Car Travel with a Cat – Tips and Strategies to Traveling With A Cat

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.  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, and chews, but my preference after giving my girl a whole basket full of pharmaceuticals  at the end of her life,  was to use  natural products whenever I could.  One of the best I have found in my research is for reducing aggressive behavior and anxiety is, Canna-Pet. It offers relief not only for anxiety and stress, but joint pain as well. If your concerned about putting unnatural pharmaceuticals in your cat’s body to deal with these problems, check it out:

Canna-Pet, LLC – $30-$60

  • Ingredients: broad spectrum of hemp, terpenes and flavonoids
  • Dosage: One capsule per day


  • all-natural, organic, plant based, chemical and preservative-free
  • available in capsule or drop form
  • relieves anxiety and stress
  • reduces inflammation and joint pain
  •  no known side effects
  • fast acting – usually within 45 minutes
  • can be used with other medication
  • specifically designed for pets
  • mild taste that won’t deter cats
  • naturally safe
  • offers money back guarantee
  • veteranarian recommended


  • no noteable  side effects
  • if your cat has food allergies, talk to your vet to prevent any allergic reaction

Try it out! Use promocode: new_customer20 at checkout to get 20% off your first order from Canna-Pet

Hemp nutrition for Happy Healthy Pets


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:

  • Food
  • Bottle or Gallon Jug of Water
  • Treats
  • 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 an 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.

You’ve Arrived!

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.


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8 thoughts on “Car Travel with a Cat – Tips and Strategies to Traveling With A Cat

  1. Hi Suzanne,

    I love your post! I have a rather spoiled princess who gets very stressed when I have her in the car, even more so when in her carrier!

    She’s so used to being outside that it sucks that it’s hard to have her in the car because the only trips she ever had to make was from when she was adopted and taken home, and the times I had to take her to the vet!

    Your post has helped me a whole lot! I love the products featured in your website that I will definitely be coming back, thank you so much for the info!

    1. Jose, Thank you for sharing. My two new boys hate being confined too, so I can totally relate. One of my boys gets pretty antsy in the car and starts panting and crying, My last cat was fine in the car as a young kitten and then started getting car sick as she got older. So anything I can do to make it easier is a good thing for everyone. I am glad you found the post helpful and I hope you will be back soon! Thanks!

  2. I have the complete opposite problem my cat is more like a dog and will jump in the vehicle before i can even get in. Maybe he don’t like being at home? Im not sure. But it becomes a problem when im headed for work and he doesnt want to vacate the vehicle.

    1. Wow Justin, I’ve definitely never experienced that problem before, but my cats are always in carriers, which is probably why they hate it so much. Can you lure him out with a dab of catnip in the morning? Cats are interesting creatures for sure! Thanks for sharing!

      1. I normally have to take a few scratches when getting him out of the car lol, but I will try the catnip method and see if he will go for it.

        1. If sweetening the pot with catnip doesn’t cut it you can always grab a cheap squirt gun and give him a little squirt until he gets the idea that it’s a spot he can’t claim. It’s all about changing habits and setting boundaries and being consistent with it. Good luck.

  3. Susanne,

    Great tips on traveling with a cat; unfortunately for us Sky loves to go in the vehicles and it does not matter which one. She is tiny not a very big cat and her favorite thing to do is climb up on your shoulder and wrap herself around the back of your neck and lie there. She does not like to come down especially when she knows your going out feels she should be able to go with you.

    You have listed so many wonderful ideas in your site for taking care of cats and tips for reading their behavior hopefully more people come along to read this information because it will greatly help them with caring and dealing with their cat issues.

    1. Hey Susan,

      I am glad you liked he site and found it helpful. If your kitty loves being around your neck in the car and it’s comfortable for him and you all the better! Thanks for checking the site out. All the best,

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