There are all kinds of pouches and wraps that new moms can use for their babies. But what about those of us with fur babies!? There’s a new phenomenon sweeping the pet scene, and it involves tucking baby kittens into cat slings.
Even though I’ve been a professional cat sitter for years, I hadn’t ever tried using a cat sling with any of my charges.
So to answer my questions I reached out to longtime foster and professional kitten wearer Melissa Cheski Adler from Austin Siamese Rescue.
What is a cat sling?
A cat sling is a messenger bag-looking carrier that you use to carry your cat around on your body.
Often crafted from breathable mesh and equipped with sturdy zippers, pockets, and shoulder straps, cat slings are an alternative to harnesses, pet strollers, and hard and soft cat carriers.
How do you make a cat sling?
I recommend buying a top-rated cat sling. But for those of you DIYers, there are ways you can craft your very own cat sling in a few minutes.
Melissa Cheski Adler who has been fostering kittens for 7 years is a big fan of making kitten slings from scratch. . . without any sewing or special equipment necessary!
“One day it just clicked [that] I could use a jersey cotton pillowcase.”
All you need is a sharp pair of scissors to cut open the sewed top of the pillowcase to transform it into a breathable material for a kitten-ready crossbody sling.
“It’s just like an infinity scarf,” says Melissa. “You can tuck a kitten into it and do computer work, dishes,” or whatever else requires two hands. “I even make [my] kids wear [my foster] cats when they’re playing video games or sitting at their computers.”
- Grab a jersey knit (stretchy material is a must!) pillowcase you won’t mind cutting up.
- Lay it out on a flat work surface, dining room table or desk will work.
- Cut across the sewed closed end of the pillowcase to open it up.
- Now fold it in half to wear it like a cross-body bag.
- Gently place your kitten into the fold.
- Voila! You’re ready for some hands-free kitten-wearing!
What are the benefits of a cat sling?
If your cat or kitten can get behind being “slung” there are some real benefits.
At the top of the list? Psychological and emotional growth and well-being. The same type of physical touch and closeness that benefits human newborns and infants also applies to kittens. Young humans aren’t the only ones who appreciate a cuddle or two!
Here’s what else wearing your cat or kitten can do for you and your feline friend.
Slings are a hit in the adventure cat community for many good reasons– one of them? They’re convenient and easy to travel with!
Slings are lightweight, take up little space, and open up more opportunities for you to take your cat places that would otherwise be limited by bulky cat carriers.
Hitting your favorite cafe for that tea latte you love? Sure. Visiting those botanical gardens you’ve had your eye on? Why not? Hiking the pine and fir tree-lined winding trails of the Pacific Northwest? Bring it on!
(Plus, let’s be real. You’ll look super cool.)
When you wear your kitten or cat in a sling, your hands are completely unhindered. Having access to both of your hands means more safety for your kitty. You don’t need to worry about struggling with awkward, heavy carriers while walking up multiple flights of stairs, or having to muscle your way through weighty doors with your shoulders. Using a cat sling carrier is also much more risk-free than trying to hold a squirmy kitten with claws at the ready.
Slings are also a great way for your kitties to enjoy fresh air and sunshine in safety! Free-roaming cats risk disease, injuries, and early death. Slings are like catios and a leash and cat’s harness in that they give cats a chance to safely explore and experience the outside world without any of those consequences.
A cat or kitten sling carrier is also much less extra than wheeling a pet stroller around your neighborhood.
Reducing stress and anxiety
If your kitty is uneasy around traveling or leaving the comforts of their home, slings are a great way to ease that stress and anxiety. Especially if you’re taking your kitty to the vet!
Many cats put two and two together– that when the cat carrier comes out it’s time for a car ride to the dreaded clinic where a human sticks their fingers in their mouth, lifts their tail up (how rude!), and jabs them with sharp, pointy needles.
Using a pet sling to take your kitty to the vet nips that stress and anxiety in the bud.
Beyond vet visits, slings also allow anxious kittens, especially stray and feral ones taken in off the streets to be comforted.
Melissa Cheski Adler, a longtime volunteer with Austin Siamese rescue, is a big fan of slings for this reason.
When it comes to fostering, Melissa says slinging kittens help them “be more involved” with their environment and helps them see and hear what’s around them like birds outside and other pets. This simple accessory, or tool, Melissa says, “forces kittens out of hiding” around the house and encourages them to “face their fears” and to realize that the world around them “isn’t so scary”.
