Travelling With Your Cat?
Whether it is an annual trip to the vet or a road trip to the cottage, if you are a cat owner it is more than likely that there will be times when you have to travel in the car with your cat. Here are some tips to make sure they are always happy and safe, and that you stay stress-free!
1) Is your cat properly restrained?
Having your cat loose in your car is a serious safety hazard for both your pet and you. Free to roam around the vehicle, your cat may distract the driver, and will be at risk of falling or being thrown in case of a sudden stop. Before you consider travelling with your cat in the car, make sure he or she is properly restrained. The best way to do this is by putting your cat in a standard wire cage or plastic crate, available at most pet stores. For longer trips, make sure the crate is big enough for your cat to stretch out and turn around. The crate should be placed on the back seat. To keep your cat from sliding around in the carrier, give them a comfortable towel to lie on, and roll another towel up under the back of the carrier, to level up the carrier floor. Generally, carriers can be secured by running the shoulder belt through the carrier handle. Many soft-sided carriers have extra loops that allow the seatbelt to pass through and secure the carrier.
2) Is your cat fearful in the car?
It is quite common for cats to become fearful while riding in the car. Imagine being taken from your normal environment, put in a box, and suddenly you are in motion in a car! Some signs of stress and fear in your cat are: panting, hissing, drooling, hunched posture and vocalization. For your sake and your cat’s you will want to do everything possible to relieve this anxiety.
Line your cat’s crate with a towel so they are comfortable and don’t slide.
If your cat has any favourite toys or treats, bring them along in their carrier/crate so that your cat has some form of positive association to make with the car ride. (If your cat experiences motion sickness in the car, skip the treats, and stick to toys).
Don’t be tempted to use catnip. Catnip actually acts to increase your cat’s level of stimulation and tension.
Reduce your cat’s anxiety by using Feliway. Feliway is a product that helps to calm and comfort your cat by mimicking the natural feline facial pheromone that happy cats use to mark their territory as safe and familiar. Read more about Feliway. This product comes in a diffuser or spray. For car travel, the easiest thing to do is to spray the surfaces and objects that will be travelling with your cat, such as the crate, blanket or towel, and toys. Use around 8 pumps for each application. Remember to wait 15 minutes before introducing your cat to the sprayed surfaces or objects to allow the alcohol in the spray to dissipate. (We also use this product in our clinic to reduce the stress level of cats coming in for appointments or staying in hospital.)
If necessary, there are medications available to calm your cat. Talk to your vet about the best choice for your kitty.
3) Does your cat experience motion sickness?
Nobody likes to be motion sick. If your cat is experiencing motion sickness, he or she may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, vocalization and urinating or defecating in their carrier. You can try covering the sides of your cat’s carrier with a towel to minimize any sideways view that may contribute to making your cat feel nauseous. Make sure there is still good airflow into the carrier if you cover the sides. There are also both prescription and non-prescription medications that can alleviate nausea. Please speak to your vet about what medication and dosage are right for your cat before medicating him or her. Never use human medications on your pet without consulting with your vet.
4) Will your cat need a break during your trip?
When travelling in the car for a long period of time with your cat, remember to make stops to allow your cat to use the litterbox and rehydrate. If you have access to a larger dog crate, you can use this as an enclosed area for your cat to use the litterbox and have some water while you are stopped. For safety, consider putting your cat in a securely fitting harness before your trip and keeping them on a leash while you are stopped. It is important to plan ahead and make a list of the items you will need to keep your pet safe and comfortable. Some items you should consider taking with you are: a water bowl, a litterbox and litter, toys, food and treats, blankets and towels, and any medications needed.
5) Is your cat overheated?
It is always extremely important to keep a close watch on your cat during your trip, especially during warmer seasons. Check up on them throughout the ride, looking for signs of being overheated or stressed. Some signs of your cat becoming overheated are: panting and rapid breathing, drooling, dry gums, lethargy and becoming warm to the touch. Your car should always be well air conditioned or have good air flow. Do not leave your cat locked in a hot car! Even with the windows cracked, even in the shade, even if you don’t think the day is that warm, a car can become fatally hot in a matter of minutes. If your cat does become overheated, move him or her to a cool area immediately. If you have access to cool water, you can drench a towel and drape it over your cat as well as holding it on their paw pads. Contact your vet as soon as possible, as your cat may need medical attention.