This article may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Unlike dogs who love to go for a ride in the car, most cats do not enjoy car travel and would far rather stay at home in their own environment. It doesn’t help that many cats associate a ride in the car with unpleasant activities such as going to the vet, the grooming salon or being left at the boarding cattery whilst you go on holiday.
Here are a few tips to help make car travel with your cat as safe and comfortable as possible.
Sturdy cat carrier
Cats let loose in a car can step on buttons to open windows, chew wires under the dashboard, or worse – distract the driver and cause an accident. To keep everyone in the car safe, put your cat in a carrier. You can either purchase one made of wired mesh and hard plastic, or use a soft-sided fabric bag. The ideal carrier is large enough for your cat to sit, stand, lie down and turn around in. Whilst a carrier may seem cramped, cats are usually reassured by small, secure spaces when they are scared or anxious. Make sure you secure the carrier to the seat with a seatbelt so that it cannot move if you are forced to swerve or brake suddenly, or place the carrier on the floor between the front and back seats.
The blur of movement and unfamiliar sounds outside the car window as the world passes by can be overwhelming for cats prone to motion sickness. Try moving your cat’s carrier from the seat to the floor where there is less movement and stimulation; you can also cover the cat carrier with a towel.
Some cats enjoy the cool breezes from outside, others don’t like the sound or rush of the wind through the car windows. If you keep the car windows down then locate the cat carrier on the floor and away from sunlight to reduce the risk of your cat getting too hot. If you keep the car windows up, make sure your cat is getting adequate ventilation, but make sure the cool air / heating is not directly on top of him.
Opt for soothing, relaxing music while travelling to drown out traffic and outside noises and help your cat remain calm. Avoid loud music with a heavy bass which is likely to stress your cat further. Some people sing or constantly talk to their cats whilst driving to reassure them.
Depending on the length of your car trip, you may need to take a short break. This is a good time to give your cat some water and provide a portable litter box for a toilet stop. Under no circumstances should you allow your cat out of the car, a nervous cat will bolt onto a potentially dangerous road and may not be seen again. Never leave your cat unattended in a parked car; temperatures can rise or drop in a few minutes putting your cat’s life at risk.
In addition to mild sedatives (which I’m not a personal fan of) there are a number of natural calming products on the market which may be beneficial if your cat is likely to stress-out when travelling. These include: Bach Flower’s Rescue Remedy, OptiBalance Stress and Trauma Relief Formula, and Feliway spray which you spray into your cat’s carrier 15 minutes before placing your cat inside. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what’s best for your cat.
Have you taken a car trip with your cat? What helpful tips do you have for a safe journey? Please share…
Caley Woulfe says
I have an SUV with a pet barrier. My cat(s) stay loose in the rear compartment with a litter box, and cat beds. They have harnesses and leashes on at all times, along with a collar with their ID tag and my cell phone number on it. The leashed are tied to the posts that support the head restraints, so even if they try to escape when I open a door, they can’t. This is for long distance travel, BTW. If they’re going to the vet I just pop them into a crate.
My cat loves car rides and has even traveled across the country with me twice. I didn’t realize this was unusual.
Traveling Cats says
I noticed that even short trips can be hell for cats. And the worst = high temperatures in the car.
Thanks for sharing. I’m a veterinarian and this is a huge problem when it comes to vet visits. Keeping the carrier out and open in the house for the cat to explore. Throwing toys and treat inside on a daily basis will also help your cat to not be afraid of the carrier. Thanks for spreading the word about this common problem.
The Island Cats says
That’s good info! I just had to take a ride to the vet, and I sang the entire way there. The mom says it was not a pleasant song.
Susan Farr says
Hannah is always quiet when she is on the way to the dreaded vets and she dribbles all the way so when we arrive at the vets she looks as though she has been for a swim! Lucy on the other hand likes to sit on the front seat in her carrier and look out the window.
Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx
Cathy Keisha (@CathyKeisha) says
My peeps don’t drive a car so I only go to the vet in a cab. I don’t like to travel cos I know what’s at the other end. Thanks for sharing.
That is such good advice. Cats probably should not be loose in the car for all those reasons; Good post. Take care.