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5 Essential Tips for Car Travel with Cats

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So, you’ve got some plans in the works for a cross-country car trip. Perhaps you love the thought of an adventurous road trip; perhaps the idea of long hours spent in the car sounds absolutely dreadful. 

If road trips aren’t your forte, then you and your cat probably have something in common. The fact of the matter is that many cats don’t travel well. If you’re taking a temporary trip and have a friend or neighbor who can check on your kitty every so often while you’re gone, the best option may be to leave your cat at home in her comfortable, familiar environment. 

But what if your travel isn’t temporary? If you’re moving to another area of the country, leaving your cat at home isn’t exactly an option. (Depending on the bond between you and your kitty, maybe temporarily leaving your cat behind doesn’t feel like an option, either!) 

Car travel with cats requires careful planning and consideration, and early preparation is key. Read on for some essential tips to make traveling with your cat as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Tip #1: Visit the Vet

Before you set off on your adventure, make a visit to the vet for a check-up and to ensure that your kitty is up-to-date on all of her vaccinations. 

Tell your vet about your travel plans, making sure your cat is in proper mental and physical shape for the trip. Your vet will also be able to recommend any medications or supplements that could help with car sickness or anxiety. 

Tip #2: Choose the Right Carrier

You want your cat to be as safe and comfortable as possible during your travels, and a cat travel carrier is crucial for the safety of everyone involved. 

For starters, no one wants a curious kitty climbing across the dashboard or hiding by the driver’s feet while the car is moving. Keeping your cat restrained minimizes distractions, keeping the driver and passengers safe. 

If you’re planning to spend several hours in the car at a time, you may want to consider a larger crate—perhaps even a dog-sized crate. That way, your cat will have plenty of space to stretch, move around, and even use a litter box

For added security, we recommend choosing a cat travel carrier that can hook into a seatbelt. 

Tip #3: Practice Positive Associations

Cats are opinionated creatures. If your cat hates the car or her travel carrier, she’ll be sure to let you know! For a successful road trip with your cat, your best bet is to help her get warmed up to the idea well before the travel day. 

Spend some time helping your cat get acquainted with her travel carrier or crate. It’s critical that you use the same crate that you’re planning to use in the car. Set the crate in a favorite spot in the house, making sure it’s easy for her to enter and exit at will. Fill the crate with comfy blankets, favorite toys, catnip, and treats—anything that will help your kitty understand that it’s a safe, comfortable space. 

Once she’s feeling safe and comfy in her crate or travel carrier, take it for some practice runs. Start by closing the crate and carrying it around the house with your cat inside. Once she’s comfortable with that idea (this could take several days), bring the crate to the car and go for a short drive so she gets used to the feeling of moving.

If your cat is able to start getting used to the idea of being in the crate, it’ll be much less of a shock if she suddenly has to spend 10 hours in the car with no transitional period. 

Tip #4: Prepare a Travel Pack

You’ll want to make sure your cat has easy access to all of her essentials during the trip. After all, no one wants to spend time digging through boxes and suitcases looking for a particular item at a rest stop! 

Your cat’s packing list should include: 

  • Portable food and water bowls
  • Familiar food (don’t switch anything up during a transitional period, or you’ll risk tummy troubles)
  • Portable litter tray and scoop, with familiar litter (some cats are ultra-picky) 
  • Toys, treats, and catnip 
  • Medications 
  • Vaccination certificates and any other medical documents 
  • An identification collar with your up-to-date contact information
  • A harness with a secured leash (you don’t want your cat dashing out the door the second you stop at a gas station)

If your cat is taking any dietary supplements, pack those as well. We recommend Pet Honesty’s Wellness Cat Pack. Made up of Lysine-Immune Health+ Powder and Digestive Probiotics+ Powder, this tasty meal topper promotes healthy digestive and immune systems.  

Tip #5: Minimize Meals

Food may be your cat’s happy place, but unfortunately, food and car rides are typically not a good combo when it comes to cats. 

In order to reduce the risk of a carsick kitty, it’s best for her to travel on an empty stomach. Take away your cat’s food the night before your trip (or skip breakfast the day of, depending on your timeline). Depending on the length of your trip and your cat’s stress levels, you can try feeding her a small amount at a rest stop. Otherwise, wait until you reach your destination for the evening. 

Don’t skip out on water, though—hydration is crucial. Encourage your cat to drink water during rests stops (and use the litter box, if she’s not doing so while you’re driving). 

Remember that cats are creatures of habit, and traveling or even moving can be incredibly disorienting. Bring plenty of familiar, comforting items for your kitty, and be patient as she acclimates to her new environment. Your cat can pick up on your emotions, so try to remain as calm as possible throughout the duration of your trip. The more calm and confident you are, the more secure your cat will feel.