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6 Ways To Help Keep Your Cat Calm During A Car Trip

September 5, 2013
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As summer begins to fade away in some parts of the country, you and your family may be considering one last vacation or long weekend before looking forward to fall.

For some of us, that may mean car travel with our whole family — cats included. Unfortunately, traveling with your cat may sound like more of a punishment than a relaxing getaway.

Photo courtesy DavidMartynHunt.

But never fear! There are several things you (or a family member, remember, pay attention while driving!) can do during your car trip to help keep your cat calm.

Allow your cat to familiarize herself with her carrier: In some homes, a carrier’s presence means only one thing — a miserable and terrifying trip to the vet. Help change that perception by making the carrier an enjoyable place for your cat.

Leave it out in your home, and place your cat’s favorite bed, blankie, or even a towel in there to make it comfortable. Encourage her to go in there to relax. While it won’t be the end-all, be-all solution, it will help.

You can also try taking your cat on shorter trips around your neighborhood, so your cat can learn that not every car trip involves the vet. Make sure to end every trip with some treats!

Stay within sight: Some of our cats will meow their lungs out if we’re not in the same room at home, so why should it be any different on the road? Try to stay within your cat’s sight (if you can’t, perhaps another close family member can), so your cat is constantly reminded that she’s with someone she loves and trusts.

Who knows, you may even want to try a slow blink now and then to let her know that you love her. 

Make sure they’re comfortable: As you’re driving along, you’ll want to check a few things to make sure your cat is comfortable. For example, you may want to reposition your cat if the sun is blazing down on her carrier. Also check your air vents to see if she’s getting some air — but not all of it.

Talk to your cat: Take a moment — or seven — throughout your car ride to talk to your cat. Say her name, tell her everything’s OK, and be sure to do all of that in a calm, reassuring voice — like the voice that you use when she’s snuggling with you.

That said, I totally realize that you may not be comfortable talking to your cat (depending on who is in the car),  and that’s OK. Still try to use (and encourage others to use) a calm voice, too. Along these lines, you may want to be considerate when it comes to playing music in the car. Try not to play it too loudly.

Photo courtesy Wrathernaut.

Touch her if possible: Again, this totally depends on who else is in the car, and if it’s safe. But I’ve found that if I can pet CG or Ellie by sticking even a few fingers into their carrier, they tend to quiet down for a few moments. Sometimes I try petting them or tickling them under the chin, too.

I know some folks let their cats out of the carrier during car rides, and while I don’t advise it*, I do admit that I’ve done it. After we adopted Ellie, we faced a 3-hour drive home. For the first hour she was a nervous and confused kitten, and the only thing that helped was to have her on my lap. (I was in the backseat.) By the last hour, she was sleeping contently in her carrier.

*I don’t advise this for folks who don’t travel often with their cats. A number of you travel often with your cats, and your cats are well-behaved in the car since they’re used to it.

Take a break: Hopefully you can stop and pull over somewhere every so often to check on your cat and to provide her with a litter box break, if need be. That said, if your cat is truly flipping out, you may want to keep them confined until you get to your destination.

If you think your cat is likely to flip our in the car, it’s likely best to keep them confined to the carrier, even if they’re still going bonkers in there.

Click here for more cat travel trip tips, as well as a cat travel packing list, and a few of my own cat travel lessons, just for good measure!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Monika permalink
    September 5, 2013 9:25 am

    Although we haven’t traveled long distances with cats in a number of years we found that even the half hour trip to the vet causes anxiety for them. Therefore we spray the mat in the carrier with a well known feline facial pheromone product a few hours before the trip. It actually works in calming them down and making them feel more secure. We also use the plug in dispenser for a few days prior to any jaunts. You are so right talking to them during the actual ride and making some sort of physical contact has also always helped.

    Years ago we had a cat that would wait for me at the end of the driveway when he knew I was coming home from work. I would stop and open the car door and he would jump in and go for a ride to the garage (about 50 feet). He loved going for a ride and stood on the front seat with his paws on the dashboard watching where we were going. However for safety’s sake if we drove on the road we always had him in a carrier .

    Much to our horror, we have seen people who let their animals loose in the car without any type of restraints- both cats and dogs. That is so dangerous for everyone.

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