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How To Travel With Your Cat: Our Tips For Acing Long or Short Journeys in the Car

We’re a nation of pet lovers. We don’t want our furry friends to miss out when we go on vacation or visit friends & family. That means having to conquer car travel with your cat.

In the US, we own 74 million dogs and 70 million cats. A recent survey also found that 54.6% of owners said their pet joins them in the car over 6 times a month.

But, traveling with your cat in the car can be stressful. So, how can you make the road trip with your cat a more enjoyable experience?

What are some top tips for traveling with a cat in the car? Image by Raindom from Pixabay

Do Cats Enjoy Car Rides?

First and foremost, cats don’t like the car. There, we said it. This is mainly due to the fact that the car normally takes them somewhere they hate - the vets.

Plus, felines in general are creatures of habit. They like routine and are averse to sudden changes.

That being said, with time and appropriate acclamation training, there’s no reason why you can’t travel long distances with your dog or cat.

So, what can you do to make your cat’s journey (and, consequentially, your journey) more comfortable?

Cats don’t like cars. Image by awlodarski from Pixabay

Tips For Driving With a Cat

Achieving cat-friendly car travel can be done. But there are some guidelines, hacks, hints, and tips to be aware of for optimal results.

  1. Buy a large carrier

  2. Try smaller distances first

  3. Make the carrier feel like home

  4. Ensure your car is a similar temperature to your home

  5. Keep them calm

  6. Don’t sweat little accidents

  7. Don’t just ignore them

  8. Schedule regular rest stops

  9. Have a quick access travel pack

1. Buy a Larger Cat Carrier

The best cat carriers for car travel are the bigger structures. These allow your pet to get up and move around during the journey. It also means they don’t feel closed in by their surroundings.

Get Your Cat Used to the Carrier First

You want to ensure that, prior to travel, your cat sees their carrier as a safe environment. One way to do this is to leave it out around the house in the build-up to your trip.

Putting a couple of treats in there for them too can be a great way to acclimatize them to the space and make them less wary of stepping inside. You can then start getting them used to having the door closed. Be aware though, training will take time.

Can You Travel With Your Cat Loose in the Car?

You should not let your cat out of the carrier while driving. It can be tempting if they start meowing for attention. However, it just isn’t safe for you or Whiskers.

Even the most well-trained cats can cause havoc when allowed to roam free in the car. If you want to get them out, it’s best to either wait for a scheduled stop or make an emergency pit stop for a fuss, treat, or walk.

2. Try Smaller Distances Before Going Long-Haul

When preparing your cat for car travel, another good way to start breaking down their anxiety is to take them on shorter journeys more frequently.

Not only will this get them more used to the car, but it will also show them that not every journey needs to end at the vet. Plus, it could provide the next step in your carrier training.

Once they’re comfortable, you can start increasing the length and time of your journeys. Then start to include a couple of stops too.

A ginger and white cat on top of a car. Image by Christel SAGNIEZ from Pixabay

3. Make Your Cat Carrier Comfortable

As we eluded to earlier, their carrier should feel like a safe space. If they're going to be in there for a few hours you want them to be comfortable, right?

One simple way to make it more like home is to include their bed and blankets. This is all about sensory comforts. Catching the scent of their own bed is calming. plus, it also offers a cozy place to snooze and helps tackle those habitual anxieties.

4. Check Your Car Temperature

This is one of our cat car travel essentials that many people miss. To help make the transition to your vehicle more comfortable, ensure your car is at the correct temperature.

If it’s too hot or cold it could shock your furry friend and start putting them on edge. So what is a good temperature?

Cat lounging on the hood of a car. Image by NiceGux from Pixabay

What Temperature Should Your Car Be For Traveling With Your Cat?

A good temperature for traveling in the car with your cat is around 72°. This is a good ambient number.

The cozy bed and blankets in their carrier will help on cooler days. But when the mercury starts to move upwards of the 80s, you should start thinking about ways to keep your cat cool in the car.

5. Try to Keep Them Calm

In addition to keeping them cool, you’ll want to manage their travel anxieties as much as possible. They’re already in a new(ish) environment, so you want to try and stay as relaxed as possible.

