As we have discussed in previous articles, cats are not the most flexible personalities you will come across. If you find yourself in the position of having to take your cat on a road trip, as all cat owners do at some point, the thought of spending hours trapped in a car with a crying cat and a litter box may make you cringe.
Lesson 1: If you don’t have to bring your cat along, don’t bring your cat along. I learned this lesson when we tried to bring Salome on a one-hour road trip to the mountains, which ended in a large pile of cat vomit on my husband’s cell phone. Initially we had decided to take her on our getaway because she had so many meds to administer, we didn’t trust a pet sitter to take care of her. Trust me when I say if it’s optional, it is more stress than it’s worth. Have your friend check-in or find a local pet sitter to help out.
In our case, because she was on so many meds, we were able to pay our local vet tech, who had her own cat sitting business, to come in and take care of Salome when we were not around. This made less stress for us and certainly less stress for her.
However, sometimes, car travel with your pet is unavoidable. For example, you may be moving across the country. So now you are traveling with a cat in a car, on a one-way road trip, it is unavoidable? Traveling with a cat in a car is a true test of your cat ownership abilities. It’s kind of like joining a three ring circus, but with the right planning and knowledge you can minimize stress for both you and your kitten. Let’s break it down, step-by-step.
A Good Trip Begins With Good Prep
There are several things you can do in the days and weeks before your trip to ensure the best possible outcome.
a) Talk to your vet BEFORE your trip
If you know your cat has bad anxiety in unfamiliar situations or motion-sickness, your vet can certainly recommend some effective and inexpensive products to help treat their symptoms. There are a huge variety of anti-anxiety medicines, drops, sprays, chews, travel wipes and other products that are all highly effective at helping in this situation. Many of these medicines are all-natural, organic and chemical free, if you have concerns about what you are putting in your cat’s body.
b) Familiarize your cat
Take a few opportunities to put your cat in their carrier and do a few short trips around town to familiarize them with their carriers and being confined. In general, I always have my cat’s carriers open and sitting in their playroom so that they are comfortable with them. Often times, they will even sleep in them even in the house and this will only make your trips easier.
c) Make a Checklist
Before you depart, you may wish to make a checklist of items to ensure nothing it forgotten. Here are the basics:
- Bottle or Gallon Jug of Water
- Food and water dishes
- Litter Box/Litter – some people use disposable litter boxes when they travel. This one comes ready to go, with litter included, and it’s recycled plastic! If you are concerned about the environmental impact, you can still bring your usual litter box and litter and scoop as you go.
- Plastic Bags – for trash and waste
- Cat Carrier – Always keep your cat in a carrier while you are driving and secured with a seat belt to help prevent any accident or injury in the case of an accident. Your cat can easily distract you outside of their carrier or crawl into an unsafe space. If your cat has difficulty with confinement like my current boys do, you can purchase and expandable carrier, to give your cats more room to move during a longer trip.
- Any meds or anti-anxiety treatment your cat takes
You may also want to bring:
- Cleaning supplies, paper towels and tissues (especially if you have pet allergies) in case of accidents or nausea
- Comforting toys, like this snuggle toy or other toys that remind your cat of home. This snuggle toy aids in calming your cat by providing a heated, soft plush toy with a built in heartbeat to help calm them.
- Ice Packs/Blankets – during warm months bring along some cool packs in a small cooler, in case your air conditioner fails. Cats will overheat much faster than humans and if you lose air conditioning you can lean them against the walls of your carrier to help keep your cat cool. NEVER LEAVE YOUR CAT IN A HOT CAR! Just like dogs, the likelihood of heat stroke is not a risk you should take lightly. During cold months, bring extra blankets to keep your cat comfortable in case they get cold.
c) Re-confirm Any Hotel Lodging
Be sure to give and hotels or friends you are staying with along your trip a final call to confirm your travel details and ensure that having your cat in tow is still acceptable. More and more hotels are accepting pets these days, Hilton, W Hotels, Loews, Red Roof Inns, Motel Six, Loews, Hampton Inn and La Quinta just to name a few.
d) Get In Some Last Minute Playtime
Finally, before you go, it is a good idea to engage in a little playtime with your cat to help use up some energy that will likely be pent-up from being in a carrier for an extended time.
On The Road
Once you hit the road make sure you stop every 2-3 hours to allow your cat access to their litter box, food and water. They may be hesitant to use these items much on the road, but you should give them a chance all the same. At the very least it will give them a few minutes outside of their carrier. In driving in the car, try to keep yourself within eye shot of your cat and don’t be afraid to reassure them along the way.
When you let your cat out of its carrier for breaks it is a good idea to have them on a harness with a leash. If they accidentally get lose, you will have a better shot at catching a leash than a sly cat. This is also a good reason to make sure your cat has a collar with an info tag or a microchip to be reunited with you, should the worst occur.
Keep food to a minimum before and during your trip to help with nausea or motion sickness, and only provide water when you are stopped since it is likely to spill otherwise.
Follow these tips and you’ll arrive at your destination before you know it, with only a mildly agitated cat! Don’t hesitate to share your feedback on this article and let me know if you have any other tips that you have found help keep your cat a cool cucumber on your road trips.