7 Tips On Preparing Your Cat For Car Travel

You would think with nine lives, cats would be a little bit more adventurous and open to traveling. But no, cats loathe traveling. If anything, they would rather skip the whole experience altogether.

So here you are, presented with an opportunity to hit the road and you want to bring your cat along. What do you do? Stick him in the back seat and get going? Absolutely not! In fact, far from it.

Cats About To Go For A Car Ride

Unfortunately, cats are not like dogs; you can't just put them in the car, roll a window down and tell them to behave. Before you know it, he will be on the roof of the car or on the dashboard or even curled between your legs. All things which you don't need while driving. These little creatures are spooked by traveling and would rather stay in a familiar environment (home).

However, we’ve all seen it happen before, cats riding comfortably in cars with their owners. Meaning it can be done. It will take a bit of time and patience, but this is how to prepare your cat for car travel. Enjoy!

​Safety And Comfort First: Use A Pet Carrier

The first and most important rule of traveling with your pet is to keep them in a carrier.  This especially applies to cats which are small and quite curious. Even if your cat is well behaved, letting him loose in the car poses a threat to the both of you. He might hop on the dashboard or go under your feet while driving, increasing your chances of causing an accident. You most certainly don’t want him out in the open if he is all spooked about traveling. 

The hard part is getting your cat to accept going into their carrier. Once this is out of the way, you guys are halfway there. We touch on this in a bit. First, what type of carrier should you get your cat?

Cats And Car Travel

​Choose A Suitable Carrier For Kitty

There are several pet carriers out there, the main difference is usually the material it comes made in. In this case, you’ve got fabric, plastic and metal carriers. I’m not a big fan of metallic pet carriers because of their cage-like feel and most of them don’t meet airline regulations so you may have a hard time air traveling. The main features to look out for when going for a cat carrier are space, ventilation, ease of carrying and comfort. We put together a great cat carrier buying guide on this very subject if you need a recommendation.

If you happen to have two cats, it’s obvious that your cage should be big enough to fit them both in. Most importantly, make sure they get along well to avoid interruption while on the road. In case they don't, separate cages are much easier and time-saving than trying to quash cat squabbles.

If you prefer, you can also choose to utilize a cat backpack for safely transporting your cat. You will often find that many cat backpacks available for purchase provide you with the ability to use your car's seatbelts to secure the backpack in place.

​​Get Your Cat To Trust Their Carrier

The first time I had to put my cat in a carrier totally spooked me out. Not because of the resistance she put up but because some carriers look sad and cage-like. It's like sending your little fur ball to cat prison for a few hours. If it’s not fun for you to get kitty in the carrier, imagine how bummed your cat must feel.

To make this process move along smoothly and much faster, try to patiently introduce your cat to the carrier. Start small like putting her food in the carrier every now and then. When she is okay with this, move the carrier to a different room and repeat. You can work with other things other than food, for instance, toys. With time, the carrier will have its scent, making the process a whole lot easier.

​Take Short Test Drives

Getting in the carrier is one thing but being able to ride in your car is a whole new hell for your cat. For him to finally get used to the idea of long car rides, you will have to start small. Take a small test drive around your block with your cat in the carrier. Do this as often as possible with every ride a little longer than the last.

Cats And Car Travel

In case it’s his first time in a car, expect a little resistance. A quick fix for this is to get the cat’s scent in the car. You can do this using food and toys. Leaving your cat’s beddings in the car for a while will also work.

