Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: May 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Written by Vickie Fisher
You’ve probably already figured out that your cat is not going to happily jump into the car, stick its head out the window and “lap up” the scents and breezes in anticipation of traveling someplace “fun.” That revelation aside, the biggest difference between traveling with a dog and traveling with a cat is that in the case of the cat, it often appears that neither party involved in the expedition will be happy! However, sometimes, a temporary or permanent relocation makes travel a necessity.
You cat most likely won’t be any happier that the first step before traveling will be a trip to the veterinarian. Most states require a health certificate, and while requirements for traveling through a state will vary, most states are serious about rabies and will require a current rabies vaccination.
If you need to make a stopover along the way, make sure you’ve checked out the “pet friendly” hotels along the way.
Gather food, water, dishes, toys, treats and any other comfort items. Don’t forget litter, a litter box, plastic bags and paper towels.
Never leave your cat loose in the car
Ready to go? The very first and most important thing to remember about traveling with your cat is that it can be very dangerous to have a cat loose in the car. Always travel with your cat in a secure carrier. Cats will feel much more secure if confined to a carrier, especially if you include a little absorbent padding and something that smells like home. A bigger carrier is not always better. The carrier should be large enough for the cat to be able to get up and turn around.
Take the shoulder strap for the seat belt, run it through the top handle of the carrier and latch the carrier into place. Use a seat in the car where there is good ventilation. I can’t stress the importance of using a secured carrier enough. While we never like to think about an accident or an unexpected event, they can happen. With an open window or door, your cat could escape and become lost or injured. It’s not worth the chance.
Don’t fall for the pitiful meows and think that your cat will be happier out of the carrier. A loose cat in the car is a recipe for disaster. Loose cats can hide underneath a car seat, making it impossible to retrieve them safely at the final destination. Chances are, after some period of protest, your cat will curl up and sleep. You may want to consider a kitty harness and leash in case the cat must be taken from the carrier for some reason. Get your cat used to a harness and leash well before the trip.
Your cat’s needs during the drive: temperature, food and water, litter box
For summer travels, don’t underestimate how rapidly the temperature inside a car rises. While heat stroke is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, they can get it. If you find your cat becoming overheated, make sure you have cool water that you can rub into its coat to cool it down. Never leave your cat in the car, not even with the windows slightly down.
Cat guardians often fret about the cat being able to eat, drink and use the litter box during the trip. It may help to not feed a large meal in the morning of the trip. A full tummy makes your cat more likely to get car sick and/or have the need to eliminate. Chances are, kitty will be perfectly happy not eating, drinking or using a litter box for 8-10 hours, but if not, that’s why you’ve packed the plastic bags and paper towels in a handy place.
Have you traveled with your cat? What has helped you make the trip more pleasant for everyone?
Vickie Fisher is the president of the International Cat Association. For more information about TICA, visit TICA University
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.