Tips for Car Travel with Your Cat
Taking your cat on a road trip may not be the fun, human-kitty bonding adventure you’ve imagined. Kitties get stressed out easily, especially when their environments change, so traveling to new places full of unfamiliar smells, sights, and sounds is not high on a cat’s list of favorite things.
But if you prepare ahead of time, you can minimize your kitty’s discomfort and make road trips easier (and more fun) for everyone. Here are seven proven tips for car travel with your cat.
Get a safe, comfortable carrier
You can always try letting your kitty roam free, but remember that safety comes first. While your fur baby may appreciate having space to move around, left to roam free, he may get under your feet or pull some adorable antics that distract you from keeping your eyes on the road.
That’s why it’s best to bring a crate or carrier just in case. If you’re traveling alone, we’d recommend keeping your kitty in the carrier from the start, as you won’t have anyone to help you if your fur baby starts causing trouble.
When it comes to choosing the right carrier, here are a few things to look for:
Kitties excel at destruction. A strong, durable carrier will hold up against scratching and keep your kitty safe by providing a sturdy shelter. Whether you choose one with hard or soft sides largely depends on your own travel needs: soft-sided carriers can be easier to fold up and squeeze into tight spaces. Either way, choose a carrier made of high-quality, scratch-proof materials.
Road trips can be scary for kitties, and if they feel stifled or overheated, that just makes things even worse. The best carriers provide plenty of airflow and breathability, often through mesh paneling or multiple air holes.
You want your fur baby to be comfortable on the road, and you can do that by giving her a carrier with wiggle room, ventilation, and a comfy bed or mat inside.
Your kitty needs a little space to roam, but remember that cats love curling up in tight corners, so a carrier that’s too big may make him uncomfortable. Many carriers are designed to fit all sizes of cats, but it’s worth looking into different options if you have an especially small or especially large kitty. (No judgment here, large kitties mean more to love!)
A perfect option for kitty car travel is our Boop Coop cat carrier. Comfortable and well-ventilated, it includes a soft, removable mat for your fur baby to curl up on, as well as adjustable straps for carrying. Plus, it’s collapsible so you can easily store it between trips, and it’s sturdy enough to hold weight: maximizing your car space for better packing.
If you’re looking for something smaller, you might try The Transpurrter. This versatile carrier is easy to take in the car as well as on a plane or train. Designed to keep your cat safe and comfy, it features a slide out fleece mat and an adjustable strap or handle, plus a zipper pouch for storing important things like documents and kitty treats.
Get your cat used to the carrier
Before packing your kitty into her crate, spend a little time getting her adjusted. A few days before your trip, try leaving the carrier out in the living room, or another place your fur baby spends a lot of time in. Put your kitty’s favorite toys or blankets in the crate so she’ll be tempted to go in. If you notice after a day or two that your cat is having none of her new crate, you may want to sweeten the deal—literally—by putting a treat or two inside.
This way, your cat can get comfortable with the idea of being inside the carrier before she’s forced to spend hours at a time in it. And since kitties love boxes and hidey holes, she may even come to love her carrier, as long as you give her a little time to get adjusted.
Have your cat wear a collar and ID
Ideally, you already have a collar and ID for your kitty—after all, you never know when your little escape artist is going to pull a stunt. Of course, with a crate and a litter box, it should be easy enough to keep your cat from darting out the car door and running for who knows where, but as you know, kitties can be slippery. That’s why an ID that has your cat’s name and your phone number is a must for any road trip.
Pack all the essentials
In addition to a crate and collar, there are a few other things you should always bring when road-tripping with your kitty.
A clean litter box
Cats are pretty good at holding it in, but the last thing you want is a kitty emergency that ends with you frantically googling “how to get cat pee out of my car carpet.” Bring a clean litter box (your kitty doesn’t want to smell dirty litter for hours, and trust us, neither do you) and make it accessible so your kitty can relieve himself as needed. A good idea is a covered litter box that can fit in your cat’s crate.
A comfort item (or two)
Many kitties get stressed on road trips, and it helps to have a comfort item from home. Pack her favorite blanket or toy and put it in the crate so she can cuddle up with it when she gets anxious.
Your cat can doze in his crate while in the car, but once you get to your final destination, you’re going to want to have a comfortable place for him to curl up and nap. Bringing a familiar bed from home can help your kitty feel safe after the stress of a road trip and the uncertainty of a new place.
You never know when you’re going to need a treat to calm your kitty down or lure her back to you. Pack treats you know she likes.
Food and water
It goes without saying, but be sure to bring clean food and water for your fur baby, especially if you’re going to be traveling for a while. A trip is not the time to experiment with new food—your kitty will likely be stressed out enough with all the new changes to her routine, so pack food she’s used to.
Optional: anxiety medication
No, it’s not for you, it’s for the cat. Hopefully, if you follow the steps in this guide, your kitty will be just fine without medication. But if your kitty is especially nervous about traveling, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about getting him some medication.
Try a shorter trip first
Just as you had to help your kitty adjust to using her crate, you may want to help her adjust to a long road trip by taking a short one first. After she’s adjusted to her crate, pack her up and take a short spin around the block. Then go for a smooth 15-minute drive. Be sure to reward your fur baby with a treat after each trip!
Make as few stops as possible
While your kitty may be nervous when you first start driving, he’ll probably calm down after a few minutes when he realizes there’s nothing to be afraid of. But every time you stop, your cat has to get used to new sights, sounds, and smells. Making your pit stops few and far between will go a long way toward keeping him calm and comfortable on the road.
Give your cat a comfy, safe space at your final destination
Once you reach your final destination, it’s important to help your kitty feel safe and comfortable. She’ll likely be tired after the long drive, and stressed out by her new surroundings. Set up her bed (complete with the comfort items you brought) in a small, quiet place with minimal distractions so she won’t get overwhelmed. Set up her litter box nearby (clean it out first if needed). Then give your kitty some time and space to recharge. After a little rest, she should be happy and frisky once again.
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