Cat Car Rules

While in the car, there are some rules you ought to follow to keep you and your cat safe. Some are obvious while others are easy to miss:

  • The first rule after putting your cat in the carrier is to secure the carrier with a safety belt. Why? For the same reason, you are wearing one; safety! The last thing you want is to pump the brakes and send your cat flying out of the car!
  • No loud music in the car. If you like to crank up your radio when traveling, be ready to tone things down when kitty is around. Cats hate noisy environments as they tend to spook them out. It is bad enough he is on a road trip, you don’t have to make it hell by turning up the music.
  • Pull over every few hours for the both of you to stretch out. Even though your cat is in a well-spaced carrier (large enough to stand and lay down comfortably), frequent stopovers are a must. This is especially if your journey takes more than 12 hours. Let him out of the carrier for a quick stretch before hitting the road again.
  • Never leave your cat harness behind. Since you will be letting the cat out of the carrier every couple of hours for a stretch, make sure you have him well secured. A harness and leash ensures your cat does not run loose in the car during travel breaks and makes it easier for you to get a hold of him in case he does.
  • Never put the carrier at the back of a pickup truck. I know it sounds ridiculous and obvious but, so many people make this mistake with their pets. This poses all kinds of danger to your pet and should be avoided by all means. Always have your cat riding in the passenger seat or back seat. Never the boot or back of a pickup.
  • A little cat chat is highly encouraged to prevent your cat from getting bored. While traveling, also remember to feed your cat as well as giving him some water. Oh, and don’t forget to open a window for fresh air but remember to close it when you let her out of the cage, especially if she is a naughty cat.

​Motion Sickness And Hyperactivity

These are symptoms of exposing your cat to traveling in cars, planes and even boats. The same way we may get anxious on our first boat or plane ride, cats may experience the same. The best way to solve these problems is by frequent test drives which eventually calm your cat down with time.

Alternatively, there is a quicker but controversial solution to this; medication. You can ask your vet to prescribe some sedatives for the hyperactivity and anti-motion sickness meds ahead of the traveling day. It doesn't sound so pleasant but in many cases, these pills when prescribed by a vet are harmless. Make sure you ask your vet all sorts of questions on medication before giving them to your cat. The goal here is to travel safely to your destination, not to change your cat’s mood for life.

Cat Laying In Their Carrier

​​Travel Prepared

The amount of stuff you pack for your cat depends on how long you plan on staying on the road. However, essentials such food, drinking water, toys and a harness are an all time must have. Carrier lining will help your cat stay comfortable throughout the journey, hence causing no fuss.

Depending on how often your cat uses the litter box, you can decide whether to bring it with you or leave it at home. Cleaning supplies are another must-have in case of slip-ups such as your cat vomiting.

You can always buy already filled litter boxes for your cat on the road as well as disposable waste bags which you can be emptying at each stop. This will prevent your car from smelling like, well, cats! Remember, it's your car, not his!

Cat In Carrier Traveling By Car

Finally, Safe Journey

If there is one thing you can take from this entire guide, it is the importance of comfort when traveling with your cat. A happy cat means a happy owner which leads to a safe journey. So, take necessary steps to keeping your cat calm and happy.

Cat Kennels For Car Travel

​I know I have said this so many times but one more time wouldn't hurt. Keep your cat in a carrier! It keeps you focus on the road and not on your cat and most importantly, keeps both of you safe. Lastly; it is better to have and not need than to need and not have. So, if you think you'll need it on the journey, pack it up!

Cats are much more than just furry animals that hog the bed at night. Nor are they just temperamental and mischievous little things that makes us wonder who is the pet and who is the owner. Cats, for many of us, are a member of the family. And, like the rest of the family, they are going to need to be taken to the vet from time to time – or maybe you just want to bring them along on a family vacation. For these situations, you’re going to want to make sure you have a cat carrier.

What is a Cat Carrier? (1) (2) (3)

As the name would suggest, a cat carrier is something that you use to transport your cat (or other small animals like small dogs, guinea pigs, ferrets, tiny pigs and the like) from one place to another. There are several different types of cat carriers that you could choose from. These include:

Homemade Carriers: A homemade carrier is basically anything that you grab from around the house and put your cat in. Some people will use a cardboard box, laundry basket, and even a tote bag or pillow case. These carriers (especially the pillow case and tote bag) aren’t safe for your cat because they could get hurt or escape when you are taking them from point A to point B.

