How to Take a Road Trip with Your Cat

October 5, 2021
cat

Can you think of anything better than just having hours upon hours of quality time with your cat?

Neither can we!

But, if that quality time is going to be spent in the car, you need to make sure you’ve taken adequate steps to prepare for it. Don’t worry though, we’re going to tell you how to do all that, and more, in the short explainer below!

Plan a Cat-Friendly Route

You’ll want to make sure that the route you’re driving is “pet friendly” and has enough pit stops along the way so you can give your cat food, water, and a chance to use their litter box every two to three hours.

If your cat uses a harness or leash, you can even use this opportunity to let them stretch their legs and soak in the sights! That being said, we don’t recommend letting your cat out of the vehicle if you’ve never trained your cat with either contraption.

Unfortunately, a critical component of planning a “pet friendly” route means planning to practice caution with regards to the Coronavirus. This means you’ll have to avoid rest stops during their busiest hours and make sure you maintain six feet of social distance between yourself and other patrons. You’ll also want to make sure that wherever you’re going is not a COVID hotspot.

Find Cat-Friendly Boarding

You may be reading this header and thinking “Who in their right mind would take their cat on a long car ride just to end up at a hotel that won’t take cats?”

You’d be surprised. No, really. A lot of people do this, and it’s as irritating for them as it is for the hotels and beds-and-breakfasts who have to deal with them.

Don’t do this. Make arrangements ahead of time with wherever you’re staying and make sure they’re willing to host a cat. Luckily, this isn’t too much trouble!

Just use GoPetFriendly.com. They have a searchable state-by-state list of lodgings that will explicitly accommodate feline (and canine) friends at any price point!

Sites like Airbnb and VRBO also have a “Pets Allowed” filter that you can toggle to only display houses and apartments that are willing to accept pets.

Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier

In order to have your cat ride with you in the car, they’re going to need to be safe and secure in their carrier. This isn’t just for their safety either; a loose cat can distract you while you drive, impede your ability to brake if they get onto the floor, or even become a flying projectile during a wreck.

So, to make sure one accident can’t become three, get your cat used to the idea of staying in their carrier for long hours before you hit the road. Doing this is easier said than done, though.

Introduce Your Cat to the Idea of Carriers

Remember: cats love routine. If they’re not used to their carriers, you’ll need to spend a not insignificant amount of time helping them form friendly associations with it as part of their environment. To do that, you’ll need to keep their carrier out and about in  a place wherever your cat spends lots of time.

Keep it Fun and Enjoyable

Try playing with your cat in and around their carrier too! (That is, if they’re the playful type). Doing positive activities with them around their carrier is a surefire way to build positive associations with it.

Likewise, you may want to try spraying calming pheromones on the mat inside their carrier and then placing that mat outside their carrier to lower their stress response around their carrier. You don’t have to spray much, either – a little goes a long way when it comes to pheromones.

Reward them for their Courage

In addition, you can give them a treat or a body brush them as a reward for getting in and staying inside their carrier for longer bouts of time. Whatever you choose to do, just remember to be patient with your kitty and be repetitive. After all, the end goal here is to make your cat content with the idea of being in her carrier, so getting frustrated at her will only delay that outcome.

Get Your Cat to Love the Car

So, now that you’ve gotten your feline friend to enjoy staying in their carrier, the next step is to get them to enjoy being in the car. For many cats, a trip in the car means a trip to the dreaded Vet so, depending on your cat’s age and disposition, this may be a short exercise or a very long one.  Hence, this will require some work (and possibly, plenty, of patience) on your part.

Warm Them Up to the Car

First, begin by taking your cat out to the car while they’re in their carrier and setting them in the backseat. Then, sit next to them and remember the 3 P’s of acclimation: play, pet, and praise. Partially open their carrier door and begin playing with them or petting them – heck, give them a treat …or two, too!

Introduce Them Slowly to Change

After they seem relaxed, you can buckle their carrier to the seat. Now, turn on the car and wait. See how your cat reacts to the rumbling and sounds of your car’s engine. If they’re calm, then you can begin testing how they do with changes to the car’s environment by turning on the A/C, the heat, or the radio.

