Cats are nocturnal animals and hunters, which is why they like to mark their territory and stay at one place. This is why any sort of traveling with a cat should not be taken for granted since it can turn out to be a big chore that can eventually turn into a real nightmare if precautions and preparations aren’t taken into account.
Of course, in cases when you need to take a longer trip or if you can’t book a cat boarding or cat sitting hotel in time, you might want to consider taking your cat with you.
This is why in this article we will focus on how to travel with a cat by car and give you some tips and tricks that you can use to your advantage!
- Will a cat feel safe when traveling by car?
- Safety regulations
- 15 tips to know before traveling with a cat in a car
Will a cat feel safe enough to travel by car?
Traveling with a cat sounds fairly straightforward. You place the cat in a car, start the engine and off you go, right? Well, the evidence and cat owners’ experiences suggest otherwise. The thing is – cats really dislike traveling!
So, what’s the big deal with cats and traveling? Basically, cats hate to change or adapt to a new routine that they never had before in their life.
Furthermore, cats are highly territorial and prefer to adapt to a specific and strict routine that offers them a simple and easy life. As such, this is why they need their own space, their own toys, and their own freedom. By harshly taking anything out of their ordinary routine, you are bound to have a cat that’s highly nervous and even aggressive in some cases.
That is why traveling with a cat by car can prove to be extremely difficult! Since the cat will feel the urge either to meow loudly or to show visible signs of aggression or dissatisfaction, you definitely need to prepare in advance. Especially if the travel takes around five to six hours.
The reasons why cats dislike traveling
To put it simply, cats originate from arid places with a lot of sun exposure and few sources of water. It is a scientific consensus that suggests this. Such harsh environmental conditions affected the cat’s biology and behavioral patterns. The most obvious influence is their common fear of water that remained present throughout their evolutionary process.
Another one is the exposure to the Sun and the life in hot weather, which is what drove them to become nocturnal predators, seeking a good place to sleep during the day and pursuing their prey during the night when the temperature stabilizes.
But that’s not to say that cats aren’t active during the day, as they can learn to be in tune with their owners. Anything can be done with practice and routine. And routine is the number one thing to remember with cats!
The one big advantage that you can have here is obviously if you manage to train your cat to take car rides from an early age. If not, don’t fear, we’re going to help you out with this one so that both you and your cat can feel good whilst traveling.
However, it does take a bit of preparation and some strategy to make this work, so be sure to have some free time and some dedication before you take upon this task yourself!
Your cat’ safety should be your top priority! However, as you drive you should also keep your eyes on the road and avoid any conflicts with the law. As such, some driving regulations should be met with care since some might ask that your cat is constantly in the cat carriage, whilst others might ask that on top of a cat’s carriage there is also a seatbelt holding the pet box.
In any case, you should consider that there are special regulations when traveling with a pet, so be sure to ask for information on all things concerning the pet travel as well as which places accept cats.
Not all motels, hotels nor hostels accept pets by default, and some might even ask for an extra fee for the pet. If you are uncertain, be sure to check beforehand and see which hotels offer the most ideal place for you to rest, but can also keep your cat feeling safe.
If you have found a place to stay for the night, be sure that it is not a big room since your cat will have a very hard time adjusting to it. A smaller room should make your cat feel at ease, but keep in mind that your cat might not want to exit the cat carriage or a pet box as soon as you enter the new room.
Your pet cat might feel uneasy about exploring the new location, but eventually, it will step forward if you offer it some food. Just in case, be sure that you also bring a litter box as soon as you make a stop for the night since cats usually wait for the ideal spot to do their business.
Don’t leave your cat alone even for a moment, as it can cause tremendous trauma to her! Even if you are going to a bathroom, keep the door open, especially during the period of transition between the cat’s exiting the cat carriage and getting adjusted to the new area. After all, it is very likely that both of you are tired and will want to sleep.
Be sure to keep the noise levels low, and you might want to try giving your cat some form of catnip or other cat calming snacks, which will help with falling asleep faster and resting for tomorrow’s day on the road.
15 tips to know before traveling with a cat in a car
Cats are known to slowly adapt to new environments, which is why we recommend taking a few trial and error trips in your local area. Keep these attempts of adjusting your cat to traveling under thirty minutes.
