Perhaps you don’t like to fly, or you’d rather see the country by taking a road trip instead of flying to your destination. Either way, you’ve decided you want to take your cat with you but you know that he doesn’t like traveling on the road. Follow these five easy tips for keeping your cat calm and happy while on a road trip:
- Prepare your car by ensuring that your cat can’t climb underneath the seats. Cats want to hide when they’re frightened, but they can get stuck underneath seats in vehicles. You may want to leave their carrier open on the floor just behind the seats so they have a safe place to hide if they want.
- Make sure there are soft blankets familiar to your cat in his carrier and on the backseat. If your cat prefers a particular blanket at home, use that one. Familiar scents will help him feel more secure.
- Keep an open litter box in the car for your cat to use. Depending on how stressed he feels, he may or may not use it but it’s best to have it available so there aren’t any accidents. Disposable litter boxes work well for this.
- Keep your cat’s favorite canned food available, and give some to him at rest stops and gas stops. Also keep water available. Here, too, your cat may not want to eat or drink very much, but it’s a good idea to make sure he can if he wants to. If he won’t eat canned food, give him his regular dry food, but make sure he has water available too and do your best to get him to drink. Canned food is better because it’s moist, so if he eats even a little he’ll get some water that way. It’ll help reduce the risk dehydration in case he doesn’t want to drink.
- Always put your cat back in his carrier, and close it securely, before opening any doors or windows in your car or at your hotel. Because he’s nervous he may want to bolt, or if he’s naturally curious he may try to sneak outside when you open the door or window. You’ll be in an unfamiliar area; you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you might lose your cat for good.
Some places, in cracking down on distracted driving, are also going after people who have pets loose in their cars. If your cat is going to be a too much of a distraction, or if you’re worried about his safety should you get into an accident, you may want to keep him in his carrier for the whole trip. However, he will need a bigger carrier for a road trip than he does for a trip to the vet’s office because he’ll be stuck in there for hours at a time, possibly over the course of several days. He’ll need room to stretch out and move, not just stand up and turn around.
It’s also important to note that every state in the U.S. has laws on the books regarding rabies shots. Before traveling (either by road or by plane), make sure your cat’s vaccinations are up-to-date and do research on the laws at your destination and in any states in between, and carry his rabies certification with you in case you’re asked to provide it.
Finally, do not sedate him unless he is known to be hyperactive or unusually frightened while traveling in the car. It may seem like the best solution for his crying and his nerves, but there’s a difference between what’s easy for you and what’s best for your cat. Most cats will generally calm down after awhile in the car, and may even eventually go to sleep. If you still feel that your want to sedate your cat, talk to your veterinarian first to decide whether it’s necessary, and to see if there are alternatives to traditional sedatives.
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