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Earlier this week when I was driving home from a shopping trip there was a ute (pick-up truck) in front of me with a medium sized mixed-breed black dog unsecured in the back. We were both travelling at around 60 kms (37 miles) per hour and the dog ahead was happily darting from the left to the right side of the truck, with his ears flapping in the breeze.
A few moments later, the ute slammed on its brakes to avoid a car that had stopped quickly in front. The first thing I heard was the screeching of tyres and I watched in slow motion as the ute’s back wheels skidded out, burning rubber as the driver manoeuvred sideways to avoid a collision. All I could think about was the dog.
Miraculously the dog kept his footing and was unharmed. As the family continued driving, I was aware that the outcome could have been very different.
Pet Travel Safety Day
Today is Pet Travel Safety Day – a national day of awareness in the United States, which highlights the dangers of unsecured pets in vehicles and educates pet parents about how to make vehicle travel safer for their pets.
Unlike dog owners, most cat owners don’t take extensive car trips with their cats. Our cats only ever see the inside of a car a few times a year, when we travel to the vet clinic or the cattery – our longest trip is around 30-40 minutes, although it can feel longer and start to frazzle my nerves when Ava sings for the entire journey.
5 Tips to a Safe and Successful Journey
1. Strong, sturdy cat carrier
Secure the cat carrier to the seat with a seatbelt so it can’t move if you’re forced to brake suddenly or swerve to avoid a collision. If there are multiple cats in the car, use the space between the front and back seats, where the cat carriers cannot move. Never allow your cat to travel loose in the car – they are likely to distract the driver and cause an accident.
2. Minimise motion sickness
Many pets are prone to motion sickness and car travel can make them nauseous. In this case, place the cat carrier on the floor to minimise the blur of outside movement and unfamiliar sounds. You can also cover the cat carrier with a towel.
3. Fresh air and ventilation
Some cats don’t like the sound of wind rushing through car windows, so it’s usually best to keep the windows up and the air conditioning on. Make sure your cat is getting adequate cool air, especially during hot summer months.
4. Pump up the volume
Whilst you should avoid loud music with a heavy bass, which may stress your cat further, soothing, relaxing music, which drowns out traffic noises, can help your cat remain calm. Personally, I talk to the cats whilst I’m driving to reassure them.
5. Use calming products
Your vet may recommend a mild sedative for long-distance travel, alternatively there are natural calming products known to reduce stress in cats for short trips in the car. Try Feliway – a quick spray in your cat’s carrier 15 minutes before placing your cat inside can help immensely. You may also like to include your cat’s favourite toy, or even a t-shirt that you have worn (unwashed) so that your cat can smell your scent close by.
Car travel with cats is rarely stress-free. How does your cat react to being in the car? What do you do to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your cat?