For many, summer means road trips, travel, and adventures. For cats…not so much.
While there are many adventure-loving kitties out there, most of them would prefer to stay in their homes where they feel comfortable and safe. Sometimes, however, taking your cat with you when you travel is the best option you have for keeping your cat safe.
If you’re planning to road trip with your cat, here are 8 ways to travel safely with them this summer.
1. Visit Your Vet Before You Leave
Before you head off on your drive, it’s a good idea to check in with your vet to make sure your cat is healthy enough for travel.
For many cats, car rides are stressful, and stress and anxiety can make your cat’s medical conditions worse. Getting approval from your vet beforehand can keep your pet safe and help prevent costly medical bills while you’re away.
If you know that your cat has car anxiety, this is also a great time to talk with your vet about potential anxiety or anti-nausea medications to help keep your cat as comfortable as possible. If you don’t have up-to-date medical records for your cat, this is also a good time to grab a copy.
2. Make Their Cat Carrier a Safe Space
A cat carrier, cat car seat, or some kind of seatbelt is the best way to keep your cat secured and safe while the car is moving. To help your cat feel more comfortable, it’s best to get them used to the carrier long before you ever leave.
For most cats, the carrier is only brought out when they need to go to the vet. This builds negative associations for your cat and makes the carrier a stressful place. To help, leave the carrier open at all times in an area that your cat frequents.
You can also put a blanket or bed inside the carrier to make the area more comfortable and help it smell more like them.
3. Pack the Essentials for Summer Travel with Your Cat
Make sure that you’ve packed all of your cat’s essential items, as well as extras in case of emergency. You’ll want extra portions of food in case you end up stuck where you’re going for longer than expected and extra medications as well.
Here are a few things to include in your cat-friendly summer travel packing list:
- Litter box, scoop, and extra litter
- Food, including extra portions
- Drinking water
- Food and water bowls
- Collar and ID tags
- Something that carries their scent, like a bed, blanket, or even a scratching post
- Up-to-date medical records
- Medication and supplements, including extra doses in case of emergencies
- A few toys
- Treats and catnip
- A harness and leash if your cat is leash trained
4. Plan Your Route Carefully
Depending on the length of the road trip, you’re likely to need overnight accommodations. Whether that’s a hotel, an Airbnb, or a campsite, you should never assume that the place you want to stay is pet-friendly.
Instead, call ahead to verify with the rental location or campground that they allow cats. Many places may be dog-friendly and not welcome cats, so it’s important to do your research.
You also want to plan out rest stops. If your road trip is long, your cat will need time to eat, use the litter box, and rest.
If your cat is leash-trained, this is also a good opportunity to let your cat stretch their legs.
For more tips on driving long-distance with your cat, you can check out this other blog that I wrote when I moved from Cincinnati to Minneapolis with my two cats.
5. Take a Test Drive
If your cat’s only experience with being in the car has been going to the vet, you’ll want to do practice trips to help build positive associations.
Everything about the car can be scary to your cat–the smells, the noise, the movement. Starting small with simply putting their carrier into the car and turning it on can help ease their stress levels.
Bring treats, and reward your cat for calm behavior. This can help build those positive associations.
From there, increase the duration of your drives to get your cat used to being in the car.
6. Get Your Cat Microchipped
Accidents can happen, no matter how careful you are. If your cat escapes from the car or runs off from the hotel, a microchip gives you the best chance of having your cat returned.
Microchips keep a record of your phone number, name, and address. The first thing that many people will do if they find a stray animal is to bring them to a local vet or animal shelter, and there the vet or shelter staff can quickly scan for a microchip.
7. Manage the Temperature Inside the Car
In the summer, the temperature inside your car can rise quickly, even with the AC on. Cats are especially sensitive to heat, and even if you’re comfortable in your car, your cat may not be.
Always keep the inside of your car as cool as possible to help keep your cat comfortable, and never leave them alone in the car. Even if the windows are cracked, the temperature can rise almost 20℉ in only 10 minutes, and it can be more than 40 degrees warmer inside than the outside temperature.
That means your cat could quickly suffer from heatstroke or worse, even if you’re gone only a few minutes.
8. Use Pheromones to Make Your Cat Feel Safe
If you’ve tried easing your cat’s stress inside the car with positive reinforcement and they’re still anxious, pheromones may help reduce their stress levels.
You can spray their cat carrier, use a plug-in diffuser in your car, or even use pheromone wipes to wipe the area around where your cat will sit. The pheromones help send reassuring messages to your cat by mimicking the pheromones they use to mark their territory.
This helps your cat feel more secure in their new environment. These can be helpful for the hotel or vacation rental that you stay at as well.
Are You Ready for Summer Travel with Your Cat?
Including your cat in your travel plans can be a great alternative to leaving them with a pet sitter, and it creates an opportunity for fun memories. As long as you take all of the necessary safety precautions, your road trip should go just fine.
Do you have any fun summer travel plans?