Vacation season is here! The weather is warm and the road is calling. If you plan to include your feline friends in your road-trip adventures, a little planning now can save you a world of hassles later.
Whether your cat is a seasoned traveler or a jittery first-timer, there are some important safety and comfort concerns that will help make the journey smoother (both for you and your pet). Here are some helpful tips to start you on your way.
Tips For Traveling with Cats in Cars
Going on vacation with your cat. If kitty is going to be vacationing with you, it’s important to plan ahead. Here are some essential safety and comfort issues to consider:
- Select a secure carrier. The ideal carrier should provide your cat with security and comfort. Your pet should be able to stand and turn around comfortably, and the carrier should have a secure latch that will not open if jostled.
- Bring a favorite blanket or sweatshirt. Lining the carrier with one of your pet’s favorite blankets will provide familiar textures and smells that let your cat feel it is “home” even on the road.
- Set the carrier on a level surface. Pet carriers, last to get packed, too often get stowed askew among the bags. Keeping your pet’s carrier on a level surface greatly lowers the risk for injury in the event of an accident.
- Strap the carrier down. Securing the carrier on the floor of your vehicle will reduce the risk for tipping or shaking in transit.
- Keep a favorite blanket or toy nearby that has your cat’s scent and can help create a sense of familiarity. Also, try using a stress-reducing spray (like Feliway) to help reduce anxiety in your cat and keep them calm for the trip.
- Provide adequate hydration. If you plan to be on the road for more than two hours, schedule water stops for your pet. Some carriers even provide a water reservoir!
- Withhold food before departure. Feeding your cat right before a trip is not advised as it can increase the risk for vomiting (especially for nervous cats).
- Bring familiar food and treats. Once your pet settles in, its appetite may increase. Bring your kitty’s favorite food and some enticing treats can help reduce stress. Small portions are best.
- Bring a litter pan from home. A familiar litter pan provides important scent cues, reducing the risk for toileting mishaps. If you plan to be on the road for 6 hours or more, plan for a litter stop.
Together, these simple steps can help reduce stress for you and your feline friends!
Moving with a cat. If you’re planning to relocate with your pet. There are a few extra precautions that can help massage the process less of a hassle.
- Update your cat’s identification & tags. Be sure your pet has current, updated tags to include your new address and contact information.
- Microchip your pet. Microchipping vastly improves the chances of a lost pet being returned safely to its owner. It’s easy, painless, quick, and inexpensive. Ask your vet about the procedure.
- Stopping overnight? Try a pet-friendly motel. Not every move can be completed in a day. If you plan to be on the road with your pet overnight, check out the available pet-friendly motels along your route.
- Be patient. Cats take time to acclimate to new surroundings. Setting up a safe space such as a box with a blanket inside can let your cat hide until it feels safe enough to explore.
Taking your cat to the vet. Even short car trips can be stressful. Here are some things you can try to make the trip a little easier.
- Prepare your pet’s paperwork in advance. To reduce stress on appointment day, gather any documentation you may need and set it aside in advance.
- Try soothing music. Playing calming music can soothe your pet during the ride and can distract from unfamiliar road sounds.
- Aromatherapy. Some cat owners have found success using soothing aromas to calm cats that do not travel well.
- Anxious cat? Ask about sedatives. If your pet is particularly skittish about travel, your veterinarian can recommend a mild, safe sedative at a dose appropriate for your pet.
Editor’s Note: Believe it or not, cat anxiety can be debilitating. Here are some more tips to help you and your kitty reduce stress.
General Cat Car Travel Tips & Cautions
If you’ll be traveling with your cat in the vehicle, there are some important safety issues to address.
- Never leave your cat in a hot car. Temperatures in a locked car (even with the windows cracked open) can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes, increasing the risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and death.
- Never let your pet roam the car. While some cats are excellent travelers, having a cat roaming the car presents a real and unnecessary safety hazard. Cats can obscure vision or come between your foot and the pedals. Best bet: keep your cat in a secure carrier while the vehicle is in motion.
- Let your cat explore the inside of the vehicle ahead of time. Giving kitty some time to explore and become familiar with the insider of the vehicle can help reduce stress.
- Take a dry-run or two—car trips varying in length—to see what behaviors may arise in your cat before embarking on the big trip.
We hope these tips help you and your pet enjoy a safe travel season. If you have any questions about carriers, safe pet travel practices, or sedatives for your travel-averse pet, ask your veterinarian. Your vet can help you make informed choices based on the health and safety of your pet.
Photo Credit: @Banana_Knots and Fuji the cat.