Our cats don’t often take road trips, usually we bring the family dog and the cat gets the house to her/himself for the long weekend. But sometimes we need to bring our cat especially if we are moving and driving to the new place or going to be gone for a while and boarding or finding a pet sitter is not an option. The first rule of traveling with a cat is to have ID tags for your cat and a good collar. Many lost cats end up in shelters because of no ID. You can also microchip your cat if you haven’t already.
Here are a few travel tips to make the car ride a safe one:
1: Motion sickness can happen to anyone. Cats can get sick in the car but they can also get used to it. Start by taking short trips and gradually extend the time. The motion of the car stopping and starting again at lights and stop signs will become familiar to your cat. Make sure the air is fresh and well ventilated. This means, no smoking in the car with your cat and removing heavily scented air fresheners. Your cat’s sense of smell is stronger than yours and can affect her. Before setting off on a trip, it is also a good idea to remove food and water a few hours before leaving.
2: If your cat panics or is hyper, you can talk to your vet about medication to sedate her. It can make the trip safer, less stressful, and easier. Administer the medication hours before the trip so it has time to digest and kick in. Talk to your vet about the proper dosage and try a pre-trip to see how she reacts to the car and medication. You don’t want to be driving cross country with a cat who is howling and bouncing all over the place.
3: No matter what your cat is doing in her carrier or crate, keep your eyes on the road. If your cat is a good traveler and can be let out, she may curl up and sleep on a seat but if she’s not, then letting her roam the interior of the car is a bad idea. She could hide under the brake or gas pedal, crawl on your lap, or sit on the dashboard. For safety’s sake keep your eyes on the road and your cat away from the driver’s side.
4: Pull over and take breaks. Your cat may need to use a litter box or need a snack on the trip. Make a few stops and let her stretch her legs. If she’s used to being outside, you can buy a harness and leash to walk her around at a rest stop. If she’s indoor only, use a makeshift litter box from a disposable aluminum pan. You can throw out the used litter and save the pan for the whole trip. Praise her and pet her to let her know that everything is ok.
5: If you go to get some food and leave her in the car, be aware of the temperature outside and remember how fast a car can heat up or cool down depending on the season. Your cat could suffer from heat stroke if it’s summer. If you are going to spend some time eating at a rest stop, it would be best to bring her with you in a carrier.