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Traveling with Cats by Car: Do’s and Don’ts

March 5 2021
cat inside carrier traveling in car

You’re all set to head off in the car — maybe it’s a road trip, and perhaps it’s just a drive across town. There’s only one item left on the checklist: wrangling a very unwilling cat into your car.

While dogs will famously rush toward the car in hopes of joining you on any adventure, cats are not so excited about traveling. A car is a highly unfamiliar environment to them, with strange noises, vibrations, movements, and scents. But fear not — there are steps you can take to make it easier on them (and you)!

Understanding Cats’ Fears Around Traveling

As soon as your car starts moving, your cat is likely to respond by loudly meowing, whimpering, and looking around in a wide-eyed panic. This is no fun for either the cat or you. However, things like trips to the vet, moving, and traveling often can’t be avoided.

One of the joys of cats is that they are creatures of habit. They have their routines and become extremely familiar with their environment. That’s why they seem to explore every three-dimensional surface in your home. Take that environment away from them and put them in a moving vehicle, and they’re bound to take it as a system shock.

Cats are also extremely territorial. They establish their “reign” over your household and are quite content never to leave. However, abruptly relocating them can lead to a high amount of distress. Sometimes, your cat might even get motion sick and urinate, defecate, or vomit.

To be prepared for such things, you should be aware of some fundamental dos and don’ts for traveling with your cat. Being prepared improves your safety on the road, helps your cat stay calm, and makes any stress-related accidents your cat might have a bit more manageable. Here’s a list of what to do to make traveling with your cat easier:

Traveling With Cats: The Do’s

Here are things you should do when you’re planning on traveling with your cat:

1. Splurge on a comfortable pet carrier

Getting in a moving car makes a cat feel vulnerable and exposed. Help them stay comfortable and feel safe by keeping them in a cozy pet carrier crate. Such carriers are designed to create a confined space that feels non-threatening and within your cat’s control. It’s also dangerous to put your cat inside your car without a carrier, both for driving safety and because they might dart out the moment someone opens a door or window. This is as true for first-time drivers as it is for experienced ones!

2. Bring poop bags, towels, and cleaner

It’s especially important to have everything you need to handle your cat defecating, urinating, or vomiting while in the car. Once they do, the smell will quickly reach your nostrils and begin to feel suffocating in the enclosed space. By cleaning it up immediately, both you and your cat will feel far more comfortable.

This is also important to preserve the value of your car. Many pet carriers can contain pet accidents, but there’s always the chance it will slosh out or seep through the seams. Having your travel clean-up kit ready will prevent it from seeping into your seat coverings. Check out this blog on other bad habits to avoid keeping your car’s value high.

3. Give your cat a chance to get familiar with the car

Your cat may wind up being a little less afraid of the car if they already see it as “theirs.” For this reason, it’s a great idea to give your cat a bit of time in the car ahead of the trip to get used to it. Once they seem comfortable, you can even try to get them used to movement by doing short drives together.

One reason pets get scared of cars is that they usually result in a visit to the vet. Giving them positive associations makes them less likely to panic as soon as they see the car door open.

4. Give them their comfort items

Cats are quite attached to their beds, towels, blankets, and toys. Not only are these items comforting, but they also have the cat’s scent on them and make the new environment seem more familiar. You can also give them a toy to keep them distracted and content.

5. Distract them with treats

It’s perfectly acceptable to spoil your cat to help calm them down for a road trip. Give them treats to make the car feel like a friendlier place.

  1. Have someone sit next to your cat.

If you’re traveling with someone your cat likes, that person can sit next to your cat to comfort them. The sound of their voice will calm the cat’s nerves.

Traveling With Cats: The Don’ts

nervous cat inside car traveling

Without further ado, here’s what you should not do when traveling with a cat:

1. Don’t forget their meds, water, or food

It’s surprisingly easy to get so caught up with making your cat comfortable in the car that you forget their medication, food, and water. You may need to keep your cat’s medications in a cooler if it needs to be refrigerated.

2. Don’t let them outside without a collar and harness

Cats in transit are a huge flight risk, so make sure your cat has their collar with a nametag on it. You should also keep your cat on a harness with a leash to keep them from getting away. Keep this harness and leash on them in the car.

3. Do not give them free rein in the car

Cats respond to fear by hiding underneath objects — and if those objects are your gas and brake pedals, you’re in big trouble. A scared cat could also distract you from driving by darting around the car or damaging the interior.

4. Don’t forget to give them a bathroom break

Cats on the road will appreciate a bathroom break. Use their litter box and the same litter they’re used to. You can also line the bottom of their carrier with a puppy pad to prevent accidents.

5. Don’t leave them in a closed car

Even a cool day can lead to fatally hot temperatures inside a car. Make sure to keep your cat’s safety in mind when you stop and get out.

Baja Has Got You Covered

At Baja Auto Insurance, we understand that driving often involves our furry friends. We also believe car insurance should be available to everyone. That’s why we offer the most competitive rates and policies for motorists of all backgrounds. Contact us to see how we can help you save, so you and your cat can enjoy the open road (well, mostly you).