A Cat Clinic

Traveling with cats: Riding in Cars with Cats, Part II

Posted on: July 3rd, 2015 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

So you’ve gotten your cat used to riding in the car for short distances; now how about taking your cat on vacation with you? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a vacation home at the beach or in the mountains, and of course, you don’t want to leave Kitty behind all summer. Or maybe you’re just visiting Aunt Sally for a week, and she loves cats. Follow all the suggestions from our previous blog about car travel, and here are some additional tips for traveling with cats and getting there safely so you can both enjoy your stay.

1. Be sure to use a good carrier – do not leave cat loose in car. Even though the photo above looks so cute, this is not a smart way to travel! Leaving your cat loose in the car can result in a dangerous situation if your cat distracts you, or crawls under your feet. And when you open the car door at a rest stop, your cat may dart out before you can catch him. Get your cat used to the carrier well ahead of your trip and strap the carrier in for safety. See our previous blog post, Part I of Traveling with your Cat.
2. Never leave your cat in a car without A/C in summer or heat in winter (or if you are driving solo, run fast..)
3. If your cat is used to walking on a leash, use a figure-8 harness and leash so you can let Kitty out of the carrier at rest stops for a stroll. However, if she is not used to walking on a leash, leaving her in the carrier is safest.
4. Make sure your cat has a microchip! If Kitty will allow it, a collar with an ID tag is also most helpful. Although shelters or vets will have microchip scanners, a random person finding your cat will not.
5. Bring some paper towels and plastic trash bags in the car for accidents.
6. Bring your vaccination records in case your cat should require an emergency veterinary visit. Make sure all vaccinations (especially Rabies) are up to date, in case of escape or bite wounds (to Kitty from another animal, or by Kitty to a person).
7. Bring your Flea/Tick/HW preventives. Especially when visiting a rental property or someone else’s home, you want to make sure you don’t bring any unwanted pests with you or return with someone else’s.
8. Bring any other medications Kitty is currently taking.
9. Bring as many familiar items as possible: food, water dishes, bed or blanket (or t-shirt w/your scent), and brush/comb/ toys. A few treats may also be helpful.
10. Sedatives? As we said last time, talk to your vet about what’s best. If your cat gets really stressed with car travel, you may want to consider other options, like boarding or leaving with a pet-sitter. If you do need to use a sedative, leave plenty of time to try it before you head off for your trip. You don’t want to be guessing at the correct dose on the morning of a 300-mile drive, nor do you want to make a trip to the vet at the last minute because Kitty didn’t handle the medication well.
11. On arrival, keep your cat in a small room with as many familiar objects as possible. When Kitty is comfortable in her new temporary home (stops hiding, scratches on door to get out), then allow her to explore.
12. When possible and for short trips, keep Kitty away from other household pets and do not allow outdoors, where he could get lost. If he loves going outdoors, wait if possible and then start on harness/leash for at least the first 2 weeks.

Now that you’re prepared for taking your cat in the car with you, have a great vacation! But remember, many cats never get used to car travel. They are naturally homebodies and do not deal well with change. If that describes your cat, you need to decide whether the stress of car travel outweighs leaving your cat behind.

Sometimes, cat owners move far away. That may require traveling by plane. So next time, we’ll talk about airplane travel, whether domestic or international. Oh, the places you can go!