Unlike their canine cousins, cats do not make happy travellers. As creatures of habit, they hate having their routine disturbed and tend to feel very vulnerable away from home. Travelling can therefore make them stressed, and you may have heard a fair few horror stories about what awaits you on a car journey with your cat.
While your cat is unlikely to ever be an enthusiastic traveller, a trip with your feline friend doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, as there’s plenty you can do to keep it comfortable, safe, and relaxed during the journey. Here are our top tips for travelling in the car with your cat, which will make your next journey as stress-free as possible.
Getting your cat used to the car
If you ever have to take your cat in the car with you, you should begin your preparations long before the actual trip. Ideally, these will begin when your pet is still a kitten, as getting it used to the sensation of being in a car early on will make it a lot more comfortable whenever it needs to travel throughout its life.
The first thing you need to do is get it acclimatised to being inside a pet carrier. Leave yours open on the floor and fill it with soft bedding, its favourite toys, and some tempting treats. Ideally, your cat will gradually make itself at home in the carrier, making it a lot more comfortable whenever it needs to get in it to travel.
There is some great advice on how to get your cat used to the carrier gradually here on Katzenworld.
The next step is to get your cat used to being in a moving car. To do this, you should start small — just a few minutes at first — and then gradually build up the amount of time you spend on the road over the course of a few weeks. Follow each journey with rewards and lots of attention to positively reinforce the experience and make sure your pet becomes more comfortable with travelling.
Get the right equipment
An essential item for travelling with your cat is a pet carrier. The ideal pet carrier is large enough for your cat to have space to move around, but not so large that your pet will slip around when you drive around corners or make emergency stops. It should be strong and lightweight and have a mesh door so you can see inside to check up on your pet. Getting your cat in and out of the carrier will also be a lot easier if it has a removable lid. For a carrier that ticks all of these boxes, pick up an RAC pet carrier, which you can buy from Argos with same day delivery.
Before you introduce your cat to its carrier, fill it with your pet’s favourite toys and, on particularly long journeys, a litter tray and some travel bowls full of food and water. This will help make it comfortable and provide it with everything it needs.
Spraying a small amount of feline pheromone in your cat’s pet carrier before you set off will also help keep it calm throughout the journey. Feliway make an excellent pheromone spray that you can pick up from your vets or online from MedicAnimal. Even if your cat is a good traveller, you should utilise this helpful spray to make sure the journey goes as smoothly as possible.
If you know your cat is a particularly nervous traveller, you can go to your vets for some medication that will help calm your pet down and prevent sickness. You should also avoid feeding your cat up to two hours before you leave for the trip — this will help prevent travel sickness.
Keeping your cat calm during the journey
To make sure your cat is as comfortable as can be during the journey, you should place its carrier out of direct sunlight in a snug place where it won’t move around during transit — in a foot well in the back of the car is generally the best place for it. It’s also a good idea to place a waterproof layer underneath the carrier in case of accidents, such as a water-resistant travel rug from Streetwize that you can pick up for half price at DriveDen.
Once your cat is secure, you can open the window to give it some fresh air. However, make sure to close it again if you need to remove your cat from its carrier for any reason, just to be safe.
When you take stops for fresh air, never let your cat leave its carrier — it’s likely to be shaken from the experience and is liable to run off in confusion. While it isn’t pleasant to keep your cat confined for so long, it’s better for its long-term safety if you don’t let it out until you’ve reached your destination.
Keep these tips in mind to ensure any future car trip with your cat is as hassle-free as possible. This will help reduce the stress for both you and your pet.