 

Cardboard Carriers: A cardboard carrier is primarily given to people who just adopted a kitten. These carriers are typically designed for temporary transport and are not recommended for long-term use because they can get damaged, either by general wear and tear, or the cat may scratch a hole into the carrier. Also, these carriers are basically useless if they get wet, whether it is because of the weather or because the cat urinated or spilled their water.

 

Soft Sided Carrier: A soft sided carrier is going to be made from either nylon or ballistic nylon. The carrier will be lightweight and are usually pretty easy to carry, even with the cat in tow. There are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind if you decide to go the soft carrier route:

 

These carriers are very popular for travel but they are best suited for cats who travel well and remain calm. If a feisty or anxious cat is in one of these carriers, they could easily tear a hole in the nylon material and possibly escape. If you’re driving, this could be a very dangerous situation to be in. Not only that, but if your cat is determined to get out, they could catch their nail in the material which would lead to a vet visit.

 

When choosing a soft carrier, you want to make sure that it is going to be large enough for your cat to comfortably move around in it. If you plan on going on long trips, you will also want to add another several inches so that you can include a food dish and water dish, too.

 

With that said, cats prefer small spaces, so you don’t want to get them a massive cat carrier. We’ll talk more about how to choose the appropriate size a little later.

 

Soft carriers are going to be easier to clean than a cardboard carrier, but it is important that you choose a soft carrier that has something in the bottom to prevent the carrier from sagging while you’re carrying it. In most cases, the carrier will have lightweight framework that will prevent this.

 

Hard-Sided Carrier: A hard sided carrier is going to provide you with the best support for transporting your cat. They will also be more durable and easy to clean. It’s important to note that if you are flying with an airline approved hard carrier, they may not fit under your seat very well, but if something should fall onto the case, your cat will be safe.

 

Hard sided carriers will have a steel wire or steel mesh door that is going to be much more durable than plastic and any hardware on the case should be metal.

 

The handle for your carrier should be stout enough for you to comfortably carry your cat, but it should also be strong enough to support the weight of the carrier and the cat.

How to Find the Right Size Carrier For Your Cat (4)

When you know what kind of cat carrier you want to go with, you need to make sure that you are choosing the correct size for them. But how do you do that? It’s actually pretty simple and it only requires a bit of measuring.

For the first measurement, you will want to measure your cat from the base of their tail to the tip of their nose. You will want to make sure they are standing when you do this. Once you have that measurement, you will want to add four inches. This will be the length of the carrier.

For the second measurement, you will want to measure the top of their head (when standing) to the floor. After you found this measurement, you will want to add four inches. This will be the height of the carrier.

In a properly sized carrier, your cat will be able to stand up comfortably and will be able to peer out at the world without having to duck their head. They should also have enough space inside the crate for them to turn around comfortably and be able to lay down with their paws extended.

Airline Regulations For Cat Carriers (5) (6)

If you plan on going on a plane with your cat, you have to make sure that your desired airline even allows for pet travelers, but you will also want to be mindful of the regulations set in place for the cat carrier you use. Some airline companies will have varying requirements and what may work with one company may not work with the next.

However, most airline’s will allow only one pet carrier per passenger, and one pet per carrier. There may be an exception for small puppies, but there is a limit of a maximum of up to three pets per flight.

For the pet themselves, most airlines require that the pet is no longer than 18 inches and does not exceed 12 pounds in weight. Of course, this could be different for each airline. Basic requirements for the cat carrier includes:

The carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

The carrier must have a waterproof bottom (also invest in good pee pads)

The carrier must have adequate ventilation – at least two sides should have ventilation.

The carrier must use zippers to secure your pet in the carrying case.

You must keep your pet enclosed in the carrier at all times.

The carrier must be made of a hard material like hard plastic, metal, or wood.

The carrier’s door must be made of metal and have a metal locking mechanism.

You should have two water dishes attached to the carrier and should be accessible from outside.

In order to find the right carrier for your pet, you will want to measure your cat. When they are standing, measure from the tip of the head down to the floor, then add about 4 inches. This will indicate the height of the carrier. Next, measure the tip of the cat’s nose to the base of the tail, then add 4 inches. This will indicate the length of the carrier.

