Most dogs seem to love the car. We always think of dogs with their heads hanging out the window, ears flapping in the wind, just happy and carefree. This does not seem to be the case with our feline friends. I have taken many trips across Canada with my two kitties in tow. Recently having finished a 26-hour road trip with my two domestic short-haired friends. I wanted to share some tips with you; to make your travels with your feline companions as stress-free as can be.
An absolute necessity for traveling is an enclosure that is safe, and large enough for your cat. A loose cat in the car is asking for trouble. A well ventilated space that allows for: food, water, a litter box, and a sleeping area will be needed.
Get them familiar with their enclosure prior to the trip. Leave it out in your house with the door open at all times if possible. If that’s not feasible, try to leave the enclosure out for at least a few weeks prior to your trip. This will allow them to acclimatize to the space. Cover part of the enclosure with a towel so they can look out if they want or have an area to make their den. Be sure to include bedding and some of their favourite toys. Try feeding them inside the enclosure so they learn to associate the space with positive things.
Enclosure with a second level perch
Do Practice Runs
Pack up your cat as if you were leaving, put them in the enclosure, haul it out to the car and go for a drive. It doesn’t have to be a long drive, try going around the block or a few exits down the highway to start. This may seem like a lot of trouble, but it will be worthwhile when you don’t spend your 20-hour road trip being serenaded by an angry, howling cat.
Take your cat on several practice runs prior to your trip. This will allow them to become more accustomed to the situation. Also it will give you a good idea of what to expect and what changes you may need to make. Several cat experts recommend doing weekly short car trips with your cat to allow for optimal acclimatization. Also they realize that car trips aren’t just for outings to the vet or other negative experiences.
Nutraceuticals and Pheromones
Sometimes a little more help is needed. Luckily there are several products on the market that are available to help your cat with anxiety. Pheromones are chemical substances that are produced naturally by animals which affect their behaviour. FeliwayTM, is a feline-specific pheromone that helps comfort and reassure them; spraying this on bedding that is put in their travel space will help reduce stress. Nutraceuticals can be a great addition to your pet’s travel plan, but be sure to try the product ahead of time. You may have to try several products before finding the one that works best for your pet. Anti-nausea medications are also available, as some of our feline friends suffer from motion sickness. Be sure to discuss options for medication with your veterinarian prior to travel.
Be sure to have the car warmed up or cooled down prior to putting your cat in it, depending on the time of year. Strictly indoor cats are use to a consistent temperature; keeping the temperature in your car close to that of your house will help. Enclosures should be positioned away from direct sunlight for extended periods of time and should be securely fastened in the car. Make sure the carrier is level; car seats are usually on a slant so a towel under one end will help level out the carrier and allow for a more pleasant trip.
When you stop for gas, coffee, or other human needs, be conscious of your cat. Do not leave them in the car with the windows rolled up or in direct sunlight, heatstroke can happen very quickly. Similarly, be conscious of dropping temperatures in the winter. An unattended animal in the car can not only be harmful to your pet, it is also illegal.
“I’m coming on the trip too, right mommy?”
Martin Veterinary Hospital PC wishes you and your four legged family member safe travels. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Laura McNally, RVT