Traveling With Cats By Car

Traveling with cats by car can range anywhere from stress-free to totally traumatic. Some cats are naturally better travelers than others, but there are certain things you can do to reduce the stress levels felt by you and Kitty.

Cat Travel - Tips and Tricks!

1) Do your homework beforehand

cat in suitcase

If you and Kitty are going to stay with a friend or relative, make sure they know what it entails first, they're totally happy with accommodating Kitty and that they are safely able to do so.

Someone who politely says "Sure, it's no problem" with a clipped, tense sounding voice may not really want Kitty to stay. And if this is the case, it's better not to take him; the stress for everyone concerned when Kitty is howling in the middle of the night because he's in a strange place, scratching the prized furniture and / or terrorizing the hamster just isn't worth it.

If you're going to stay in a hotel, motel, campsite etc. make sure it's cat friendly.

2) Make sure Kitty's vaccinations etc. are up to date

To minimize the risks to Kitty's health when he's away, make sure his boosters are all up to date. You could arrive in a neighborhood that's got an outbreak of cat flu, for example.

3) Make sure you take everything you might need

My motto when traveling with cats is don't assume anything. In other words, even if you're going to a 5 star cat-friendly hotel, don't assume they'll even provide food and water bowls, never mind anything else. Here's a suggested checklist of things you might need to take:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Food and treats
  • Bottle of water for Kitty for the journey
  • Litter box and litter
  • Small scratching post
  • A few of Kitty's favorite toys
  • Kitty's leash and harness, if he has one
  • Any medications - even if they are ones you only give occasionally and you think you might not even need them when you're away
  • Grooming aids - brush, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste etc.
  • Anything else Kitty regularly uses / needs

It may seem a hassle clogging up the car with all Kitty's paraphernalia, but believe me (speaking from experience!) this is preferable to traveling with cats to the back of beyond then having to try to find a pet store that sells Hill's Science Plan Senior Tuna flavor (or whatever.)

4) Put Kitty in a suitable cat carrier cat in carrier

Traveling with cats wandering freely round a car is never a good idea. Even the most laid back cats can get easily startled in a car, and when they do they could jump on your head, launch themselves at the steering wheel, scratch you in the middle of a difficult maneuver (I'm sure you get my drift here...) Even if a cat is laid back, there's a real chance he'll go onto the floor and settle himself to sleep under the brake pedal.

Click here for the pros and cons of the different types of cat carriers you can buy.

5) Only let Kitty out of his carrier if the car is locked and the windows are shut

On a long journey, you'll probably want to make comfort stops for Kitty, to let him stretch his legs, have a drink etc. But it's really important that he can't escape if you let him loose in the car, because frightened cats are much more likely to run off.

I'd recommend getting your cat microchipped anyway, so if you ever do lose him, for whatever reason, you're giving him the best chance of being found again.

6) Don't start Kitty's car experiences with an expedition

If your cat isn't used to traveling in a car, I'd suggest taking him on short trips with you first. This will get him used to traveling in the car and will prepare him better for longer journeys.

7) When you arrive, keep Kitty indoors until he's settled and familiar with his new surroundings

If Kitty's let out too soon in a strange place, he's more likely to get lost or run away. Only let him out when you're sure he's happy, settled and familiar in his surroundings. If you're unsure, don't let him out at all.

Traveling with cats generally gets easier the more you do it. Some cats adapt much more quickly than others, and as with most things the younger you can get your cat traveling in a car, the more comfortable he'll become with it. If you have a cat who's a particularly bad traveler, you can get a sedative to make him sleep from your vet.

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