Part 1: Making Your Cat Like to Travel the Car
For many cats, riding in a car is an unpleasant experience. For some, though, it is the worst thing that could happen to them (according to them, at least).
Before going on a road trip, spend some time getting your cat like the car.
Once your cat is at ease in his carrier, the next step in reducing his anxiety about vet appointments (or travel in general) is to teach him favorable car associations. It takes some time and patience, but the results are well worth it. This is how it’s done:
- Start early: Because kittens adapt more quickly to new experiences and environments than older or elderly cats, start the travel-training process as soon as feasible. Don’t worry if your cat has outgrown kittenhood: adult and geriatric cats can still learn to tolerate car rides.
- Try driving one exit on a highway and/or a short distance on a winding road after you’ve mastered driving at various speeds and around turns in your area. Some of the symptoms include drooling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you feel your cat is experiencing motion sickness, your veterinarian may prescribe a nausea-relieving medication like Dramamine. (Never give medication to your cat without first consulting your veterinarian.)
- Experiment with entering the car: Bring your cat outside, safely encased in his carrier (with its engine off). Wear a seatbelt and sit close to him. If your cat is quiet, give him his favorite treat. After he’s consumed the treat, bring him back inside and let him out. If he acts agitated or tries to exit the car, do not give him a treat and try again after a shorter period of time. When you bring him back into the house, let him out quietly.
- Once your cat has learned that sitting in the car carrier is appropriate, try starting the engine before giving him treats. Include this in your program, rewarding calm behavior with treats and stopping when tense behavior is noticed.
- Drive around the block a few times: After your cat has been quiet for a few minutes while you start the engine, try driving around the block and rewarding your cat with a treat. Repeat, increasing the time he needs to wait in the car before receiving treats. Repeat the exercise, gradually extending the distance you drive and complimenting your cat on his or her quietness. It can be beneficial to have someone else give your cat treats while you drive.
- Exclude motion sickness: If your cat is already having difficulty going in the car, see your veterinarian to see if he or she is experiencing motion nausea. Once you’ve reached a safe spot, step back and treat your cat if he’s done well.
- Driving to the veterinary clinic: If your cat is anything like mine, the twists and turns of the road can inform him where you’re headed. So, using the same approach as described above, familiarize him with the route you take to and from the vet’s office, rewarding calm behavior.
Part 2: Road Trip Checklist
- Check with your veterinarian: Examine your cat’s fitness for travel and learn what to do if your cat becomes car sick.
- Check your identification: Check that your cat’s collar has a legible tag. Make sure your cat’s microchip information is also up to date.
- Plan your pit stops as follows: Stop every 2-3 hours to offer your cat with water and access to the litter box.
- Bring additional supplies: If your cat requires any special food or meds, make sure to include extra just in case.
- Make your hotel reservations: Make sure any motels where you’ll be staying will welcome your cat.
- Prepare for stress: If your cat is easily stressed, speak with your veterinarian about possible medication.
- Give your cat some exercise before you go by playing with her. Give her something to eat and drink as well (unless your veterinarian directs you to do otherwise).
- Keep your cat in the carrier: To minimize accidents and keep your cat safe, keep him tethered in the car. Are you worried that your cat may dislike the carrier? Try these strategies to assist your cat accept his carrier at the start of your trip.
- Never, ever leave your pet in a moving vehicle! Cars heat up quickly, and your cat’s life might be in risk in a couple of minutes. Click on the image above to learn more about why you should never leave a pet in a car.
Wondering about Therapy Cats? Check it out on our latest post!