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How long can a cat stay in a crate or a carrier?

Whereas some dogs cope well with being in a crate, cats generally do not. Of course, situations arise when a cat has to be crated but in general, it is not recommended to confine a cat in this way.

How long can a cat stay in a crate?

Self-proclaimed cat experts state a cat should spend no more than six hours in a crate. However, if a vet has prescribed crating your cat for longer than this, then that’s the advice you should follow. In many cases, a cat should be crated for far less than 6 hours as confining it for longer can have a detrimental effect on its mental well-being.

If you are crating a cat for anything other than a medical reason, you should explore all other options first.

A sad tabby cat in a crate.

9 Reasons for crating cats and suitable lengths of time

After an injury

If a cat has an injury that requires it to remain as immobile as possible, a crate is the perect solution. Healing occurs a lot more quickly when a cat can’t run and jump in its usual fashion.

The crate should be large enough for your cat to stand up, stretch and turn, and also have space for a litter box on one side and food and water dishes on the other.

A cat should stay crated in this way for the length of time that your vet recommends. It is unlikely to be happy about this but is important to speed up recovery.

Try to supervise your cat and interact with it as much as possible. Place the crate where it has a view of the outside world to keep it occupied. At night, take the crate to your bedroom so you can monitor your cat

Don’t keep a cat in a crate day after day without a break. Allow it out for a cuddle but ensure it cannot run or jump and worsen any injury.

After an operation

After certain operations, it is advisable for a cat to move as little as possible, for instance, after a hip replacement.

A vet may prescribe placing your cat in a crate to recover with strict instructions on the length of time it should stay in there.

The crate should allow some movement as advised by your vet and be roomy enough for food, water and a litter box.

You should be around at all times to ensure your cat’s safety and well-being.

During an illness

If you have an active cat who needs to rest to recover from an illness, short amounts of time in a crate can be invaluable.

If being in the crate is upsetting your cat enough to outweigh the benefits, don’t leave it in one for too long. Explore other options where possible such as limiting the rooms your cat can access, and not allowing it upstairs or outside.

For safety in a new environment

If you are moving home, placing your cat in a large crate temporarily will keep it safe whilst you’re moving out of your old place and moving into your new place.

Once you’re in and the doors are safely closed, allow your cat out as quickly as possible to explore its new territory. Leave the crate open with its bed inside as it may retreat their until it settles into its new environment.

Don’t be tempted to lock your cat in the crate for any length of time as it will become confused and scared.

A red tabby cat in a crate with blue bars.

For long-distance travel

If you have to take a cat on a long journey by car, a large crate is better than a smaller carrier. Your cat can stay in the crate for the whole journey if necessary as long as it can stand, stretch and turn around.

Make sure there’s also space for food, water and a litter box. If your cat is harness-trained, stop in a safe place and allow it out for a break every few hours.

To litter train

In the majority of cases, kittens learn from their mother how to use a litter box. If for some reason this didn’t happen, placing a kitten or cat in a crate with a litter box for short lengths of time throughout the day can encourage it to do the right thing.

If this causes your cat any distress, don’t do it and find another way to litter train.

To introduce two cats to each other

Sometimes introducing two strange adult cats to each other takes a bit of planning. Keeping them in totally separate areas, scent swapping and then placing them in the same room but in crates is one method that’s well-used.

Having both cats in separate crates allow them to see each other and ensures theire is no chance of a conflict.

When breeding

Most breeders have a room set aside to introduce a two cats thy hope to breed. Occasionally, a crate is used but only for the specific purpose of stopping a feisty female from rolling away from the Tom as he attempts the deed.

In this situation, the pair of cats might need to stay in the crate for upto one hour.

To prevent a conflict with another pet

If you are concerned that your cat and another pet may get into a conflict when you are unable to supervise, crate can be used as a short-term solution.

A crate should not be used with regularity for this particular reason and a permanent solution should be sought.

Is it OK to crate cats at night?

As a rule, cats do not need to be crated at night and it is not OK to do so just for your convenience. Once past the kitten stage, a cat will settle into your night time routine and generally sleep when you do – unless it has free run to go outside when it pleases.

Acceptable reasons for crating a cat overnight include:

  • During recovery from surgery
  • To limit movement after injury
  • To ensure rest after an illness

Try not to crate a cat overnight for the following reasons:

  • To keep it quiet
  • To stop it running about
  • For litter training
A cat loafing in a crate.

Getting a cat used to a crate

If your cat has to be crated for any length of time, take care to it adjust to the idea. Make the crate inviting by adding his favorite toys and a bed. Add your sent for comfort, for example, by placing a worn jumper in the bed.

Put the crate in a pleasant spot with a view and where you spend a lot of time. Makes ure there’s room for food, water and a litter box.

Ensure your cat can stand, stretch and turn around. Take the crate to your room at night to your cat doesn’t feel trapped and isolated.

Is it cruel to keep a cat in a crate?

Cats should not be kept in crates unless for a medical reason. They do not cope well with the feeling of being trapped and to subject them to living in a crate for lond spells of time is cruel.

If you have a concern about your cat roaming freely around your house at night, confining it to a safe rooms is an ideal alternative to using a crate.

Equip this space with all the comforts a cat needs at night: warmth, food water and a litter box, and ensure it is cat-proof.

How long can a cat stay in a carrier?

Carriers are ideal for shorter journies, for example to the vets. They are smaller than crates and are not really suitable for a cat to stay in for more than 2 hours at a time.

When cat carriers are used on flights, they have to fit beneath a seat and a you may have no choice but to keep your cat in one for several hours in this case.

Where possible, a car is a better option for a long journey because you can plan stops to allow your cat out on a secure harness.

Difference between crate and carrier

The maine difference between a crate and a carrier is size. A crate allows a cat to stand, turn and stretch and is intended fo use in the home or for long journies if your car can accommodate one.

The MidWest crate is excellent example. There are several sizes so you can pick one with plenty of room for a cat to recouperate. It’s available on Amazon and you can see reviews and the curremt price at this link.

A carrier is used to transport a cat on a short journey such as to the vet and on a flight where it can fit beneath a seat. The Vceoa soft-sided carrier is perfect for small to medium-sized cats and gets amazing reviews. Check it out for yourself in Amazon via this link.

Always check the dimensions of a cat carrier before you buy to ensure it will be a comfortable size for your cat.

In summary: How long can a cat stay in a crate?

Crating should only be used as a temporary measure for cats. If you have a genuine reason for putting a cat in a crate, it should only stay there for as long as necessary, and your vet is usually the person to advise you on this.

Using a small room to keep a cat safe in specific circumstances is preferable to crating it so always go for this option first.

Cats do not thrive very well in confined spaces so please avoid using a crate unless absolutely necessary.

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