You want to go on vacation, but you have one simple problem. You have nobody who can babysit your cat. You can’t even get anyone to pop in on a normal basis while you’re gone to give it food and water.
Why not take your favorite feline with you? Cats can be sensitive to the new environment that is a car, though. It will be stressful for them unless you make preparations beforehand to make them more comfortable.
Traveling with a cat in a car doesn’t have to be all bad. We can teach you how to make it go smoothly. Check out this vacation guide to learn more.
1. Get Your Cat Used to its Carrier
While you’re driving, the cat has to be in its carrier. If you let it wander around, it can become an adorable, fuzzy distraction that you don’t need. That and if you slam on the brakes, the poor thing will go flying into your windshield.
The problem is getting your cat used to the carrier. If they don’t see it as a safe space before their car ride, being in it will make them stressed.
Start Them at a Young Age
If you can help it, start carrier training your cat at a young age. Kittens are more open to new environmental changes than senior cats.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t get an older cat used to a carrier, though. You’ll just have a rougher time with it.
Keep the Carrier in View
It’s going to be hard for your cat to consider the carrier a safe space if they only see it when it’s time for a car ride. They’ll become anxious and hide from you every time the carrier comes out.
Keep it close to the ground at all times with the door open. Try feeding them in it or giving them treats for going into it. Make it inviting by putting a comfy pillow in it.
In other words, make the carrier into a tiny cat palace.
2. Teach Kitty to Love the Car
Now that the cat is used to its carrier, it’s time to make it comfortable with riding in the car. Cat’s are sensitive to all the sounds and movements that the car makes, so unless you travel with them a lot, they’ll be freaked out by it every time.
Here are a few cat car tips that will make things a little less spooky for them.
Test Their Limits
Before you can take off in the car, you’ve got to get your cat accustomed to all the sounds and movements that the car makes. Try things out by cranking the vehicle on.
Once your cat gets used to the roaring of the engine, test things even further by turning on the AC. Since you’re not moving, you can let the cat wander around the car and sniff around. When they get used to the AC going, turn on the radio to see how they react to music blaring.
Perform Test Drives
Time to dip your toes into cat traveling. Take small test drives around your neighborhood. Start with a short two-minute-long drive around the block.
Once they get used to going that far, you can push things even further by extending the trip to a 20-30-minute drive. Try letting the windows down during some of these rides to see how your cat reacts to the wind rushing in.
It’s Okay to Provide Comfort
If you’re going on a solo trip, disregard this tip. You can’t reach your hand back to comfort your cat and drive at the same time. If there’s another person going on vacation with you, ask for them to sit in the backseat with the kitty.
This way, there’s someone who can pet them and provide comforting words when they start their loud meows of distress. Having a familiar human sitting next to them might be enough to keep them calm, too.
Take Things Slow
Your cat is already stressed. Don’t make things worse by slamming on the breaks (unless you have to, of course). Sudden knee-jerking stops are enough to make a human anxious, let alone a cat.
As much as you want to get to your destination so you can check in to the hotel or campsite you’re staying at, try to obey the speed limit and take things slow for the sake of your pet.
3. Talk to Your Vet
You might be able to get your cat used to the car and not have to deal with any anxiety at all. For some cats, this is a pipe dream. No matter how much prep work you do, they still meow like crazy when the car moves.
If you still need to bring your feline with you, take them to the vet. They might be able to give you some kind of medication that will ease your pet’s nerves.
They can also stock you up with any prescription cat foods or medications that your pet needs. Even if you think you have enough, it’s good to have extras. The last thing you want is to get held up on vacation and run out.
4. Pack Everything the Cat Needs
When traveling with any animal, there is a long list of things that you’ll need to bring along. Pack familiar items that you can put in the cat carrier with them. Their favorite toy might be enough to keep them calm during the drive.
They, of course, need food and water along with travel safe bowls that you can serve them in. You’ll have to grab a litter box they can use for potty breaks. It should be easy to clean and small enough to fit in their carrier.
