Travel in a Car with Your Pet Cat

Learn About Caring for Cats on a Car Trip

Baggage with cat

Cat lovers hate to leave their feline buddies behind during car trips and holidays, but usually even a short car trips prompts cats to become almost feral – moaning, pacing, hissing and clawing. And yet these short trips to the vet or a petsitter’s house are an unavoidable part of a cat’s life. So how can we make the trip as painless as possible for them and for ourselves? 

Here are some pet friendly travel tips to help you learn how to travel in a car with your pet cat.

  1. Cat carrier. A free-ranging cat within a car is a recipe for disaster. Contrary to what we might assume, the confinement will actually comfort your cat as she embarks on this strange journey. And if you give her the entire car, you will find safe driving to be far more challenging.

    Before you take your cat for car rides, try to get her acclimated to the inside of her pet carrier. Put a blanket in it and place her inside for brief periods of time each day for several days. Lengthen the period of confinement each day until your cat seems at ease resting and smelling her scent in there.

  2. Prepare for longer car trips by taking short, easy trips leading up to the big one. Your cat will grow more accustomed to not only the motions and noises of a car, but also the confinement within the carrier.
  3. Make sure she’s not sitting at a slant. Many car seats are actually slanted a bit and, if you place the cat carriers down the wrong way, it makes for a rather uncomfortable kitty car ride. While it’s true that cats have incredible balance and coordination, no cat wants to be constantly fighting against a slope as she also tries to compensate for the movements of the car. Use a folded blanket or towel to level out the carrier.
  4. Avoid loud music. Your car will already be filled with some startling noises for a cat. Don’t add to them by blasting music in the confined space as well.
  5. Steer clear of bumps and potholes as much as you can. If there are smooth roads that can serve as an alternate route from the bumpier way you normally travel, opt for those alternates when driving with your cat.
  6. Potty issues. If your journey is long enough to require potty breaks for your feline friend, planning ahead is your best option. Some suggest placing a litter box within a larger cat carrier, but outdoor potty breaks are better for several reasons.
    • Your cat is cozier in a smaller carrier, and could perhaps fall into the litter box if his carrier is jostled (definitely unpleasant for fastidious felines). Does your cat often lie down next to his litter box at home? Probably not.
    • Your cat will definitely appreciate the opportunity to stretch her legs once in a while.
    • Keeping the business outside will keep your car from smelling like cat waste.

    Regardless of the duration of your car trip, it’s a good idea to put some absorbent towels at the base of your cat carrier, in case Kitty has an accident.

  7. Leash-training. In order to take your cat outside for potty breaks on a longer car trip, train her to wear a harness. Consult our article about leash-training for details.
  8. Create a window seat. Dogs absolutely love looking out car windows during a drive, of course, while cats are less enamored… but providing a view of the outdoors will help your cat make sense of the movement she perceives, which means that she may become a little less vocal and a little more fascinated by the journey. Not every cat is the same, but providing such a view is relatively simple and therefore worth a try.

    To do this, simply strap your cat carrier to a piece of luggage or even a box of the appropriate height, and see if your cat settles down for the ride. If the carrier rattles and bumps unpleasantly on top of the platform, add a blanket or pillow between the two to act as a cushion. Be sure to strap the carrier securely, however, and make sure the platform is too heavy to move during transit.

  9. Be sure the breathable areas of the pet carriers are not obscured by anything in the car. The last thing you want to do is overheat and stifle your cat in an environment with too little air movement.
  10. Don't give food or water immediately before a brief drive. If your cat drinks or eats right before a quick, yet alarming car ride, unfortunate potty accidents may occur. Even if you don’t end up with a mess, a full bladder makes your cat feel all the more uneasy in that carrier during the car ride.
  11. Pack some tap water from home. This water tastes more familiar to a bewildered cat who may be reluctant to drink strange water. To prevent dehydration and provide a source of comfort and familiarity, give your cat some water from home.

These tips about caring for your cat during a car trip should help you have a calm, quiet ride. Car rides with your cat may never be a walk in the park, but some planning and attention to small details can help all passengers (feline and otherwise) enjoy the trip far more.


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