Most cats prefer to stay home. The car trip for cats often means a trip to the vet or, worse yet for furry cats, the groomers. Yes, a few cats love car transport, but they are the brave and the bold. Traveling by car with your cat involves some very important cautions for itinerant cat owners. Learn how to travel with your cat by car to make each trip safe and happy.
Safe car travel is best achieved by using a sturdy cat carrier. The carrier, for all cats can be either a soft sided pet airline carry-on bag or a small crate and either should be strapped to the seatbelt so each cannot move in the case of an accident or a swerve. The back center seat is the safest location. Multiple cats can be transported in a larger crate together in the cargo area of a van, SUV or station wagon. The crate should be secured so it does not move, in the case of a sudden stop. The open cargo bed of a pick up truck is a simply unacceptable and irresponsible location for a cat carrier, unless your cat happens to be a cheetah or a lion. If you have a convertible, put the top up when traveling with your cat, even if he is in a carrier.
Given the length of the trip and the size, you might be able to get a litter box inside. Covered litter boxes are recommended since they will not spill or splash litter in transport. Never allow your cat to roam outside the car on a trip no matter how much he wants to stretch his legs. Cats will bolt and finding them in unfamiliar terrain near a roadway is simply too nerve wracking and dangerous.
Safe car travel with pets suggests that windows are best left up, but if your cat is secure in the carrier with a study latch you may open the windows. Remember that your cat will probably be annoyed by wind rushing over him, so locate the carrier away from the windows, and especially away from direct sunlight that can heat him up unduly.
Some cats get carsick, either from actual motion sickness or nerves. In this case, locating your cat’s carrier on the floor of the back seat will help prevent his seeing outside and may help with motion sickness. Make sure the heat ducts do not blow on him excessively in that location. If you must travel for a long period with an overanxious cat, you may have to ask your vet for mild medication.
For long trips, it is advisable to secure cat food and water in the crate. One of the best car travel tips for food is that you should take all precautions to put the water in a sturdy-bottomed bowl and do not overfill or your cat and seat will both be soaked.
Don’t do it. If you absolutely must, do crack the windows, but not enough for an arm to enter and release your cat from your custody. Since pets left alone in a car have come to so many undesirable fates, you will have to think very carefully and monitor all conditions wisely before leaving your cat in the car, even for a few minutes.
And if you do leave your cat unattended in the car, do not release him from his crate. Roaming cats can step on a button and unlock the doors. They can even crawl into the area under the dashboard and chew on wires or become entangled.
Part of learning how to travel with your cat involves learning how to get your cat out of the car. If you have let him out of his crate in the car, and have succeeded in not having him lodge himself under the brake pedal, you will still have to collect and coral him before opening the door, as many cats will express their feelings about car travel by immediately running away. Keep him in his crate and you can carry him inside in safety, no matter how much he may resent having been taken on a drive.
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, “The Journey of the Shih Tzu,” Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.