Because what’s better than bringing your four-legged friend with you?
As a twenty-something cat-mom with a very shy feline friend, traveling together has come with a steep learning curve for the both of us. My cat is a carrier snob. I don’t blame him; cats are natural explorers, and the carrier slows his roll. Thankfully, when he and I have a road trip ahead––whether it be an upstate New York journey or a Long Island shoreline cruise––there are plenty of tips and tricks I implement in order to make the ride as comfortable as possible for the both of us. For all of my fellow cat-parents and kitty lovers, here are five of my top tips for road trip and car travel with your furry friend.*
1. Carrier Training Consistency
Turning a cat’s carrier from foe to friend is no easy feat, but with persistence, time, and plenty of your cat’s favorite treats, it can be done. It’s wise to leave the carrier somewhere your cat likes to hang out at home a few days to weeks prior to your trip, so that your feline friend can get used to the sight, smell, and feel of your carrier as a comfortable spot to nap and lounge. Enticing your cat into the carrier with small rewards is also a routine way to help ease your companion into acceptance and eventual enjoyment of the carrier. Exercising consistency in this carrier-reward routine can help your cat enter and adjust to being in the carrier quicker, as well as keep you on schedule for your trip. No delay in departure if your cat is happy to hop in his carrier!
2. Pack Their Prized Possessions
Every cat-parent knows that your furry friend has a few prized possessions, whether it be a stuffed mouse toy, a favorite jingle ball, or a cushy throw blanket. Packing these items for your road-trip is essential in making your cat feel safe and comfortable. Lining the carrier with their favorite blanket, and including their favorite plush toy is a great way to keep cats feeling calm in the car. These prized kitty possessions often carry your cat’s scent, and when your cat is surrounded by a familiar scent, they’re much more likely to feel safe and stay calm throughout the trip. If the blanket or cushion they prefer is too large for the carrier, lining it with a towel or smaller blanket prior to the trip is a tried and true alternative method to keep them comfortable and safe, as they’ll begin to familiarize themselves with the new towel or blanket before you hit the road.
3. Late Lunch
Kitties aren’t immune to car sickness, but there are plenty of ways to make your next road trip ride easier on your cat’s tummy. To help avoid potential nausea and keep your kitty’s tummy from turning in the car, it may be helpful to remove your cat’s food and water from their bowls about one hour prior to hitting the road. Make sure you feed them a small meal right away once you’ve arrived at your destination, and remember: accidents happen! Keeping some cleaning supplies on hand is never a bad idea when traveling with your pet. It’s also important to note that when it comes to the health and wellness of your cat, you should always make sure to consult a veterinarian.
4. Buckle Up
One of the key elements to traveling with your cat is their carrier quality. Soft shell and hard shell carriers are both popular options with different benefits––a soft shell carrier is often padded, more easily maneuverable, and more easily stored, while a hard shell carrier is sturdier, typically unlined and requires a towel or blanket for lining, and more protective from outside stimuli. The most important aspect in choosing a carrier for road trip travel is not hard or soft shell, however, but whether or not your carrier has been verified as crash tested. Driving safely and in accordance with the rules of the road is crucial for any successful road trip, but especially when traveling with a pet. Purchasing a crash-tested carrier helps to ensure that no matter what happens on the road, you and your furry friend are more likely to be safe. And it’s always better to be safe than sorry! Your crash tested carrier should be buckled into the back seat of your vehicle for optimal pet safety. Never let your cat roam freely in a moving vehicle––it can pose a danger to both you and your pet. Instead, opt for a high quality crash tested carrier, and secure your kitty before yoR start the car.
5. Keeping Calm
There are plenty of methods for keeping your cat calm in the car, and plenty of trial and error that comes with finding what works best for your feline friend. Once you’ve made the carrier a safe and comfortable palace, packed their prized possessions and prioritized familiar scents, having a play session with your cat can help to tucker them out and help them rest and relax during your road trip. Talking to your cat in a calm and loving voice throughout the ride can help to keep them feeling safe and comfortable as well. For especially skittish cats, calming treats or prescribed medicine from the veterinarian may be a real asset in helping them during road trip travel. Some studies have even shown that cats can enjoy and be calmed by classical music, so throwing a couple classical tunes onto your road trip playlist can’t hurt either! No matter the strategy that works best for you and your cat, it’s always helpful to keep in mind that leading with patience and love is never the wrong move when traveling with a pet. Their home is wherever you are.