8 Tips to Prepare Cats for Car Travel

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In all my life as a cat parent, I have come to realize that cats do not like traveling very much. Mellie and I used to have this constant fight whenever I had to travel and couldn’t afford to leave her behind. She used to hate the whole travel thing and wouldn’t get into the car in the first place.

I later came to realize that cats associated car trips with trips to the vet, hence their refusal to get into the car. Wouldn’t you dread it if it were you? However, with time, I came up with ideas of how to make the trips more comfortable for her. These days, she gets into the car herself and waits as I prepare.

Let me share these 8 tips to prepare cats for car travel so that you have an easier time than I did.

1. Consult your vet first

This is the first thing I always do before I go on a trip with my cat. You may think I am paranoid, but traveling with an unwell cat creates another nightmare altogether. Going to places that your cat is not used to without vaccinations may also bring a terrible trip for you both.

Visit your vet’s office and let him/her perform tests on your cat to ascertain that the cat is of sound health to travel. The cat should also be given any shots or vaccinations to prevent illnesses due to the location changes.

2. Let the cat acclimatize to the car before traveling

I greatly believe in the saying “Practice makes perfect.” You may not be, but trust me, when it comes to traveling with your cat, you will have to make sure that the cat is used to the car conditions before you set out. Most cats may freak out whenever the engine is started if they not used to the car.

If the cat becomes frightened, let another person drive as you sit with your cat in the back. You can pet her and let her calm down until she gets used to the car environment. Often cats tend to be very territorial and would want to spread their smell around to establish a familiarity beforehand.

3. Consistency is always the key to the success of the journey

When it comes to taking care of your cat during a trip, you need to follow your usual routine, as much as possible, including food and medication.

Changing the diet might make the cat develop stress due to the sudden changes. Or worse, she may suffer from gastrointestinal upset. Check with your vet to make sure you have sufficient medication to last the whole trip.

4. The cat must be in a cat carrier

I know how much you love your cat and would like her to be near you at all times. During a trip in your car, though, you do not want the cat roaming unattended. Plus, you need to concentrate on the road as you drive and not on the cat lying on your lap.

In case of an accident (which won’t happen), your cat may become a very dangerous projectile. Even the well-behaved cat can get entangled in the pedals, making a mess.

5. The cat carrier must be comfortable

It is one thing to have a cat carrier on board, and it is another altogether keeping the cat cozy while feeling locked up in the carrier. The comfort of your cat in the carrier can make or break the trip. The cat should be able to sit, stand, and turn around in the carrier with ease.

In addition, the carrier should be well ventilated on all its sides and should have a gate or mesh sides. It can be stressful being all alone in a carrier, but being cramped up may make the cat break down. Also, make sure the carrier is lined with soft materials, both for comfort and in case of an accident.

6. Make the trip fun with lots of toys

The reason why cats hate traveling in cars is that they associate it with going to the vet. To eliminate this mindset, you need to make the trip more fun than boredom. It’s a great idea to bring along different sorts of toys for the trips.

What you should do is let your cat play with the first set of toys for a while, and when she gets bored with them, swap them for a different set of toys. As she plays happily with her toys, she will forget all about her travel phobia and associate it with fun.

7. Cat tag ID, leash, and microchip are a must

I had a run-in with Mellie once when she tried to escape from the car during one of the breaks while we were traveling. I was lucky as I got hold of her before she vanished in the middle of nowhere. Since then, these we never miss these things (microchipping is done once), as I may not be lucky the second time.

In case your cat gets away, the microchip will help you get her back, just as the collar. Before you set out, ensure the information on the chip is up to date for ease of identification of your cat.

8. Remember to feed your cat appropriately

Before hitting the road, ensure that your cat is well fed and has enough water to drink. Check with your vet for additional feeding instructions while on the road, as they may advise a light feeding to keep your cat from becoming car sick.

If you fear your cat will be very ill, then you need to withhold the food or water as early as eight hours before the journey starts. In this case, you might want to reconsider traveling with the cat altogether. One last thing to remember, be sure to let your cat use the litter box after a meal.

Wrapping up

Most of us love our cats so much that we would never want to leave them behind even just for a few minutes. If you always want to have your cat around you when traveling by car from one place to another, then these eight tips will come in handy. These tips to prepare cats for car travel have been proven to be effective and will contribute greatly to enhancing a better relationship between you and your cat while you’re on the road.

Author bio:  Melissa Kestner runs TheFilix.com, where she writes about everything from hydroponics and aquaponics to regular houseplants. She loves troubleshooting plant problems, and when she’s not knee-deep in her garden, she’s usually playing with her cat, surfing, or reading a book.

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