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In Review: Cat Car Trip Tips, Lessons

February 24, 2012

As you know, we had a great time with the cats this past weekend at my brother’s place in Michigan.

Much went as expected; however, we also were reminded of and learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share with you:

Ellie under her carrier liner.

Make sure everyone uses the litter box before you leave: Usually the person who cleans the litter boxes has a general idea of when their kitties use it. Not to get too specific, but our kitties are rather regular — going in the morning after breakfast and in the evening.

However, on the day we left, I made the mistake of going about the morning as I would every morning — except feeding them their wet food breakfast. I thought it was a wise move — that way they would have less food in their bellies. Wrong.

This completely threw them off their schedule as they waited rather patiently until we left to be fed. Consequently, they didn’t go about their morning routine, i.e., using the litter box when they usually do.

We got to Michigan without an incident, but it was a concern throughout the trip — and as soon as we arrived I showed both of them the litter box. Neither one was interested. (Thank goodness!)

That said,

Be ready for an emergency litter box break: Now, I can’t tell you when this will be, but use your own judgement if your kitty is acting quite anxious and hasn’t used the box in a while. Come up with a bathroom-break plan if you think you’ll need it. We had our cat pan in the trunk, but I was ready to pull it out, put it on the back seat, shut all of the car doors (of course) and put Ellie in there, if needed. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that, but it was a very real concern. 

Make your kitty comfortable: Whenever Ellie is in her carrier she likes to hide under whatever’s there — her bed, stuffed bear, blankie — you name it. However, after she hid under her blankie and carrier liner this time, I realized she would be spending 2 hours sitting on the plastic floor of her carrier. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I think I’ll velcro her carrier liner to the carrier floor so she has at least something pleasant to sleep on — and can’t get under.

Make sure you can see them: Ellie and CG both took comfort in being able to see my husband and I during the car trip. As anxious as Ellie was at times, whenever she saw me or Matt, her type of meow would change to something more familiar and chipper. However, we also realized that by not looking back all of the time we taught them that non-stop meows wouldn’t get them anything. They eventually settled down.

Similarly, if they were particularly agitated, I’d stick my fingers through the carrier door and pet them. This seemed to comfort them a bit.

We also kept the radio off and chatted on and off, which seemed to work well. However, I could also see how some music on low may be soothing.

CG on the leather couch.

Always be respectful of your host and his home: Ask if there’s any place your host doesn’t want your kitties to go — certain rooms, on certain furniture, and things like that. For example, my brother has a lovely leather couch that he understandably didn’t want scratched. So, whenever someone was sitting on the couch with a cat, that someone had to be responsible for all of the kitty’s claws — just in case. Similarly, it’s easy enough to close doors or to block a cat’s access with a safety gate.

Be prepared for diet changes: While at my brother’s place, the cats’ switched their eating habits — Ellie had no interest in wet food and CG devoured both plates — the total opposite of their usual morning routine. Consequently, I kept an eye on both of them, making sure they both ate kibble and drank enough water — not to mention make sure both were using the pan.

Praise them often: At the end of the day, your cat may have no idea what’s going on — but she should know she can trust you. So praise her for that, if nothing else, and try to make the experience as positive as possible.

Bring extra treats: Enough said.

Have you ever taken your cat on a car trip? What was your experience and did you learn anything along the way?

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