Traveling with Cats in Car Long Distance: Road Trip Tips


If you think taking dogs with you on a road the trip is tricky, then you definitely haven’t tried car travel with cats. Cats are especially finicky creatures that like stability and to be surrounded by all things familiar. The slightest change in environment upsets them and leaves them feeling stressed. Putting a cat in a moving car without proper conditioning and preparation is a sure recipe for disaster.


Thankfully, it’s possible to have peaceful and enjoyable travels with a cat in the car. It requires a few conditioning tricks and a lot of patience (and treats!), but the results you get will definitely be worth it.

Tips for Traveling with Cats

Cat owners know that leaving a cat with a sitter or a boarding facility is much more preferable options than taking their feline companions with them on travels. But there might be instances when you’re left with no choice, such as when you have to move or couldn’t find someone reliable to babysit your pet. If leaving your cat is simply not an option, these tips for traveling with cats can help you.

Before the Trip: What You’ll Need

These are the things you must do in preparation days or weeks before your travel date:


1. Get a Reliable Carrier.

A trusty carrier is a must have, whether you’re traveling with an indoor cat or an outdoor cat. A carrier would keep your cat safe and make it feel secure when the road gets bumpy. There are carriers that come with straps and others that are big enough to fit in a litter box. Since your kitty would be spending most of his time during the trip inside, the carrier needs to be comfortable and spacious enough for stretching and small movements. Here is a list of some nice selection of best-selling cat carriers.


2. Facilitate Crate Training.

Place the carrier inside your house and encourage your kitty to sleep inside. Make the interior comfortable by lining it with your cat’s favorite blankets. Give him treats as a reward every time he sleeps inside the cat carrier. When the cat is comfortable enough, start closing the carrier door a few minutes at a time. Repeat this for a few days.


3. Introduce Car Visits.

After the cat has gotten used to the carrier, you can combine crate training with car visits. Get in the back seat of your car with your cat. Allow him to explore and sniff around and give him treats and praise if he settles down. Car visits should be about five minutes and should be continued for a few days until kitty begins to consider the car as territory.

As you make progress, you can start placing the carrier in your car with the cat inside. You can time this exercise during the cat’s feeding times to help establish a positive association with car visits. The Spruce defines this process as desensitization using classical conditioning.


When your cat is ready, the next step is to get the car running. It’s difficult if you’re going to be the driver as well. The cat might react violently when the motor starts and there would be no one to comfort him. Have someone else drive, or stay with the cat in the back seat if you’re driving.


Take short trips first, maybe around the block, and eventually longer ones and see how the cat reacts. You or the person in the back seat may give him treats and praise to ensure that the rides are a positive experience. If he shows signs of stress, you might slow down the process a little. Always let him out of the car at the end of each trip.


4. Pack Important Supplies.

If it’s going to be a really long trip, you must pack all the essentials for your cat as well as some other things in case of emergencies. Aside from food, water, and the litter box, bring blankets and toys belonging to your cat as these would help him feel more at home in the car. Pack a first aid kit, and also, you may consult the vet for the medication in case the cat gets sick or frantic during the trip.  

While on the Trip: Traveling by Car

Finally, you’re ready to go! Remember these tips on how to calm down a cat in a car:


1. Secure The Carrier.

Make sure your cat is comfortable inside the carrier. Secure the carrier to the car seat using straps. The back seat is generally safer for the cat because, in the event of an accident, the airbag could injure your cat if the carrier is placed in front. Sometimes they can run away from the car window. Then, your cat might get lost middle of nowhere.


2. Schedule Feeding Times.

Wikihow recommends feeding your cat its main meal upon arrival at your destination. The cat may get carsick if you overfeed him during the course of the trip. It’s not a good idea to feed him the morning of or during your trip. Offer water at rest stops to keep the cat hydrated. You can also feed him in small portions or offer treats, but only when the car is parked.


3. Set Stops for Peeing and Defecating.

Prepare the litter box every time the cat feeds. If it’s a really long trip, you can stop every couple of hours to relax and walk around with your cat. This would be much easier if the kitty is leash trained. If your cat isn’t trained to walk on a leash, never take the cat out of his carrier during rest stops. Most importantly, never leave him alone in the car.


4. Be Ready for Emergencies.

Cats can get restless or hyper all of a sudden and this can easily cause anyone to panic. If there’s one thing you should remember about how to calm down your cat in a car, it’s that you must always remain calm yourself. Try to comfort your cat while it’s inside the carrier, but don’t let it out if it gets especially restless. You might consider bringing sedatives or tranquilizers as prescribed by your vet.

Car travel with cats may seem like a task that only brave souls dare try. But in times when there’s no choice but to bring your cat with you on road travel, it’s not entirely impossible if you have a lot of patience and make the right preparations. You can enjoy peaceful car travel with your cat.


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