Traveling with a Cat in a Car Long Distances

traveling with a cat in a car long distances

You are probably already familiar with traveling with your cat.  This time it isn’t just for a stroll around the block or a quick vet visit.  You might be going a lot farther like across the country, or even to the mountains to go camping. 

If you’re going to be traveling with a cat in a car long distance then there are a few extra things you will need to know and prepare for.  Take a look and see how to prepare to travel long distances with your cat.

Plan Your Trip

Before going out on your long distance journey there are a few things needed to be done.  Once you have decided where you will be going with your cat the next step is to make sure you bring all the proper supplies.  What does this entail you ask? 

Any item that you will need to keep your cat safe and healthy.  Items you might bring are treats, food, a cat carrier, and many other essential items that are needed for both you and your cat to have a safe trip depending on the location.

Items to Bring for Your Cat When Traveling Far

The first essential item you will need when traveling a long distance is a cat carrier.  If you are unfamiliar with cat carriers then you can check out my article about the best cat carrier for long distance travel.  The next thing you should probably bring is some sort of cat harness and leash.  If you don’t want to keep your cat cooped up in a carrier the whole time then this is what you will need.  A harness and leash will keep your cat safe and secure wherever you may be going.

Don’t forget to bring a litter box!  The last thing you want to forget is your cat’s bathroom.  If you are using a carrier then it would be best to purchase one that will fit inside otherwise you will need to put them in the litter box every so often to let them empty their bladder.

If you know for a fact that your cat will not calm down during the long travel then it is probably best to sedate them.  Sedating your cat before traveling will make it much easier on the both of you.  If you need more information about this topic I have written an article you can read about how to sedate a cat for travel.

Don’t forget to bring familiar items from home like toys or blankets.  Bringing familiar objects from home will also help keep your cat calm.  The item itself isn’t what will calm your cat down.  It’s the familiar scent that is on the item you bring that will help with your cats behavior.  Also don’t forget to bring some sort of collar with his I.D. tag on it in case he were to get lost.  Some collars have a gps tracker, but those can be a bit pricey.  Although you can’t put a price on your cat if he ever goes missing while you are traveling.

Make Sure Your Cat Is Used to a Cat Carrier

Depending on the type of cat you have will determine how long it will take him to get used to it.  Some cats actually enjoy traveling and will adjust to it quite easily.  If your cat, on the other hand, does not enjoy it then here are a few tips you can do to help ease them into it. 

When you first get your cat carrier make sure to leave it in plain view with the door open.  Do not put your cat into it just yet.  We want to ease them into it.  They will most likely be curious and start checking it out.  This is normal.  Eventually your cat will wander inside the carrier once they feel there is no threat.  Once your cat is comfortable with going inside the carrier you can start to put him in the car with it.

Tips for Getting a Difficult Cat into a Carrier

If you have a difficult cat then there are a few ways you can get them inside the carrier.  The first thing you can try is giving them treats.  Simply give your cat a few treats when he exhibits good behavior towards the carrier.  Then go ahead and place a few treats on the inside.  Once your cat is inside the carrier you can go ahead and reward them with another treat.  This method rewards good behavior and teaches your cat that he is doing the right thing by going inside of his carrier.

If you have a very aggressive cat that won’t get into the carrier then you can wrap them in a blanket or towel and place them into the carrier that way.  Make sure to do this in a small room or bathroom to prevent your cat from running off and hiding. 

If you don’t want to wrap them in a towel or blanket you can simply use a pillowcase.  Just be sure to not close the other end of the pillow case while they are inside or they can suffocate.  This will give you enough time to place them inside the carrier hopefully unharmed.

Can I Take My Cat in the Car Without a Carrier?

Yes you sure can.  If all else fails and you think it would be easier to travel without a carrier then you must use a harness and leash setup.  You will need to make sure your cat is secure by tying the leash around the bottom of the seat or the safety hooks provided for children car seats. 

This will help keep your cat safe during your long trip.  It’s best to start with small trips to see how your cat will react without a carrier before taking them on longer trips.

Introducing Your Cat to Your Car

Once your cat is comfortable enough with his carrier you can place him inside the car.  Start small by turning on the car and just idling to see how your cat responds to all the extra sounds.  Try turning on the radio to see if it will help calm them down or make it worse. 

Once your cat seems comfortable you can take a small trip around the block and judge how he does.  If he shows heightened signs of anxiety or motion sickness then you will be better prepared on what to expect on longer car rides.

What to Expect During the Trip

Once you and your cat are comfortable enough with the carrier and the car it’s time to go on your trip.  Be sure to have gathered all the supplies you will be bringing with you.  If using a cat carrier then safely secure it in the back or front seat based on your preference.  If you will be traveling without a carrier then be sure your cat is securely fastened to a harness with a leash.

It isn’t uncommon for your cat to get motion sickness during a car ride.  Motion sickness in cats is very similar to what us humans get.  I have written an article on ways to help with motion sickness that you can read called how to prevent motion sickness in cats.  This article will help prepare you and your cat in case this were to happen.

It is also best to avoid feeding your cat a big meal right before a trip.  Traveling on a full stomach can contribute to motion sickness and vomiting.  Feeding them too much will put them at a greater risk for motion sickness.  It’s best to give them something small if you are planning on traveling a long distance with few stops.

Don’t forget to pull over every so often to give your cat water.  Water is very important for you cat especially when they are in a heightened state of anxiety.  Traveling will usually cause heightened anxiety which can contribute to dehydration.  If you do not know the signs and symptoms of anxiety in cats I have written an article explaining it more in depth.  Check out my article called symptoms of anxiety in cats for more information.

Taking Your Cat Into A Hotel

There will come a time while you are traveling when you will need to stop at a hotel with your cat.  Before booking a hotel it would be a good idea to make sure you know what hotels are pet friendly.  You might also want to check out how to pet proof your room before bringing your cat inside.  You can check out my article here called how to make a hotel room cat friendly.

I have also researched a few hotels for you that are pet friendly to save you some time:

Kimpton Hotels
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Best Western
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
La Quinta
Holiday Inn

Candlewood Suites
Red Roof Inn
Motel 6
Ace Hotel

If you want to do your own research for pet friendly hotels you can check out the following link.  You are able to search by city and state: https://hotels.petswelcome.com/

Don’t Forget About Car Safety

Be sure to keep all the doors closed and do not open them until your cat is secured in a cat carrier or a harness.  Opening a car door while your cat is loose can be a huge mistake.  This is one of the leading causes for losing a cat while traveling. 

Your cat will most likely be in an unfamiliar area and will not be able to find their way back to you or the car.  In case of an event like this it would be smart to have some sort of gps tracker like a collar in order to locate your car.

Final Thoughts

Traveling with a cat in a car long distance doesn’t have to be difficult.  If you do the right research and take the right precautions then everything should go smoothly. 

Traveling with your cat shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Make sure you take the time to get the proper equipment as well as training before going out.

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