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13 Things to Think About When Planning a Car Trip with Your Cat

February 12, 2012

Photo courtesy of Eric Rice

Traveling with your cat can be quite rewarding — but it can also be quite stressful for all involved.

Fortunately, during most trips we can leave our cats comfortably at home with a good sitter. However, there are other times when we simply want to bring them along — or need to, when moving, for example.

No matter what kind of car trip you have in mind, there are a number of things you should think about and consider before packing up Fluffy. Here are some suggestions, tips and tricks, and if you have your own, please share them in the comments!

Before you leave

  • If your cat’s health has been a concern lately, consult your veterinarian to find out if she thinks your cat can handle a car trip. Even if your cat is a good traveler, the stress of traveling and being away from home may complicate a health issue. Your vet may recommend a mild tranquilizer if your cat is particularly nervous about travelling.
  • Check the condition of your cat carrier. Depending on the length of the trip, you may want to purchase a larger, hard plastic carrier so your cat can easily stand up and move around in it. Make sure it’s well-ventilated and clean; place a towel or cat bed in it so your cat is more comfortable.
  • Once you have your carrier, keep it out in your home for a few days so your cat becomes comfortable with it. If your cat won’t even consider approaching it, try creating positive associations with the carrier by placing her toys or favorite treats in there.
  • If you have time, try taking your cat out on a few trial rides around your neighborhood. Reward her with a few treats and snuggles when you get home, so she sees that traveling can be a positive experience.
  • Check for emergency vet clinics along your route. You’ll never know when you’ll need one; and God forbid, if something should happen, you’ll be prepared. (Don’t forget your cat’s medical and vaccination records, along with other important items to pack — story goes live Thursday!)
  • Similarly, depending on the length of your trip, find hotels along the way that welcome pets. If you’re having trouble finding one, call a shelter in the area to see if they have any recommendations. Find out if there are any rules or restrictions concerning cat weight/size, the number of cats allowed, if you can leave the cat alone in the room, and if there are any fees.
  • Begin to pack your kitty’s necessities, and make a list of everything you’ll need to pack right before you leave. (Click the link above for more suggestions!)

During the trip

Photo courtesy of She Who Shall Not Be Named

  • Schedule your departure wisely. Most pet parents are familiar with their cats eating habits and bathroom breaks. Work around these times for maximum comfort. You may want to feed your cat a few hours before leaving, and then remove the food so she has time to digest before the trip.
  • Keep your kitty in a well-ventilated area of the car. You’ll want to keep an eye on her to make sure that she’s comfortable. For example, watch to make sure the sun isn’t blazing down on her, and place your hand in front of her carrier to make sure that she’s feeling the heat or AC.
  • Along those lines, make sure that none of the air is blowing directly or strongly on him. If you think your cat may get carsick, place his carrier on the floor of the car. Since he won’t be able to see outside, it may help his motion sickness.
  • Secure the carrier so it won’t move around during the trip, and place it in an area where your cat can see you.
  • If you’re trip is several hours long, take breaks so your cat can eat a snack, drink some water — and even use the litter box. Include a few minutes of playtime, too, if possible.
  • Never leave your cat in a parked car; and most experts recommend never opening your windows (and even then about an inch), unless you’re sure your cat is securely inside his carrier.

Do you travel with your cat? Do you have any recommendations folks should keep in mind before heading out the door — or while they’re on the road? Please share in the comments!

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