How to Travel With A Cat In The Car
There is this belief, that cats hate riding in cars. A cat in a car brings images of howling, airplane ears, motion sickness and anxiety for everyone involved.
However, a cat who explores the world with their humans typically needs to travel in a car. It is the mode of transport where we take our cats to adventures.
It is interesting, when we asked the Catexplorer Community to share their experiences with travelling in the car with their cat we found that most cats in our community like travelling in the car!
Perhaps most cats who hate the car, don’t travel in it often. Their car rides may be limited to the scary visit to the vet or to the cattery, where they feel ‘abandoned’ by their owners – all of which associate car rides with not so happy times. No wonder they hate it!
On the other hand, cats who explore see the car as the mode of transport to an exciting adventure, a fun time. While they may not enjoy the potential motion sickness they may appreciate where it is taking them.
All this is great, but how do you train a cat to like the car?
Help Your Cat to Love Car Rides
As with anything, it is easier to train your cat when they are young, especially as a kitten.
As such, we suggest taking your kitten in the car as soon as they come into your family. You can take them with you on errands or other short trips. And as always, consistency is the key!
If your cat is no longer a kitten, don’t fret. You can still train them to like the car, it just might take longer.
Teach Your Cat to Love Their Carrier
Many cats also associate their carrier with negative experiences. Since the carrier is usually how your cat travels in the car, it would be ideal for your kitty to have a positive associate with it.
The aim is to teach your cat to enjoy spending time in their crate, this will encourage them to enter the crate willingly (no more forcing) and to see their cat crate as their safe space.
Start by feeding you cat near the crate. Then drop some treats into the carrier to make them comfortable with it. As they start entering the carrier on their own start giving them treats every time they are in the crate. If you have clicker trained your cat – you can use the same principles here.
Make the crate homely with blankets, and toys. Once your cat is comfortable with getting in on her own, provide them with a treat or toy and close the door, starting with short periods of time and slowly extending.
When your cat is used to being in their carrier, start carrying them around. This will help them get used to the motion of being moved. Then transition to short trips in the car.
Start With Short Trips
Once you are ready to travel with your cat in the car, start with short trips, perhaps around the block and slowly increase the length of time as your cat becomes comfortable.
Consistency is an important part of training. It helps reinforce what your cat is learning about the car.
Driving in the car with your cat once every so often, will not highlight this. So we recommend that you try and take them out as often as possible.
How to Transport Your Cat in a Car
A Cat Carrier
Catexplorer recommends that you cat travels in a carrier while in the car. This will help ensure that they don’t distract the driver or get tangled in between the peddles or other car related controls.
There are many types of cat carriers on the market –cat backpacks, mesh carriers, plastic carriers, wired crates, fabric crates and so much more.
The one you choose should depend on your cat, how big they are, how you will set it up, the space in your car and how you will secure it. Your cat needs to be able to stand, sit, lay down and turn around.
Some great cat carriers used by members of the Catexplorer Community include:
- A metal crate complete with a hammock, a litter box, food and a bed (sounds magic!)
- A dog kennel
- A big metal crate covered in fabric with mesh windows
- An airline crate
- A dog car seat
In order to stop your cat from sliding around in their carrier, you can use a non-slip bath mat. This may also help reduce the chances of motion sickness.
Some cats do not enjoy travelling in a carrier. As such they are secured in the car using a seat belt harness or their harness is secured to the seat belt.
Some owners in the Catexplorer Community are comfortable with allowing their cats to roam in the car while travelling.
This is mainly as these cats typically snooze in the back seat or in their lap and do not distract the driver.
This process also helps keep the cat happy and excited to watch the view as they go.
Preparing For Cat Travel With Your Cat
Preparing Your Cat
Ideally, you do not want your cat to be very hyperactive while you’re travelling in the car (who wants a mid drive zoomsies?!).
One way to avoid the zoomsies while you’re on the highway is to play with your cat before you get in the car. This will help tire them out and encourage them to sleep during the drive. Many kitties are tired after an adventure so are likely to sleep on the way home.
In order to avoid motion sickness we suggest that you do not feed your cat just before depature.
If you are nervous about taking your cat in the car, particularly for longer drives, we suggest speaking to your vet about using calming tablets or a pheromone spray like Feliway. Another option is to use a thundershirt.
Preparing Your Car
To help keep your cat calm in the car, you can replicate the feeling of home. Set up your cat’s favourite blankets, pillows and toys. If there is enough space, set up their favourite bed.
If you are going on a long trip, you can even set up a mobile litter box.
In hot weather, we suggest using window sun shields to help keep your kitty cool.
Once the Car is Moving
Like people, it might take your cat some time to settle in once you start driving. They may be rather vocal for the first few minutes. This may even be due to their excitement about going exploring!
Keep Your Cat Comfortable
To keep your cat as comfortable as possible, we recommend using the air conditioner/heater to keep the temperature regulated.
Some cats love music while others do not. Use your judgment to determine what music to play and at what volume. You can even play some music for cats!
Does your cat like travelling in the car? How does your cat travel in the car with you?