Car Travel for Cats: Made Possible

Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

The last blog post titled, “Car Travel for Dogs:  An Easy Ride”, was about, just as the title indicated, dogs traveling by car.  The title for this post is a little different because it is in reference to cats traveling by car.  For all the cat owners reading this post, you probably know very well that cats do not enjoy car rides.  Cats are territorial by nature and like to stay in familiar places.  That is why the subtitle for this blog post is “Made Possible”.  I think it sums up the experience of cats traveling by car.  Here are some tips to making the ride as comfortable and pleasant as possible… not only for your cat but for you too.

Preparation

Find out if there are feral cats in the neighborhood in which you will be staying.  If you have an outside cat, is there a busy road nearby?  Are there vacant lots, old worn-down buildings, etc.?  What is the culture like and how do local residents feel about cats?  Check the area for loose and/or aggressive dogs.  Moreover, pay attention to how the residents tend to trash?  Some cats may have a tendency to rummage through trash to find tasty leftovers… and, as mentioned above, trash may attract feral cats.  If you are staying at, or moving to, an area that has grassy or wood-like areas, pay attention to unwanted critters.  Smaller critters may be game for some cats, but larger, and sometimes more aggressive, animals can cause sickness and injury to cats and should be avoided at all costs.

As for the trip to your destination, there are ways to prepare your cat for travel by car.  Start by crate training.  Let your cat get used to staying inside of a kennel in increments of time, slowly working up to longer periods.  However, watch for signs of discomfort and stress:  fluffed up fur, down-turned ears, an active tail and vocalization.  Once your cat calms down and accepts the crate, move it to the backseat of your car and continue the training.  Slowly familiarize your cat with the sound and movement of the car by first starting it and letting it run to working up to driving around the block.  NOTE:  Never let your cat ride freely inside of a car and never ride with the crate (with cat) in the front seat of a car.  An airbag can be extremely dangerous in the case of an accident.

Also, lease train you cat.  You can do this simply by walking your cat around the house with a good collar and lease.  This is good training for long road trips.  If your cat is, or becomes, comfortable with a lease, you can take them out of the crate for a quick “roadside” bathroom break.  If you have trouble with your cat after using these exercises, consider Feliway as another method of soothing your cat’s worries.

When you arrive at your new destination, give your cat a week to become acquainted with their new home.  This will allow them time to “check rub” (leave their scent behind), so when they do (or if they do) venture out, they can find their way back home.

ID Tags

Keep your contact information up-to-date on your cat’s tags and check the tags for readability.  Also, consider getting a microchip inserted in your cat and register the chip before you leave home.

Supply Bag

Have some items to make the trip a little more enjoyable for your feline friend.

Food and Water Treats Portable Litter Box Toys and Catnip
Attachable Bowls (for carrier) Pet Bed Towel Harness and lease
Any Medication Pet First Aid Kit Waste Scooper/Bags Grooming Supplies (toenail clippers, de-shedder, etc.)

Safety Measures

Cats are sensitive to their environment.  Make sure your cat’s carrier has soft bedding or a blanket.  More importantly, make sure the carrier is upright and not slanted.  Avoid loud music, as well as bumps and potholes as much as possible.  There should be proper ventilation and, if you are really up for spoiling your cat, create a window seat.

Feeding Schedule

Keep to your regular feeding schedule as much as possible.  Feed your cat 2-4 hours before departing.  This will keep them satisfied, but also allow adequate time to digest their meal.  Most cats under stress will not have an appetite, but you should avoid giving treats or food while in the car, anyway.  This will help avoid a nasty stomachache.

Heat and Cold

Please do not leave your cat inside a car when it is hot outside.  Even if you leave the windows cracked, your cat can suffer from the heat.  Studies have shown that temperatures inside a car can reach severe levels at a quick rate.

Cold temperatures can pose a threat too.  Be just as mindful of your furry feline in cold weather as you do in hot weather.  Extreme temperatures make it hard for cats to regulate their core body temperature, and stiffness may occur in older cats.  If you must leave them in the car, make it as quick as possible.

Health

Your cat’s health will determine how long they can withstand hot or cold temperatures, changes to their environment, levels of stress and the ability to ride inside a crate.  Medical conditions can increase the risk of stress or elavate a pre-existing ailment.  Always seek advice from your veterinarian about your cat’s health prior to taking a long road trip.  Before leaving home, bring your cat in for a health exam, make sure vaccines are up-to-date and give them a flea/tick dip.

These simple tips will contribute to a more pleasant trip for you and your cat.