Travelling in the Car with Your Cat

One of the essentials of exploring with your cat is taking them in your car.

However, there is a stereotype that cats hate the car.

We have found that Lumos and Noxie are no different. Early trips with them in the car included pitiful meows, scratching at their carriers and potentially some tears from me as I was distressed at their unhappiness.

However, once we reached our destination – Lumos and Noxie were so happy & excited to explore. Because of this we decided that we needed to find a happy solution.

How our cats would love to travel in the car

Cats roaming in the car?

Lumos & Noxie love roaming inside our car. They love looking out the windows, and seeing what is happening outside.

However, this is not a safe while the car is on and in motion. They may distract whoever is driving. Noxie loves sitting on our heads and Lumos loves head butting us – imagine how distracting this would be, especially on a freeway while driving at 110 km/hour (68 miles per hour)? They also love exploring tiny spaces – imagine if they ended up between the driver’s feet? This could result in a serious accident.

A cat in a car is similar to a human in a car. In most countries, it is fairly well understood that seat belts save lives – they stop passengers becoming projectiles and being injured during accidents. A cat is no different, if they are not restrained – they may go flying in an accident with disastrous consequences.

Cat restraints and carriers that have been certified for car travel

In April 2018, Daniel & I were in a car accident. We managed to scrape through it with minor cuts and bruises thanks to our seat belts and airbags.

This got us thinking – what restraints do we use for our cats while they are in the car? Have their restraints and carriers been crash tested?

We stumbled across the Center for Pet Safety, which highlighted that majority of the “car-safety” harnesses and carriers for our pets have not been crash tested and may cause serious injury in the event of a car accident.

Center for Pet Safety have crash tested several harnesses and carriers. Unfortunately, all the harnesses that have passed the crash test are made for dogs and not applicable for cats. There are a few carriers that have been certified including:

Of these options we prefer the Sleepypod carriers. However, they are expensive and also a lot smaller than what we were happy to accept.

How we have travelled with our cats in the car

Not all cats have to be sad about travelling in cars

Initially Lumos and Noxie used to travel in the car in their K-Mart carriers. These are relatively cheap and look like the carriers typically seen at a vet. Lumos and Noxie do not like these carriers at all. Perhaps it is because they are relatively small and their view is restricted from it. We used seatbelts in our car to restrain these carriers.

Once Lumos and Noxie were trained to travel in their backpacks, we used these as their carriers in the car. We fastened the backpacks to the car using our seatbelts. Lumos isn’t bothered travelling this way. However, Noxie is not a fan – perhaps because her backpack is smaller than Lumos’.

We weren’t happy with either of these options as they were too small and of course, they aren’t crash tested. Ideally we would like a bigger crate that was crash tested and was within our price range. The carriers that had passed crash tests were about 3 or 4 times more than what we could afford. We understand why – the cost of the time, effort & materials to make a durable and safe product would be significantly more than the ones that we can buy for $20 in Kmart.

The carrier our cats use

We needed a carrier that was big enough and could be restrained in our car. We drive a Honda HRV and a Subaru Impreza, neither of which are really made for adventuring and carrying bulky objects safely.

We settled for a Pet Travel Carrier from Pet Joint. We choose it as it is in our price range ($50AUD), came in a size that would fit in our backseat (Large is 80 x 58cm) and has several windows that Lumos and Noxie can look out of. We fasten the carrier to our car using bungee leads and attaching these to the baby seat hooks (Lumos & Noxie are our fur babies after all) and to other hooks in our car.

Lumos & Noxie in their new carrier in the car

Lumos & Noxie in their new carrier in the car

Lumos and Noxie definitely prefer this carrier over the other options we have used. We make it comfortable by using one of their favourite blankets and give them some of their favourite toys. They love that they can see out the windows and spend a significant amount of time watching the road in-between the front seats – they were never able to see this before. They also appear to love that they are in the carrier together and that they can actually stand up and move around.

For the first time ever, we have travelled in the car without distressed meowing. In fact, during a recent 1 hour car ride, the only meow we heard was from Lumos as he woke up from a deep sleep and was confused where he was.

I won’t lie, I am concerned that this carrier has not been crash tested (let alone passed a crash test). However, for now I am happy that Lumos and Noxie are happy. I feel comfortable that we have secured it to the best of our ability.

Perhaps, one day we will be able to afford one of those bigger carriers that have been crash tested. In the meantime, this one will suffice.

How does your cat travel in the car with you?