How To Keep Your Cat Calm On Long Car Journeys

There are some things you can do to manage their moans. Some great calming solutions for anxious car-traveling cats are:

  • Staying calm: your cat is perceptive to how you’re feeling, so don’t panic and stress them out.

  • Feliway® Spray: a vet-recommended, drug-free calming spray

  • Toys and treats: make sure to travel with their favorites toys and treats

  • Calming treats: think about giving them some soothing treats too - but get them used to them before you head out.

  • Pets: If you’re in the passenger seat, there’s nothing wrong with reaching back and giving them regular pets

6. Accidents Happen

Did you know cats can hold their pee for up to 48 hours!?

But, traveling long distances can be a new and stressful event, so it’s not unusual for their bathroom habits to suffer as a consequence.

Luckily though, there are things you can do to help avoid any accidents or uncomfortableness for your feline friend.

What to do about Cats Needing the Bathroom While Traveling in the Car?

Holding in their pee for the whole journey is fine - and you’ll probably find that’s exactly what your cat does. However, you could also try these three options:

  • Get a travel litter box

  • Skip their breakfast that morning

  • Prepare some absorbent pee pads

Cat Travel Litter Boxes

You can buy specially made cat travel litter boxes to help keep them regular during your trip. Or, if you prefer, you could also fill a closable plastic container with litter - it’ll work just the same.

If you‘re thinking of heading down this route though, ensure to use your cat's regular litter. Again, this helps to keep things feeling as “normal” and comfortable as possible.

Skipping Breakfast

Think about skipping their morning meal on road trip day. This isn’t a punishment, but it will help negate the chances of an accident happening.

Get Some Absorbent Pee Pads

As the old saying goes, “sh*t happens”. So even with all this prep in place, you could still end up with a little accident somewhere. But, again, it’s important to remain calm.

You could also pick up some pee pads and slip them into the bottom of the carrier. This will help keep the mess and smell to a minimum, they’re also easily replaceable. Probably best to go for scent-free cat pee pads too, as a perfumey pad might put them off.

7. Don’t Just Ignore Your Cat

You’re not keeping your cat calm when traveling by just ignoring them. In fact, you could be adding to the anxiety by just letting them be.

At every stop, if they’re calm and awake, make sure to pick them out and give them something to eat and drink. It can also be nice to reach back and give them some treats and pets every so often - again, do make sure they’re calm when you do this.

8. Plan Your Trip

As we’ve been saying throughout this blog, it’s super important to plan stops throughout your journey. Whether that’s 10 minutes for a quick walk or an overnight stay in a plush hotel.

Not only does this give you the chance of a rest and to stretch your legs, but it also offers the same relief to your pet.

Plan opportunities to give them food and water. But, also pitstops near parks or fields are a great chance to get their harness on and give them a quick walk around.

Ginger cat staring at the camera with a sunny background. Photo by Adam Neumann on Unsplash

9. Get a Quick Access Travel Pack For Your Cat

The final stop on our run-through of achieving safe and comfortable car travel with a cat is prepping a quick-access travel pack. This is super important for keeping them safe and entertained, but it’s also great for your confidence levels too.

As the name suggests, your travel pack should be easy to get into and kept within arms reach. But what should it have in it?

What To Include In a Cat Travel Pack

In your cat’s travel pack, you should think about their necessities. You know your cat better than anyone, so include the things they love. A quick general guide on what to include would be:

  • Their favorite treats and some calming treats

  • Collapsible food & drink bowls

  • Feliway® spray

  • Walking harness

  • Medication (if they take any)

Can You Feed Your Cat In The Car?

You should never feed your pet in a moving vehicle. Instead, wait for one of your planned stops and give them something to eat and drink then.

As we said earlier, it’s important to plan pitstops on your journey. These should coincide with your cat’s regular feeding patterns.

What’s Next After Conquering Car Travel With Your Cat? Somewhere To Stay?

Car travel with a cat can be a stressful thought. But, our tips and tricks will help keep a lid on those anxieties.

Now you know how to keep them safe and relaxed on the road. How about we take a closer look at pitstops and some of the best pet-friendly hotels in the US?

Plan in some of these spots on your journey. They’ll help make your trip unforgettable for all the right reasons.


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