grabbing it by the scruff of the neck. This triggers a paralyse reflex in many cats as if their mother was picking them up. They have loose pelts and it’s still possible for them to turn around and fight so pinning them to the ground helps as well. If you can have a second person bring the cat carrier over it’s then usually a fast job to shove them or even slide them along the ground into the carrier. Push the hind quarters in and lock. Job done.

    Gloves definitely help. Leather gardening gloves give a good mix of toughness and flexibility but make sure the gloves fit well and you grab the cat firmly. You can pretty much grab the scruff as hard as you like as it’s next to impossible to hurt them by doing that. They may not like it, but that’s their problem.

    I’ve seen some cats go absolutely wild when this was done to them but as long as you hold on strongly enough you will maintain control. They are strong but remember you are stronger.

    Good luck


  24. DO NOT let her go in the car if she’s going to freak out. She could lodge herself underneath the vehicles peddles or try to burrow out of the passenger compartment in between the glove box and the floor mats.

    I have 5 cats and have had to deal with a few terrors. One of mine bites.

    I’m another vote for trimming: Use a towel to contain her claws and then take a seat on the edge of a chair so that she is slightly upside-down. Get a friend to assist you holding her head (scruff, be very very firm) and rear feet still.

    Loose one paw at a time and dull the principal weapons: 4 on front paws, middle 2 on rear. They will still make marks and possibly cause bleeding, but the shallower wounds won’t be as bad.

    You can scruff and use the tower and again if she is inverted she will be instinctively focused on falling. Inversion will make her movement *slightly* more predictable. Find the carrier and insert her (again inverted).

    Regarding body language: some cats respond to you showing your teeth (like fangs), but this freaks some out even more.

  25. Hello,

    We have a cat who also hates being in a carrier. The one time I tried to push her in myself I swear she levitated out of my arms and onto my back. The towel method works quite well; rather than dropping the towel over her altogether, we sort of roll her in a towel with her head sticking out, and drop the package into the carrier.

  26. If you’re going for a sustained drive, I’m afraid my advice may not be great; but when we were moving from one side of town to another, we were confronted by two of three cats who were obstinately *not* going into their cat carriers. Finally we came up with a solution that should have been obvious. The whole time we were packing, the cats were in and out of the cardboard boxes. They were even used to letting us close the flaps so they could pounce out or bat at toys from their concealment.

    So we poked a few holes in one and let a cat hop in. Instead of enduring the bloody scratches and unearthly caterwauling of previous vet trips, our two fighters took the ride in relative comfort and quiet.

    It sounds like your ride might be a little long for a single thickness of cardboard to resist determined claws. Some options would be to reinforce a box with tape and more cardboard… or I dunno, cut melamine from your local hardware store.

    Or you can just cut a flap in the cardboard box. One that’s just the size of the door to the cat carrier. Tape it shut until your girl’s hopped in the cardboard box. Of course she’ll hop in the box, she’s a cat. Getting her to go through into the carrier might be a trick though.

  27. i couldnt be bothered to read all comments so may be a repeat. Our cat hated being in a box to, when taking her to the vet. the vet however just picked her up and put her in backwards, as she couldnt see it coming she didnt panic. or just let it roam around the car as we have done when moving house, they wiull just find a cubby-hole to hide in.

  28. Burrito with confidence. Cats have nine lives, and you would be lucky to take one away even if you tried for it.

    I always have, when needed, used a sheet folded in half; I can get more tension with it when I need it, and when I release, kitty can get free easy. Then feed them in, head first, into an upright standing carrier. Then have someone close the door behind her as you pull your arms out. Mad kitty burrito safely contained.

  29. Hello,
    I have a cat too. Try to get Jadzia in the box, when you put her sleep place in the box. When she sleep, close the door and drive to the new home :)

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