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How to train your pet to travel to Canada

Preparing to travel with your beloved pet can be a mix of excitement and anxiety.


From our own experience, we've learned that the key to a smooth trip is to train your furry companion to feel comfortable inside the carrier.


This crucial step requires time, patience and a sprinkling (or several) of treats.


In this post, I'll share how we prepared our cat Corita for a trip to Canada. Simplicity and patience are the keys to successful training. So, let's dive into this adventure!


Remember that this process worked for us, training a beautiful 6-year-old calico at the time and don't forget to ask your vet, especially if your pet has special requirements.


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1. Starting early


Months before our trip, we had already purchased a carrier to keep Corita safe and comfortable. To do this, we checked the requirements of the airline we wanted to travel with. For more information on how we chose the carrier, see 12 tips for travelling with your pet to Canada.


We started the training process about ten months before the trip, partly because we wanted her to be comfortable but also because we planned to travel earlier than when we eventually travelled. I would recommend starting as soon as you decide to travel.


A cat on her carrier at the airport
Corita in her carrier at the airport.

2. Introducing the carrier


We left the carrier open to view at home. Corita often found it when she explored the house. This way, she got used to the presence of the carrier without associating it with the trip.


We added a blanket to the carrier that Corita used to make biscuits. This made the carrier feel like her safe space, with her familiar scent on the blanket.


3. The treats


We placed one of his favourite treats inside the open carrier to create positive associations without pushing it in.


The key is consistency. We made it a daily habit to place her favourite treats inside the open carrier. This helped her associate the carrier with good things.


One day, we couldn't find Corita in her usual napping spots. To our surprise, she was sleeping peacefully inside the carrier. It was unexpected but a sign that she was already comfortable in it, and we could move on to the next step.


A cat sleeping inside a carrier on a blue blanket
Corita napping inside the carrier.

4. Closed carrier


We moved on to the next phase once she was comfortable with the open carrier. We started closing the carrier for short periods of time, just a couple of minutes, while she was inside.


Gradually, she learned that being inside the closed carrier was okay and safe. We repeated this daily until we realized she was comfortable with longer periods inside the carrier.


5. Lift-Off confidence


With the carrier closed, we gently lifted her off the ground for a few minutes. We repeated this step several times so that she would get used to the feeling of being carried.


This was just one movement of lifting her off the ground, and we repeated this for several days.



6. Exploring the apartment


Corita took her first steps around the apartment inside the closed carrier.


She felt safe as we moved around, and we made sure she associated these movements with a positive experience by giving her treats every time we finished our brief walk around the apartment.

A cat in a green carrier
Corita learning to get out of the apartment.

7. Outside the comfort zone


We took the training outside because Corita was more comfortable in her carrier. Corita is an indoor cat, so this was her first time out of her familiar space.


We went out into the hallway of our building. This gradual exposure to new environments helped her acclimate to the movement of the carrier and the different sounds.



8. Walking on quiet streets


She gained confidence, and after multiple walks through the building halls, we took short walks on quiet streets. She became accustomed to the sights and sounds of the outdoors while sitting in her carrier.


We noticed that she enjoyed her daily walks, did not meow and sat comfortably while exploring.

A cat in her carrier in the middle of a park
Corita inside her carrier after months of training.

9. Meeting the noise


With each positive experience, we moved on to noisier streets. The gradual introduction to different environments helped Corita feel more at ease in various environments.


We spent more than an hour walking through noisy streets with cars and many people on the last few walks.


A cat in her carrier in from of a cathedral
Corita gaining confidence in noisy streets.

10. Final touches for comfort


We added absorbent material to the carrier about two weeks beforehand to ensure she was well-prepared for the trip.


Placed on top of her usual blanket, this added layer ensured comfort in case she needed to go to the bathroom during flights.


11. Other techniques


It is important to note that, throughout the training, we never gave Corita anything to make her sleepy.


Some people might think about giving pets medication to calm them during travel, but it's crucial to talk to a veterinarian before doing so. Always make sure your pet is safe by asking an expert.


We only use a natural method to help Corita stay calm and relaxed. We used a drop of a particular blend of essential oils called "Calmer," which was recommended to us by our vet. We put a drop on our fingers and gently touched her little ears; that was it!


This simple gesture helped her feel comfortable when she was learning to be in the carrier and also allowed her to relate the smell of the oil to the process of moving in the carrier.



A vet with a guinea pig
Always ask your veterinarian if your pet needs special requirements.

 

I hope this post helps you, especially if you don't know where to start. Training your pet to feel comfortable in their carrier is an investment of time, but it will significantly help your pet's comfort and well-being during the trip.


By taking small steps, offering treats and gradually introducing new experiences, you will be surprised at how adaptable and resilient your furry friend can be. Remember that every pet is unique, and training times may vary, but we personally recommend starting as soon as you decide to travel. That will reduce their anxiety and yours.


If you're curious about more tips for travelling with your pet to Canada, check out 12 tips for travelling with your pet to Canada and 15 things your cat needs when settling in Canada. And finally, happy travels to you and your furry friend!

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