Helping cats socialize
Did you know that slings can also be used in the socialization process? They can and they’re actually very effective! Slings “get kittens used to touch and being held,” says Melissa. This is a big deal because kitten development depends on socialization!
Physical touch is an essential part of this socialization process. Especially for kittens who were born on the streets as stray or in cat colonies as feral.
Melissa is a big advocate for slings as a powerful bonding tool for humans and these kittens.
She deliberately used slings in her socialization and rehabilitation process for the five three-month-old part-feral kittens she fostered as a part of Austin Siamese Rescue. Sprite, Cola, BK, Snickers, and Dash were all “worn” by Melissa and all of them emerged from the experience as more confident and less fearful.
When it comes to these stray and feral kittens Melissa says wearing them with slings, “is game-changing with unsocialized kittens. All of the kittens I’ve rehabbed [with slings] have been adopted and [are] doing great!”
How do you hold a kitten in a sling?
You hold a kitten in a sling the same way you hold adult cats in a sling–or a cat carrier bag — securely zipped, or wrapped, depending on what materials and fabrics your sling (or carrier) is made of.
There are so many options available that there’s no one right or wrong way to hold your kitty companion in a pet sling.
This video shows you the ins and outs of using a variation of Melissa’s home-made cat sling carrier.
Do cats like slings?
The best kitty candidates for slings are 1) kittens 3 or 4 months and younger who are stray or partially feral and 2) cats and kittens who are affectionate and feel safe and secure with you. There’s a lot of physical contact when you wear your cat so you don’t want to force cats who aren’t the touchy-feely type into that situation.
Extremely skittish, anxious, and easily overstimulated cats and kittens most likely won’t do well if they’re forced into a sling or wearable cat carrier. With feral or partially feral kittens take caution with jumping to slinging them without first getting them to warm up to you.
Instead of rushing to stick them into the sling pouch try to incorporate positive reinforcement, like giving them treats into your gradual process.
When in doubt, consult your veterinarian, or, if you’re fostering, the rescue organization or animal shelter you’re volunteering with or work for.
What to look for in a cat sling
The first thing you want to look for in a cat sling is that it’s secure enough to properly support your cat or kitten’s weight. Next, keep an eye out for these three factors.
You’re going to want a cat sling that’s machine washable. With kittens, there’s always the chance of accidents, especially peeing. We all know the pungent odors of cat pee soaking into furniture, rugs, or clothing, so be sure to choose a cat sling that is easy to wash or spot clean. Fleece material works well, with the added benefit of offering comfortable padding.
It’s adjustable and easy to use
The most self-explanatory feature to look for is an adjustable strap. This is a must for all your kitten-wearing needs as it helps you balance the sling and keep it steady as you walk. Because many a pet sling carrier is designed with a dog in mind the length and size of the pet sling is usually sufficient enough for your cat’s paws, chest, and head to fit in comfortably.
An adjustable head hole and zippers help kitten-ify larger more dog-sized slings.
You also want to look out for sturdy material. While young kittens weigh on average 4 to 6 pounds you still want to choose a sling made from durable fabric and materials.
If you’re worried about the security of carrying your cat or kitten around in a sling, we’ve got you covered. An extra precaution you can take is to first put your kitty in a harness. Many cat slings have clips that can be attached to harnesses using a safety collar hook to help keep your cat from leaping out of the sling.
Another way you can look out for the safety of your feline friend while they’re in a sling is to wear them indoors only. This is especially important for young kittens whose teenie tininess makes it easier for them to slip the sling and escape, either on purpose or accidentally.
If you DIY your own cat sling bag be sure to regularly watch and check them for holes, rips, or strained seams. If it can’t be glued, sewed, or mended, be sure to replace it with a new and intact one.
Takeaways on how to wear your kitten
So it looks like there is more than just cuteness and snapping dozens of Instagram-worthy pictures when it comes to kitten wearing! Whether you opt for a sling you craft yourself, or if you choose a top-rated cat carrier bag from your favorite retailer, the benefits of wearing your kitten are many.
No matter what fabric it’s made from or features it comes with, a pet sling is an easy way to improve your relationship with your kitty companion.
From increasing the human and cat bond to encouraging the healthy emotional growth and socialization of kittens rescued from the streets, wearing cats and kittens in a sling or cat carrier bag is beneficial for felines and the humans who love them.
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