As our society continues to expand our technological borders, we have become more of a traveling people. As we move cross country or travel for holiday or work, one of our main concerns becomes our cats at home.
As a result, more cats are becoming traveling cats and being moved in cars with their owners. There are other ways to travel besides car of course, but our focus today will be automotive kitty transportation.
The best way to start is with proper planning. Your cat is going to feel most comfortable if they are able to be in a tight, enclosed area such as a cat carrier. The carrier should have padding in the bottom such as a blanket and a pleasant surprise inside such as a cat treat or toy. A few days before your trip, place the carrier in a room the cat frequents.
Leave the door open and their natural curiosity will draw them to it. They will go inside, check it out and maybe even take a nap after they get comfortable with it. This will be their safe haven during the trip. You may even want to take a few trips around the block after your cat has become comfortable with the carrier and take a test drive.
The next preparative step needed is to get paperwork ready for your cat to travel. If you happened to run into trouble, the last thing you would want is your cat taken away from you by Animal Control. You should have a copy of your cat’s medical records proving they have been vaccinated and up to date on any needed shots.
You may want to make a folder with all your cat’s paperwork and a current photo; better safe than sorry they say. You should also get your cat a collar and tag if kitty doesn’t already have one, some people even get leashes, but I would not suggest a leash for this trip unless your cat has already been leash trained.
Make sure to put your cell phone number on the tag with kitty’s name so you can be reached while traveling. This may also be a good opportunity to get your cat microchipped if you would like to.
While you are getting vet records you may want to talk to your veterinarian about medicating your cat. This is a personal decision between you and your vet, but it is better to be prepared with knowledge and a possible prescription than trying to medicate your cat yourself.
Many people have suggested possible OTC medications to give your cat to help them rest easier during times of stress, however we want to emphasize the importance of never giving your cat any medications, human or feline, without specific instructions and permission from your vet.
The Day Before
The day before travel, you should think about packing for your kitty as well as your own things. Pack some favorite toys, a pillow or blanket that your cat enjoys at home for a familiar scent and comfort. Pack some food and a small feeding dish.
As for water, fill a milk gallon or other container that easily opens and closes with enough drinking water for your cat for the duration of the trip. Periodically you can pour water in a dish for your cat and offer it to them.
Any water they don’t drink you can pour back into the container so you do not have spills in the car. You can leave the food out if you choose; most likely if you forget to give your thirsty cat some water they will let you know they are unhappy by meowing – but don’t depend on them to tell you.
Another item to pack is a litter box. Stores do sell disposable litter boxes which may be optimal for a travel trip. They are smaller and lightweight but still can hold as much as a normal box. It would be normal for your cat not to use the litter box while moving in the car, but it is still a good idea to have one available in case they decide to.
Also when you stop for the night, your cat will be more active and will use the litter box. Depending on the length of your trip will determine how much litter you need to bring or how many disposable litter boxes you will need to buy. You may also need to scoop out the litter at each gas or rest stop on your trip depending on your cat’s comfort with driving.
As for preparing your cat, you may want to brush your cat and trim down their nails the day before your trip to prevent damage to your car or yourself.
The day of travel, your main concern should be on keeping your cat safe and protected inside the car. Keep doors closed and when you open them, make sure the cat is either in the carrier or safely away from the path of the door. Keep windows closed and be aware of where kitty is at all times.
When you cat gets comfortable with the idea of moving in a car it seems the natural reaction is to sit in the windshield and smash their face against it. If you are comfortable with this idea, perhaps you will be okay with letting them be in the window or passenger side, but do not let them occupy space in the windshield that may cause a visual block in your driving.
Remember safety always comes first, they can always check out the windshield when you stop driving.
Hopefully if you keep these tips in mind you can have a successful, stress free travel with your kitty. Remember your cats can read you and mirror your mood. It is possible for cats to enjoy traveling in your car with you – it is all in the attitude. Happy traveling!