This is our first step, as it will show what you need to focus on the most by observing the cat’s behavior.
Start by simply being with your cat in a car for five minutes at most, without starting the engine. Then proceed to start the engine and keep it running for another five minutes.
Closely observe how your cat will react. If you notice that the cat is scared, be sure to pet her chin. That will definitely put your cat at ease. Eventually, you should gradually increase the time spent in the car up to thirty minutes. This will help you see how your cat reacts to the journey and see what can potentially cause anxiety or fear.
Your goal is to reduce all of your cat’s fear and anxiety so that you can have a safe and peaceful trip. You can check whether your cat prefers to be in a carriage or out on the seat, how it responds to either a pet collar or a pet vest, whether or not it is afraid as well as how it reacts to the car. Some cats might prefer to observe the outside, whilst others might take a nap.
2. Do not use the same carriage you use for veterinarian visits
If by any chance you were driving your cat to a veterinarian before, getting it into a car can be a potentially stressful situation.
Cats remember things by following a routine and use that memory to keep themselves away from danger. This is why cats will inherently fear the shower or the bathroom as well as any item which reminds them of the day they got a vaccine or a veterinarian’s examination.
Try avoiding the use of the same pet carriage or pet box since the cat can perceive it as a sign for going to a veterinarian. Vaccines or other unpleasant experiences can definitely leave a cat with trauma.
In fact, any combination of a cat carriage, car or a simple traveling experience could make your cat feel endangered and react angrily in fear. This is why a few adaptation trials without the visits to a veterinarian should be done at least a week before the actual travel plans take hand.
3. Get a helping hand
If you are going to drive a car, you will need some additional help. Especially if your cat will not be in a carriage! It is best to drive with someone who can take care of the cat, so be sure that you plan on traveling with someone if you are already taking your cat with you.
This person should either be a family member or a friend that the cat’s familiar with. Be sure that your cat has enough attention during stressful travels. Cats don’t like to feel bored and will actively seek attention.
Your friend or family members that are traveling with you will be able to take care of things like giving snacks to your cat or playing with her for a bit. In fact, you should take the same person along for the adaptation and adjustment runs so that you have the safest travel possible!
4. Prepare a cat litter box
Although this might come as a surprise for you, cats simply can’t take a nearby stroll in the wilds to do their toilet stuff. Dogs can do this easily, but cats are a bit different when it comes to such things. Basically, visiting a different place will leave them curious and threatened as they are not familiar with the new environment.
In fact, they might choose not to leave the car nor their pet carriage at all, and might even rush back into the car as soon as you take them out.
It might take over several hours before the cat is actually ready to do her business, so be sure that she does it in her litter box before you start the trip!
However, carrying a cat litter box should be mandatory since the cat is already adjusted to it and can easily finish the job even in the wilds or unfamiliar territory.
Another thing to pay attention to is picking the right spot for the cat litter box. Doing so in the open can be very unpleasant, especially if you suddenly stop in the middle of the city or a highway restaurant. Not all these places are pet-friendly, either.
The most important thing is that your cat feels safe enough. Hiding them from the sight will tremendously help them finally feel comfortable faster! Basically, you can use something like a curtain to “hide” the cat from the prying eyes. Your cat will appreciate it!
5. Food for a cat
Depending upon the cat’s usual routine and behavioral pattern, your cat might prefer eating a specific sort of wet food that you can’t really serve in a car. Carrying a metal bowl on a trip can be less ergonomic, but can save you a lot of trouble. However, remember that deeper bowls can be extremely tiresome for the cat as they can hurt their whiskers.
Carrying a specific travel-friendly cat food bowl instead is what we recommend! This is because dry food is the most ideal choice since it can be served even in a car in cases when you can’t stop, like for instance on a highway.
Of course, food snacks can help but travel shouldn’t affect a cat’s dietary schedule and the last thing you want is to have your cat with digestive inflammation due to suddenly changing eating habits. Gradually preparing your cat for the food that you will be giving her on the travel will leave you with one problem less to worry about.
You needn’t do this for more than a few weeks in advance, but gradually changing the food will help with both the cat’s behavioral pattern as well as its choice of food.
But there’s more! Do not forget to have a few food giving test runs in a car! If the cat refuses to eat dry food, there are always alternatives in snacks and specific travel-friendly food options to choose from.
