Cats find it hard to adjust to anything new. A new member of the family, a new apartment, a new litter box, and just about anything that’s not familiar to them. Change is often a source of stress and distress for cats, and if you’re thinking about traveling with your pet kitty in the car, then you’ll have to be prepared.
While they’re not exactly known for being the best travel companions, there are many things you can do to make them comfortable for a short or even long drive. A successful road trip with your cat begins many days or weeks before the day of travel, and this means preparing them for what’s to come.
To help your feline friend become comfortable in your upcoming drive, here are 6 great tips for traveling with cats in the car without a hitch.
6 Step Guide to travel with cats
1. Buy a Cat Carrier
The best tip for traveling with a cat is to never let her loose inside the car while you drive. Cats can get stressed and anxious and distract the driver, potentially leading to accidents. Days or weeks before you go on your road trip, buy a cat carrier that will keep your kitty in place as you travel.
You can buy a cat carrier or a hard-sided kennel, depending on your choice and the comfort level of your pet kitty. But do not introduce your cat to the carrier or kennel on the day of your trip.
Introduce the carrier to her days or even weeks before the trip. The key is to make the carrier or kennel feel like home, or at least safe for them.
Place the carrier on the floor in your home and allow your cat to enter and exit anytime she wishes. You can place her favorite toys inside or a few snacks, or any item with a familiar scent, such as her favorite blankets. When your cat gets used to the carrier as being a safe place, she will get comfortable with it and not see it as something new.
On the day of the trip, you can place the carrier in the car with her usual catnip treats and soft bedding and we’re pretty sure your cat will stay inside without any problem.
2. Place a Litter Box Inside the Carrier for Long Trips
For long drives, you can place a litter box inside the carrier so you won’t have to stop for bathroom breaks. It should be big enough for your cat to be comfortable but also small enough to fit in the carrier. Make sure it is waterproof, collapsible, but sturdy enough that it doesn’t collapse on your cat. There are also disposable litter boxes that you can buy and throw away once you reach your destination.
3. Let Your Cat Love the Car
If your cat has never been inside your car, even for short trips to the supermarket, then you have to introduce the car to her, too.
Let your cat play inside your car. Place a few of her favorite toys inside and let her loose. Allow her to get familiar with the inside of the car, the smell, and the emotions when the engine starts. You can turn on the engine without moving at first, then turn it off again. In subsequent days, you can start moving the car outside the driveway, then back again.
When your cat gets more comfortable, you can start moving the car around the block and back again. When your cat gets familiar with your moving car, it will be easier for her to get comfortable for your upcoming trip.
4. Make Sure Your Cat Has an ID Tag
When traveling with your cat, make sure she has proper identification on her. She can easily jump out of the car as soon as you open a window or a door, and she might get lost along the way.
Consider a microchip for permanent ID for your cat. Also, you can use a well-fitted harness on your cat to ensure she can’t escape even when all the doors are open.
5. Withhold Feeding Your Cat Hours Before the Car Ride
If your cat has never traveled with you in a car, and despite all the preparations you’ve made, there is still a possibility that your cat may feel nauseated and even vomit in the middle of the road.
To reduce the likelihood of your kitty vomiting, it might be a good idea that you refrain from feeding her hours before you start hitting the road.
6. What To Pack
If you’re traveling far and for a good number of days, you might need some tips on what to pack for your cat.
For starters, make sure you bring all your cat’s medical documents such as recent trips to the vet, rabies and other vaccination certificates, medications she’s taking, and recent lab work. In emergency medical situations, these documents will come in handy.
When it comes to her food and water, pack her meals in individual containers so it’s easier for you to feed her on the road. You can also bring water from home since water from other sources may have a different taste and your cat won’t drink it. And don't forget her favorite calming bed to easy her anxiety
Using your cat’s regular dishes and containers will also add to your cat’s comfort so there’s no need to buy new ones for your upcoming travel.
It’s possible that even if you take all the necessary precautions and tips we’ve outlined here to help make your cat as comfortable as possible for the car travel, she may still feel some kind of stress and anxiety.
Despite your best efforts, some cats may just be too sensitive that car sickness and anxiety are inevitable. If you’re worried about this, the best thing to do is talk to your cat’s veterinarian. The vet can prescribe medication specifically designed to help prevent carsickness and nausea in cats, as well as other medications that can help to reduce anxiety.
The Bottom Line
If you’re dreading the thought of traveling with your cat in a car, then these tips will definitely reduce the likelihood of a disaster. It takes time and effort, but with just a few steps and tricks, you will be on your way to a stress-free and smooth road trip that you and your loved ones, including your beloved kitty, will never forget.