Cat lovers rarely like being separated from their furry companions, but when it comes to bringing them on a quick or long car trip, there are a few commonsense things to remember. That is, if you both want to arrive at your destination safe and otherwise not traumatized.
Place kitty in a cat carrier. It simply won’t do to have Felix or Fluffy roaming about the vehicle, getting in the way of your feet and the accelerator or brake pedal, climbing up on your chest and neck, demanding attention in your lap, or jumping up on the dash or rear window and obscuring your field of vision. The safest place for your cat to travel in the car is in a pet-approved cat carrier.
Give kitty time to adjust. Think about your cat’s first experience in a car, likely coming home from the pet store. The next few car experiences were probably going to the vet, not pleasant kitty memories. To help your cat associate car travel with more positive memories requires a certain amount of training. Allow your cat to sniff and explore in the car, with you in it, for about five minutes -- just long enough so that he begins to get accustomed to the environment but not so long that he squirms into tight cubbyholes. If he starts to get overwhelmed, take him back to a safe and comforting environment where he feels safe. You may even consider a mild sedative your veterinarian can provide, to make travel easier.
Surround your cat with familiar toys, blankets, food and water. One way to help make cats and car travel less stressful for all concerned is to put your pet’s favorite blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, or toys in the cat carrier with him. Also include a weighted water bowl and food bowl, especially if the trip will be any great distance or several hours. Pet experts say that feeding or giving your cat treats in the car and/or cat carrier for a week prior to car travel is another good way to gradually increase kitty’s comfort level. You might also need to place a litter box in the carrier for longer trips.
Breaks, windows, motion sickness and other precautions. If the trip will be a long one, be sure to take frequent breaks. Pet your cat to calm him but don’t allow him to roam outside the car. Cats will bolt in unfamiliar territory.
Also, while cracking the windows might seem like a good idea, keep in mind that some cats find the noise of rushing wind disturbing. Make sure the cat carrier is away from the open window, taking care that direct sunlight doesn’t shine in on your cat.
Some cats may get motion sickness in cars, so placing the cat carrier on the floor of the back seat may help prevent this. Be sure heat ducts don’t blow directly on your pet. If none of this works, ask the vet for a mild medication.
Finally, when you leave the vehicle, take your cat with you, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Cats and other pets left in a locked, closed car could be at risk for heatstroke or temperature-related injuries.