How to travel with your cat in the car

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

image002If 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

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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.

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32 thoughts on “How to travel with your cat in the car

  1. The reasons cited as to why most catz don’tz likez travel are very good ones but I have another one. I believe that a cat’z acute sense of balance makes ’em feel off balance while traveling in a car and therefore makes them uncomfortable as well. Most cats don’t even like to be carried; stroked, picked up, held on your lap and sitting on the back of your chair….if they put themselves there…but carried, NO. ~~dru~~

  2. I am extremely lucky. My cat travelled from Oxford to Liege several times and from Liege to Lyon nowadays. Each trip is above 700km (so between 7 to 9h drive). I gave her some medicine but the effect carried on for couple of days so I stopped 🙁
    I bought in Pets at home some medicine which suit her (for travelling and fireworks). But now, she doesn’t take anything. The best for her is: next to me, in her basket, door opened, she is attached with a special belt to the safety belt. She can walk in the car, she never comes under my feet!!! (I’m the driver!). She doesn’t go out anymore when I stopped (every 2-3h). She hardly miaows. She’s rather incredible as she recognises each place we’re going even after 3 to 6 months apart.

    1. You could always try valerian cushions for travelling. I would go for small ones though as they smell a bit intense. Valerian is very calming but wears off quickly. 🙂

      1. I tried Feliway. She didn’t like it at all! At home and for travelling; none was helpful. She does sit in the car if there’s space or in her basket, without saying anything, just making sometimes a little bit of noise to let me know that she’s ok!
        I’ll have a look for the valerian cushion 😉

          1. I never stop talking to her. Most are saying to me it’s a dog-cat… she’s unbelievable and when people see her, agree that she’s special.
            As you say, every cat is different! 😉

  3. Jamima has become a novice traveller. Starting with me not getting the tell-tale suitcases out until about 1 hour from go time! (Yes! Best she doesn’t have time to panic) polar fleece that smells like her Mum(that’s me) and some catnip in the cat-condo. She usually is hard to catch so luckily I’m one-handed so I outsource. My mum. The cat-condo goes behind the drivers seat with the front facing forward. It is covered with her special blanket so she has her own cacooned safe place. I can reach back and give her a few fingers to scratch her so she knows I’m there also. (I’m in the front passenger seat) there is usually music and she is snoring before we get to the freeway. Which is about 20 minutes. At the end of the journey, there is a house rarely visited but familiar. With lots of places to hide and things to discover. Good times!

  4. Cats and cars: let’s talk about it!
    I had only three cats that did loved to travel, one in his carrier, the others two absolutely outside, on the car seat. Thirty to twenty years ago.
    Today, my 4 masters of mischief hate, hate, hate to travel. No way. All my attemps since the last fifteen years have been failed 🙁
    Ciao
    Sid

  5. With all due respect, we have humans to get us anything we might need and we cannot think of any reason sufficient to get into one of those dreadful machines. Snoops and Kommando Kitty

        1. But you just drive the car to the harbour and onto the ferry 😉

          We’ve done that with friends and their feline companion LOVED hunting all the mice – got a bit scared of the squirrels though LOL.

          1. We need to think about it. We don’t go outside, so we may just stick with the mice we have at home. (we live in an old farmhouse, so they can get in) 🙂

  6. branston regularly travels a seventy mile journey between mine and my partners. however, he becomes psychotic when placed in a cat carrier (fairly scary with a maine coon) so he has a bean bag on the passenger seat, and a dog harness double anchored to the dog guard in my van, he’s happy as long as he doesn’t feel constrained and he can see out of the window. I’m fairly sure he’s not particularly stressed by it, because if he was he wouldn’t be chatting at the birds every time we pull up at the traffic lights in Knaresborough.

    we once had to detour round a back road due to flooding, and drive under a massive jet of water that the fire brigade were pumping out of a farmyard. I was terrified, branston found it fascinating. he does know the route between the two houses though, and if I vary it for any reason he tells me off. we call him the cat-nav.

    cows bother him though. when he sees cows in the fields he feels compelled to scream at them. he says they’re a threat to society. I have learned to avoid the back road by the dairy farm after we had to pull up to let the cows cross. branston started screaming at them, so the cows all gathered round to look because a cat in a van is appreantly the height of entertainment if you’re a cow. The farmer got very annoyed and had to come and poke the cows with a stick.

    He also hates cyclists, they have to be shouted at as well. I think it’s the lycra…

    however, this may all be he’s very much a one monkey kitty, he’s clingy at the best of times

    1. Fascinating! I always knew cats are good with directions but even in a car journey? That’s very impressive. 🙂

      You should do a guest post for him at some point. ^^

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