If you want your cat to go on hiking trails with you or let them out of the car so they can stretch their legs, you’ll need to grab a harness and leash. There are also backpacks you can get to carry your cat around in.
Your cat is going to want to do everything they can to escape the car if they’re stressed out. If you’re not careful when you open the door, they’ll slip out. If you pick them up and they scratch you, your knee-jerk reaction will be to drop them, which can also lead to them getting lost.
In these situations, you’ll be glad that you had some identification on them. Make sure their pet tag is easy to read, so if someone finds your feline they can give you a call.
As an extra precaution, get your cat microchipped before you go. You can never be too careful when it comes to identification.
6. Choose Where You’ll Be Staying
You’ll be able to sleep in a tent, in the car, or in a hotel. All three options come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. If you’ll be staying in a tent at a campsite somewhere, you’ll be a little limited as far as activities go.
You won’t be able to wander around shops in the area if the shops don’t allow animals. Staying in a hotel won’t leave you quite as limited because you’ll be able to leave your cat in your room while you’re gone. The only problem is finding a hotel that will accommodate your pet.
7. Plan to Stop
Your cat has to eat and use the bathroom the same as you. Plan for stops along the way so you can both stretch your legs and perform necessary bodily functions.
We’ll tell you that your cat might not eat and drink too much when you stop due to stress. As long as they get a little nourishment in their system though, that’s a win.
8. Leash Train the Cat
Put the harness on the cat when they’re inside the house. Give them a few treats while they’re wearing it so they associate it with a good thing.
Once they get used to the harness, add the leash into the mix. Keep your grip on the leash loose while the cat is still getting used to walking around with it on. If you have to, place treats on the ground to prompt your feline to walk around with you.
When they seem to get the hang of that, go outside on a warm day. They won’t want to be outdoors if it’s wet and rainy. If they seem a little hesitant about putting a paw out the door, toss a treat into the yard to give them a little incentive.
If they still won’t go outside, don’t force it on them. Take the harness off and try again some other day.
When they do finally decide to take that step, make sure you have a bag of treats with you. If you give them treats while they’re walking around, they’ll begin to associate the outdoors with something positive.
9. Bring a Copy of Your Cat’s Medical Records
You never know when an emergency is going to pop up when traveling with a cat. They could get injured or eat something that they’re not supposed to. Anything can happen.
That’s why you should get a copy of your cat’s medical records before you set out. This will make it easier for you to take them to another vet when you’re out of town.
If you know that your pet has some kind of chronic health issue, get on your phone and do a little research. Find out the names and numbers for all the vet offices on your driving route.
10. Preparing for the Day of Travel
On the morning of travel, make sure not to feed your cat their usual breakfast. It sounds mean, but if they’re traveling with an empty stomach, they’ll be less likely to throw up in the car due to nerves. You can always feed them a small meal either when you reach your destination for the evening or when you make your first pitstop.
Place a few puppy pads at the bottom of the carrier. You’ll give them a chance to use the bathroom in the travel litter box when you stop, but they may have to pee before then. The pad will have them covered if they do.
As you can see, cat traveling can get a bit messy. Pack a few rubber gloves that you can wear when you’re cleaning out the carrier and litter box.
11. Things May Not Go Smoothly
If this is your cat’s first trip (and even if it’s not), things aren’t going to go smoothly. Your cat will be nervous which, might cause them to throw up or pee in the carrier.
That’s why you need to be prepared with cleaning supplies and plenty of paper towels. The cleanup stops might cause the trip to take a little longer than expected.
It will be stressful for you but remember that it’s just as stressful, if not more so for your feline companion. Be patient with them and don’t let any setbacks ruin your trip.
Traveling with a Cat in a Car Successfully
If you can’t find someone to watch your cat while you’re on vacation, take them along for the ride. Some cats are fine with it, but others will become anxious due to the sounds the car makes. You’ll have to get them used to the idea of being in a carrier.
Use the tips you’ve read here to make your vehicle a safe space for your feline friend. Traveling with a cat in a car becomes much easier when you have the right accessories. Check out our shop to pick up everything you need for your trip.