Traveling with cats can be like traveling with small children – except cats cannot even open their mouths and tell you what they want or need. Because of this, a road trip with cats requires some planning and preparation. In order to make sure you do everything you can to keep your kitties comfortable, check out these tips for how to travel with cats in a car long distance:
#1 In Case of Emergency
Make sure you have all information up to date and available in case of an emergency. Have your cats microchipped, and bring pictures of them, medical records, phone numbers, and information about any special needs. You attach this information right to their crates.
#2 Reduce Chances of Escape
Cats can be extremely fast, especially if they are panicked, and families have lost kitties before because a scared cat bolted on a long trip. Many people keep their cats in crates for an entire trip, but if you choose to let yours roam free at any point, do it with the doors shut and locked and the windows open no more than an inch, and make sure they are securely in a crate anytime you decide to get out of the car.
#3 Arrangements for Cats in Cars for a Long Trip
There are many different ways to set up your car when transporting cats. Some pet owners are comfortable letting their cats have the run of the backseat, maybe draping a blanket over the seats like a cave or using a cat hammock, but most transport cats in crates. Here are a few different types of crates to consider:
- Large, soft-sided dog crates
- A playpen in the back of a large car with seats down
- A homemade crate out of a solid base and chicken wire caging
- Large wire case with fleece bed
- Pop up carriers (like the ones used for shows)
Generally, you want to give your cat some space to stretch and move around, and a big crate has the added benefit of potentially holding a small travel cat litter box, though many cats won’t go until the car is stopped anyway. If you have two cats, they note that they might prefer to be in a crate together for comfort.
Some cats might like to be able to look out of the windows at passing cars, but generally draping a blanket over part of their cage so they can’t see cars whizzing by might keep them calmer. You can also put sunshades on your windows to reduce glare on the cage.
#4 Preventing Anxiety and Car Sickness
Anxiety and nausea might be a big concern for a lot of cat owners; here are some tips for preventing or treating these cat health issues:
- Take your kitties on “practice trips” around town to see how they do in the car and what they might need.
- Buy a CD of cat calming music (you can test some of these on YouTube to see what works for your cat).
- If they get carsick, you can give them 1/4 of an Original Pepcid. Be sure to chase it with a few swallows of water or food, since cats cannot dry-swallow and pills can get stuck in their throat and erode it.
- Get a mild sedative from the vet.
- Spritz a calming spray like Pet Remedy, Feliway, Richard’s Organics, or Rescue Remedy drops in the carrier a few hours before the trip.
- Try Jackson Galaxy Solutions, like Easy Traveler or Changing Times.
If you think your cat might be prone to anxiety or carsickness, talk to your vet before your trip to figure out some safe options for traveling with cats in a car using sedation.
#5 Making Stops
Try to stop every 2-3 hours just to play with, reassure, and give water to your kitty. In addition to giving them water when you stop, you can also try to get them to use the litter box. Nature’s Miracle makes disposable litter boxes, and you can use plastic storage bags to just scoop and throw away waste as you go. Some cats might not use the litter box when you stop because they are nervous, so you might want to limit their food and water the night before the trip to reduce accidents.
You can also try to give your cats food as you stop, but again, they might be too nervous to eat, so try to feed them treats along the way and hopefully they will eat a full meal at your final destination. If your trip is going to take several days, make reservations in advance at pet-friendly hotels.
If you need to stop to eat or go to the restroom, try to eat in the car with your cat so that you can keep the air conditioner running. If you are traveling alone and do need to run into a restroom, park your car in the shade and crack the windows slightly. You can also stop at pet stores like PetSmart or Petco along the way and they will usually let you bring your cat in with you to use their human restroom.
#6 Traveling in Heat
If you are traveling during the summer, you will want to take some extra precautions to make sure your cat doesn’t get overheated, particularly long-haired cats. Even if your cat doesn’t want to eat, try to get them to drink whenever you stop – it is important for them to stay hydrated! You can use clip-on food and water bowls in your car or bring a portable water cup with you.
Make sure they are getting proper ventilation in the back seat. Check your air conditioning to make sure it is as cool in the back as it is in the front, or even put a small fan in the back seat to help with airflow. If you have to stop and turn the car off, keep the windows slightly cracked for ventilation.
Many pet owners have had successful road trips with kitties, but it does require thinking about their needs in advance!
What tips and tricks do you have for taking long road trips with cats?