6. Prepare for “just in case” situations
This sounds rather obvious, which is exactly the reason why many people often forget it.
Regardless of whether you travel frequently or not, there is no saying what sort of a problem can manifest when it comes to you, your travel plans, and travel itself!
As such, planning ahead for the unpredictable should sort of help you keep bad things at bay.
Usually, it should come down to carrying a few towels that you can use just for the cat’s needs. But don’t forget wet wipe tissues too! It is not that uncommon for a cat to feel dizzy or throw up in a car even after a few test runs during which nothing happened.
After all, it is a moving vehicle that can cause nausea in all mammals alike. Alternatively, you can ask a veterinarian for a good traveling medicine against vomiting for cats that you can use. This can make your whole trip a pleasant experience for both you and your cat!
7. Obligatory veterinarian visit
If possible, visit a veterinarian on foot. This will help make the cat feel at ease when entering the car. Keep the car a symbol of the cat’s peace and a place of fun activity! Or have a vet to come to your home if possible. This will help with the whole cat adjustment period to a car.
If you are planning on traveling by car and then taking another means of travel be sure that you have all the necessary papers signed by a veterinarian, and the kitty passport, too! Depending upon the location and its regulations, you should have a document that cites all the vaccines as well as any potential illnesses that a cat has.
The idea behind visiting a veterinarian on foot has to do with the adjustment period for a cat’s traveling by car. You will need to visit a veterinarian before you take the road, and depending upon where you are headed you might want to ask a veterinarian for the advice on all necessary things to prepare.
8. Double-check all papers if you are crossing the border
Your cat should have a biometric chip that holds some of the most basic of information to any veterinarian’s office. In some cases, you won’t be able to travel with a cat nor pass a border of another country unless your cat is perfectly healthy or has all the necessary health inspection papers.
You should ask your veterinarian but also ask the traveling administrative support whether something changed or whether there is a new law about cats traveling to specific countries. Be sure that you meet all the necessary requirements as some places won’t accept a pet unless it is in a cat carriage or a pet box.
In case your cat does not have any of these regulations, papers and biometric chip – consider a visit to a local veterinarian and explain your problems.
Veterinarians will seek the best course of action, but bear in mind to do so at least a couple of months before you want to travel. In some cases the biometric chip can be potentially dangerous, so be sure that you take enough time to see if it actually works afterwards.
9. Obligatory vaccination when traveling internationally
Preparation for traveling with a cat internationally will leave you with a massive headache unless you prepare in advance. We recommend checking all papers and protocols with the local veterinarian.
Checking all regulations should also be your priority, especially if you plan on visiting a country with specific rules. Seeking this either online or by the phone should give you all the necessary data, but also remember that there might be some other regulations or fees to pay that you might oversee or that someone else might have forgotten to mention or write down on a website.
These things can change in a manner of six months, as most pet regulations are usually active for that time period. Reviewing any changes is your priority if you travel internationally.
Another key element for when you travel internationally with your cat is knowing what sort of papers you will need. Although your pet cat can be already vaccinated against rabies or other illnesses since its kitten days, fact remains that pretty much all countries worldwide will need a certificate by a veterinarian that shows the recent vaccination and parasite cleansing.
Vaccination also needs time to prove that it is successful, so a blood sample should be taken by a veterinarian that shows that no illnesses such as rabies is presented in the cat. This procedure should be done weeks before the travel, so be sure to prepare at least a month in advance!
10. Removal of parasites
Another key element is to remember which papers depict which anti-parasitic and deworming procedures the cat received. These usually take no more than two days before the travel in some countries, but others might ask that the cat has been dewormed at least a week prior to the travel itself.
These procedures are necessary due to some countries’ strict regulations against disease and epidemics. Although they seem like too much of a hassle, they are mandatory and needed in order to keep both you and your cat at ease.
The differences in regulation severity may differ from country to country, since different countries might ask for stricter control and scrutinized procedures, whilst others might just ask for the pet’s papers and that’s it. Depending upon the situation or if the country is already having an epidemic of sorts, your pet might be needing to take a vaccine on the border, too!
In such extreme cases there will be a mobile veterinarian unit who will recognize your cat by either papers or by the use of a biometric chip scanner. We recommend that your cat doesn’t eat nor drink anything at least for three hours before crossing the border for these exact reasons.
