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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?
Law Walker says
I traveled all over the country with my cats…after a while just the one…always made sure I had the largest, most comfy crate I could afford, a/c on and the crate covered with a sheet. One specific trip from Maryland to Florida we did in 19 hours straight through and I was afraid to open the crate at the end because they were so quiet the entire time! My Manx made three trips from Maryland to Texas and back with me. He would roll around and just sleep most of the time! I guess, from reading all this, I was very fortunate!
It’s so great that you recommend using a carrier – holding pets in the front seat can be really dangerous, and just heightens their anxiety anyway. Happy travels!
Minimizing motion sickness is important. I saw a lot of cats suffer from this at the vet hospital.
Sweet Purrfections says
I’m worried every time I see someone who allows their dog to roam freely in the back of a pick up truck and it occurs frequently here in the South!
Suzanne Dean says
We also have very short trips in the vehicles with the cats and I have always used a seat belt to safely secure the carrier. I also talk to them the whole way. I did not think about the t-shirt, which is a perfect idea. I will definitely use that for the next car ride. Thank you for sharing these great tips.
EEEK! So scary to see something like that. I’m glad the dog was unharmed. Thank you for sharing these tips. We’ll share also.
Dolly the Doxie says
Great tips! Mom remembers living in Texas where dogs in the back of “”utes” were common and owners actually trained their dogs to ride in the back, it was completely accepted then. The cat only has to go a few blocks to the vet thank heavens because of the yowling! But, when mom first lived in Chicago she traveled back and forth to her parents in Michigan every few weeks with Danny. Danny loved the radio and every time she turned it off he started yowling, it was so funny! And he also had to be let out of his crate and ride in her lap (not recommended). Love Dolly
Talent Hounds says
Great tips. My cat Nala hated car trips. Kilo is always strapped in the back seat with a seat belt and car harness, Now looking for a new safe carrier/car crate – his crate is too big and heavy to move unless a longer trip. I had to sign that I would never let him loose in the back of a truck on his adoption papers. People don’t realise how dangerous that and sticking heads out windows or a sun roof can be, or even just sitting loose in the front seat.
Jodi Clock says
Some great advise! People seem to forget that cats, can and do get stressed out traveling.
Fur Everywhere says
Great tips! I am like you – I talk to my cats in the car.
When Jewel’s former owner had her, he would let her roam around in the truck while he drove. She was a rare sort and would just lay down by him for the whole trip. I would definitely recommend people put their cats in carriers and secure them in the car though.
Christine Caplan says
Crates are a super important tool for dog owners as well. I try to always have the dogs ride in their carriers even if we’re just heading to the park. Great post.
My kitties find it stressful to be in the car (which is my fault for not properly training them for it). These tips are excellent! I do these things whenever I take the cats in the car to help them make it through the ride. I like to sing to them. 🙂
Those are great tips. It is important to have a strong carrier and get them fresh air very often
Great tips and the music one is very interesting – no AC/DC for kitties!
Deb Barnes - Zee and Zoey says
Great advice – I know when my Mr. Jazz was still with us and we had to take frequent trips to the vet, having a safe and comfortable carrier made all the difference in the world for his well-being.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Mr. N likes riding in the car. He just dislikes being in the car in his carrier…. we’re working on it.
I have one cat that enjoys the car and one who hates it. We’re moving soon, so I’ll use some of these tips to make the ride easier for him.
Wonderful tips for traveling with cats! When I take my cats in the car, usually it’s to go to the vet, they go in a secure carrier. One of my cats just sits quietly, the other “sings” to me the entire way 😉
Annette @PetsAreFound says
Isa absolutely LOVES going in the car… Betty not as much, but they still both travel very well 🙂
These are great tips. My mom takes her cat on a long visit to my sister’s and making sure her cat is safe and comfortable is the top concern.
Lola The Rescued Cat says
Very good tips. I (Lola) have to be in a hard, sturdy carrier because I am an escape artist. (One time Mommy as driving through central park and I poked my head of of the soft carrier!) Lexy is fine in a soft carrier. She plays nice music and talks to us all the way to the vet (in between yelling at other drivers that they have to be careful because “I’ve got cats in here! MOL) She tries to make it as pleasant as possible because neither of us like the car.
Gus at As the World Purrs says
We just got back from our Grandma’s which is four hours away. Our mom does most of those things. Pearl and I do great in the car. Our brother Jaq not so much. This time our vet gave him some pills and he did so much better.
When the Cat is Away says
We’re travaeling far more often than we like to, but Mom is always carefully preparing our trips. She does most of the things you mentioned. She also makes sure to serve us our favorite food about 4-5 hours prior to our trip to avoid motion sickness.
We’re doing very well on our flights and transits to / from the airport.
These are all great tips! I travel a lot, as you know, and my human does many of these things.
Aimable Cats says
It’s about a five- or six-hour drive from where I live to the farm where Parker was born and my parents (and her mother) still live. About halfway there, we typically pause. I’ll order from the drive-through lane of the fast food place, and then I’ll use the restroom at the pet supply store — one of the few places where they’ll let me take her inside. Unfortunately, the chain of gas stations (local to the farm end of the trip) that pump it for you went out of business, so I have to be sure to fill up before I depart.
On this past trip, I sprayed Feliway onto a bandana I then tied around Parker’s neck, as well as spraying the inside of the carrier, and that seemed to help.
The Swiss Cats says
Great tips ! Mum does your first four tips, but we don’t like to travel with car anyway, and we let her know about it loud and clear. Purrs
Those are great tips! Thank COD we don’t have to go in the car too much. Hugs, Gracie and Zoe.
Happy New Year!
The Island Cats says
Great tips! The mom does most of these but we don’t seem to travel well no matter what she does. We still sing the song of our people when we’re in the car.