There are times that we need to travel with a cat, such as taking them to the vet, moving houses or going on a holiday. Today I want to talk about how to travel with a cat in a car so that you are prepared for it when you need to do so.
Taking your cat to the veterinary isn’t as simple as putting your cat on your lap and driving off to the vet. Cats are terribly frightened when it comes to moving objects, velocity, g-force, darkness and not to forget, noise.
It is therefore essential that you prepare your trip very carefully for an optimal experience for both you and your cat.
To travel with a cat in a car, you will need:
- Good quality cat carrier
- Cloth or toy with your and their smell
- Towel or bed nappies
- (optional) sedation or travel medication
- (optional) food and water for longer travel distances
- (optional) health checks, passport etc for country border travel
First of all, having your cat on your lap while driving is not going to be an optimal experience. Even if your cat sits perfectly well on your lap, accidents are going to happen. The accidents I am talking about are not in the category of you crashing, although there are great possibilities for that too when your cat suddenly puts all its claws in you or jumps on the dashboard. I am talking about accidents of the bathroom type. They wet themselves or worse, while frightened or stressed.
A good cat carrier is of great value when traveling with a cat. A good quality cat carrier has enough space plus a bit more for your cat to be housed in. It has solid sides and a solid door that won’t open by the least of your cats violence trying to break out of it.
They have enough space for your cat to sit comfortable in and has room for extra’s such as the necessary towel, blanket and toy.
Cloth or toy with your and their smell
Another very important thing in these cat carriers is to put something in there that identifies with you. As such a used towel or perhaps even better, a worn shirt or sweater can help greatly. Your cat will feel more comfortable in their new surroundings, when they can still smell a familiar smell. You should also add a toy or something else that your cat has used before.
Towel or Bed nappies
It can be helpful too to add a towel or nappies to the cat carrier, so that eventual accidents don’t end up on your backseat.
Towels might work well, but even better, you could buy these square nappies or anti-leakage pads. They are usually sold at your pharmacy, because it is used for people with incontinence on their beds. They fit perfectly in your cat carrier and will help take care of the fluids.
Sedation or Travel Medication
When you take your cat to the veterinary, it is probably not too far away from your home (in most cases), so sedation is not a thing, besides, you want the vet to inspect an awake cat.
There are though those trips that are further away, like for example a holiday, moving houses or even transporting a cat that has been adopted away. You can sedate a cat before transport with an injection at the vet. This is usually done by a veterinary right before you step into the car or plane. Your vet can optionally also prescribe your cat special traveling medicine that calms your cat down for transport.
Food and Water (long distance travel)
If you are planning to travel for a long distance over a full day or several days, it is absolutely necessary to take food and water with for your cat that they can have at set times. Give your cat food when you are not traveling, such as when you are resting or having a meal yourself, so that they are not eating in a moving vehicle. Cats do also need to stay hydrated at all times. The extra food and drinks, also means that your cat carrier needs some form of cat litter box.
Health Checks, Passport etc
When traveling abroad, you might need to do some health checks some months before you are planning to travel. In some countries you need a pet passport. Be sure to check out the rules of the country or state you are traveling towards and your own country (look under travel with pets). There are a lot of different rules for different types of animals. Forgetting to do this can mean you do get stopped at the border or that your cat ends up in quarantine.
Cat In The Sack?
Getting your cat in the cat carrier can be a real drag at times. Even if you are the most skilled person with cats, it can still be a challenge. Often it is one where you will end up bleeding, if your cat is of the fighter type. We would value ourselves as pretty skilled when it comes to putting our cats in the carrier when we need to take them to the vet. Our cats are also very calm when it comes to us handling them, but there is always something about having to go somewhere they don’t want to go that sets them off in a wild bullfight mood.
On top of that we got one cat that can be cuddled and loves our attention, but simply hates to be picked up. This is the cat that we got most trouble with when it comes down to something as simple as giving worm treatment.
The Best method to put your cat in a cat carrier:
Keep your cat locked into an area, such as the living room or bedroom where they can calm down. Sit down yourself too and have the cat carrier ready and standing on a flat surface. Let your cat come to you or you visit him/her and cuddle with him. Now pick your cat up in the proper way and have her in your arms for a bit.
The next step goes best with an extra person, but if you are alone, you will have to figure out this one alone. With a difficult cat you will have to grab the cat in the neck. This will make them unable to move with their legs and now you can lift her in.
With an easy cat, you simply give a gentle push in front of the carrier and they will generally but slightly hesitant walk into the carrier.
Buckle Up And Go
Now that you got all the preparations done, it is time to buckle up and go. Buckle up literally, for the cat carrier will also need to be protected from collisions. Make sure you put a seat belt around your cat’s cat carrier, so that the cat carrier is locked into place. This goes as well for taking a cat on the airplane. Usually cats end up in the cargo bay, but in case of traveling by aircraft, they can also end up beside you on a seat in the cabin.
On long trips of many hours or days, it is essential to take cat food and water with for them, so they can eat and drink whenever they need to. Short trips to for example a veterinary, don’t need that type of treatment.
Common Problems During Travel
During travel with a cat you will come across one or multiple of the following “problems”
- your cat might pant and hyperventilate (anxiety)
- pee and feces accidents (very smelly and messy in the cat carrier)
- meowing in tunnels (they don’t like sudden darkness, sudden speed changes)
- smell of fear (sour smell in the car)
Some things that might help reduce your cat’s stress levels while traveling:
- AC temperature, keep them warm
- Music, type that your cats like can help reduce their nervousness
- Talking to/with them during transport.
Cat Care At Arrival
At arrival of your destination, proper care of your cat is advised. Cats can get car sick too. At the vet it is of course a matter of visiting the doctors.
Whether you are moving houses, traveling to a holiday house with your cat or arriving back home after paying a visit to the vet, you will apply the same care.
Your Cat Needs To Calm Down
Your cat needs to calm down after a travel and after a possible vet visit. It will take some time before their dizziness and disorientation wears off.
When a cat has been to the vet, they are often ill and are on medication or have had anesthetics and need to sleep it out. Find a place in the house where your cat can safely sleep out the medicine. As soon as the sleeping medicine starts to wear off, your cat might wake up and start wandering around. Since their body isn’t properly woken up on all parts of their body yet, they will start wobbling around. It is therefore key that your cat is on a safe location, possibly a low sofa or simply on the floor. Floors are often too cold for a sleeping (and medicated) cat, so it is best that they lay on a towel or cat bed.
Keep Your Cat Indoors
General rule of thumb for a cat that has been traveling or been to the vet for treatment is that you should keep your cat indoors for at least the first 1-2 hours.
On holidays cats should stay indoors at all times, but if they are used to the area and have been outdoor there before, they probably can go out after a couple of days acclimatizing.
When you are just simply moving houses, your cat should stay indoors for at least 2-4 weeks before you start testing to let them go outdoors. In the latter, cats might wander back to their previous house or don’t remember their way back to you in a strange location and area.
What is your experience with travel with a cat in a car? Please share your experiences below.