11. Use a cat leash, cat collar or cat vest
Putting a leash on a cat doesn’t sound like it should work. In truth, cats have a very hard time adjusting to a cat leash. As most cats will stay away from exploring the new territory even if you leave them in an open field next to a car, there are still some cats that will try to escape and seek a nearby shelter if they feel threatened or angry with you.
There are different ways you can use put the leash on a cat. One is combined with a cat collar and the other is in combination with a cat vest.
Both your cat and you should always feel safe going on a road trip or traveling by a car for a prolonged period of time. As such, occasional leg stretching is highly advised!
A cat leash should be used simply as a method to stretch a bit and exit the car for some fresh air.
However, a cat collar might not be the best option to choose since it takes a very long period of preparation and adaptation for a cat. The sense of something constricting them around their neck could potentially leave them completely immobilized.
Unless the cat is adapted to this from an early age, chances are that it won’t even move with a collar. A good alternative to a cat collar is a cat vest since it won’t make your cat feel like something is holding her neck and can even keep her sensitive body at an appropriate temperature. We recommend cat vests if you are planning to travel during the colder days, or over a mountainous range where the temperatures tend to be low.
12. Adapt your cat to a new cat traveling bowl
This can be a bit tricky, so preparation is highly advised in this situation!
If you are planning on traveling frequently, having a new bowl specifically for giving dry food to your cat should be mandatory. But cats are picky themselves and won’t like eating from a new bowl without some preparation and routine firsthand.
This is why there needs to be an adjustment period for a cat to get used to a new bowl. This bowl should be somewhat more flat so that your cat doesn’t hurt her whiskers. In fact, we recommend carrying around at least four different bowls for any sort of a trip that lasts more than four hours.
This ensures that two of the bowls will be used for water, whilst the other two can be used for food. It even covers the possibility of losing one of the bowls, so it’s better to be safe!
You can still try giving wet food or a mix of dry and wet food in one of the bowls, but we do not recommend carrying wet food with you while traveling since it can cause problems like diarrhea for the cat, and the last thing you want is to have your travel ruined because of a cat’s bad digestion mixed with her nervousness.
13. Carry catnip or cat calming snacks with you
Cats adore catnip and you can use it to keep them calm and occupied for a long period of time. Catnip can be bought in pet stores or found online, but you should always check whether your cat is allergic or not.
Some cats can’t get affected by the catnip, too, and it can cause more harm than good. Always check with your cat’s veterinarian in order to put your mind at ease when it comes to things like that.
You can also try with calming snacks for cats, although these shouldn’t be used frequently and opting for a more natural way to treat your cat should be mandatory. If anything else fails, you can go with the calming snacks for the cats, but as usual – be sure to test it a few times just to see if it will affect the cat at all.
Some of the cat calming snacks can be ineffective and it all depends upon the stature and growth of the cat. If your cat is no older than six months, do not try to use the calming snacks as it may irreversibly damage their organism.
14. Prepare a cat calming spray
You can negate all use of the cat collar and cat vests if your cat likes the cat calming spray. These are fairly new on the market and can help with keeping your cat feeling satisfied.
What you need to do is to test whether the cat might like them or not. To do this, simply spray a little of it in the part of the room where the cat is usually found at. The cat can either like the scent and feel pleasant, or dislike it and show it in the sudden behavior change.
If the cat leaves the room it means that it is not working, but if the cat stays in the room and appears generally happy, then you can use the same for the car trip.
Be sure to spray a bit of it in the car, too, in the place that the cat will be situated at during the travel.
15. Carry your cat’s favorite things
Your cat might feel at home if her favorite toy is present. The toy might help the cat forget about driving as it will keep her focus on the old playing habits. Let the person who is in charge of the cat play with them, but keep it a minimal level.
The last thing you might want is to have your cat acting aggressive and jumping around in the car whilst you are driving.
The toy should be used smartly, meaning that it should only be used to keep the cat’s attention away from other things.
Other things that you can carry are the cat’s blanket or a pillow, as well as her favorite chewing snacks that help with the teeth’s health. Simply put, bring whatever you can use to keep your cat occupied as you are traveling by car.
How do you prepare for traveling with your cat? Have you traveled with your cat in a car before? Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments below.