Take Your Cat for Test Drives

Once your cat has shown that they’re comfortable with these changes, now’s time for the real thing: driving. Just a short drive around the neighborhood is enough to test your cat’s comfortability with being in a moving car. Remember to never push the duration of drives over what your cat is comfortable with.

But, if your cat seems to enjoy being in the car, you can increase the length of time of your next test drive. Keep increasing your test drives’ length up until the day of the trip. Take your time in your preparation for getting him used to being in the car for long periods of time-as we said, cats like routine.

Plan for the Potty

The last thing you want is to end up having multiple hours of driving left and your car reeks of cat pee. Don’t put yourself in that position – get a travel litter box that’s waterproof, easy-to-clean, and collapsible, and get some litter that your cat likes.

A proper litter box for traveling should be large enough to fit your cat while they do their business without being too big to fit inside their carrier. As for the litter itself, you’ll want to pick one that is low-dust, easily scoopable, and has supremely efficient odor control.

Keep in mind that accidents will still happen even with the best litter box and litter that you can get your hands on. That being said, it’s probably a good idea to line your cat carrier with disposable liners or some old towels.

Make a Plan for how You’ll Use the Bathroom

Now, the above covers how to ensure your cat has all they need to go to the restroom. But what about you? You need to be able to use the restroom without risking your cat’s safety by leaving them in a hot car.

Don’t Go Far

To do that, you’ll need to be extremely choosy about where you do your business (we know you must love hearing that one!). Only use the restroom at places where you don’t have to walk very far to find a usable bathroom.

Keep the Inside of Your Car Comfy

When you do find a suitable location, make sure to park in the shadiest spot you can find and turn on the A/C. Then, move your cat’s carrier to the floor and make sure they have ample water before you get out and remember…lock the doors!

Keep Your Trip to the Bathroom Short

And don’t lollygag! Just in and out, use the restroom and get back on the road. Trust us, you do not want to find out what happens when you leave a cat in a hot car for too long.

Prepare and Bring Proper Everything Necessary

You know what they say: those who fail to plan, plan to fail. While usually this is said in reference to studying for tests or saving for retirement, it’s a perfectly suitable phrase to use when discussing planning your road trip with your cat.

Consult with Their Vet

To start, let’s talk about medical preparedness. If your cat suffers from any chronic illnesses such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease, you need to consult with your vet soon before you leave to make sure their condition will not prevent them from having a safe trip.

You’ll also want to carry hard copies of your cat’s medical records during your trip. These should include things like their recent exam notes, any test results, and the names and doses of their medications.

Prepare their Medicines

Speaking of medications, you’ll want to make sure that you have an adequate supply of your cat’s medicines or supplements, as well as any necessary equipment, before getting on the road. And since no cat is impervious to getting injured, you’ll want to pack a first aid kit that contains things like scissors, adhesive tape, saline solution, gauze, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes,3% hydrogen peroxide and Banixx Pet Care.

Make them Identifiable

Finally, as the ultimate safety measure, make sure that your cat has some type of temporary ID tag with your address and phone number. That way, should she get lost, she won’t be at risk of being gone for good.

Prepare their Food and Water

Now, let’s talk about the two most vital things to bring along: food and water.

Obviously, bring some. But,don’t feel like you need to put food or water in your cat’s carrier. As we said before: cat’s love routine, so you only need to make sure to stop and feed them at the same times of day you normally would.

Similarly, you only need to give your cat water while you’re parked. Putting a water bowl in their carrier, while in motion, is just asking for a spill to happen. You may want to bring a gallon of water that is the same type of water they’re used to drinking at home, whether that’s tap or filtered. Cats are notoriously picky, after all.

Of course, you may be reading this and wondering “But what if I want to give my cat something just to tide them over on the long ride? Will they eat something small, at least, such as peanuts?” Well, we have that one covered too, just click here to get your answer.

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