How to Use a Cat Carrier (7) (8) (9)

Every cat owner knows that cats have a mind of their own and they aren’t always going to be cooperative. While many cats love to be in enclosed places (seriously, what is with their fascination with boxes?), when they are locked into a carrying case, it’s like they go crazy and they will fight tooth and (sharp) nail to get out.

You can make the task of loading the cat into the carrier a little easier for both of you by acclimating your cat to the carrier way before they actually need to be in it. How do you do that, you ask?

To do this, you will want to leave the carrier out and easily accessible. Cats are suspicious and when the crate comes out of nowhere, they feel like something bad is going to happen – like a visit to the vet. By leaving the carrier out and open, she will be more likely to go in, explore, and not be so afraid of it.

You can do other things that will help your cat feel less afraid of the carrier, such as:

Leave the carrier in their favorite place with the door open. If you put the carrier just anywhere, chances are the cat may not even pay it any mind. However, when it is in their favorite spot (likely a spot that gets a lot of sun), their curiosity will be piqued.

 

Put a favorite blanket and toy in the carrier. The blanket will help your cat to feel comfortable, not just because of the softness of the blanket itself, but the familiar scents will help them feel like the carrier is “theirs.”

 

When your cat is relaxed inside the carrier, practice closing the door. With the door closed, give the cat a treat and then open the door and let the cat out.

How to Get a Reluctant Cat Inside the Carrier (10)

Unfortunately, no matter what you try to do, your cat just may not want anything to do with the carrier. The problem is you are still going to have to get them inside without hurting them and getting scratched up in the process. But how?

Use a towel or blanket that your cat sleeps on and put it inside the carrier.

 

If you do not have a two-door carrier, put the carrier on the end with the open door facing up.

If you do have a two-door carrier, open the top door.

 

Pick up your cat and hold their back paws in one hand while using the other hand to support the chest.

 

Gently place the cat’s backend into the crate first so they aren’t able to see where he is going.

 

If your cat puts up a fight, you can wrap him in said blanket or towel and then place him in using step 4.

Traveling With Your Cat (11) (12)

When you are transporting your cat, you want to avoid feeding them up to an hour before you leave. This will reduce the possibility of your cat getting sick. You will also want to cover the carrier so the motion outside the vehicle doesn’t make them nauseous and sick.

Another important tip is to avoid putting your cat on the ground if there are dogs around, but also if the area is overly crowded with people. All the commotion could cause your kitty to feel distressed and become anxious.

Before going on long trips in the car, consider taking your cat on short jaunts, like around the block or just up and down the street (make sure you buckle the carrier securely in the backseat!). This will help your cat get used to the movement of the car. As soon as you get him back into the house, be sure to give him a treat for being good.

If you have tried traveling with your cat before and they get sick or they just cannot relax, you will want to talk to your vet to see if they can give your cat some kind of medication so that the trip isn’t so stressful for them.

Tips to Keep In Mind When Traveling with Your Cat (13) (14)

If you’ve never traveled with your cat before, it’s going to be a new experience for both you and your feline friend. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for you trip:

Before leaving on your trip, make sure your cat has been examined by the vet to ensure they are in good health. You will also want to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines and they’ve been microchipped just in case they do get away from you.

 

If you are going on a road trip, you will want to make sure your car is in good working condition as well. You may not realize it but a preventative check will save you and your cat a lot of headaches because you will be less likely to break down.

 

Make sure you have the best cat carrier for your cat. You want to make sure your cat, their blanket, water and food dishes will fit comfortably inside the carrier. You also want to make sure the carrier has plenty of ventilation so they have fresh air, too.

 

While you are driving, you want to try to be as calm as you can. If you get too excited, one way or another, your cat will pick up on this and they too will get excited or agitated.

 

If you have multiple cats, avoid trying to put them both into a single crate. Not only will it be heavier for you to carry once you arrive to your destination, but the cats need their own space. The only acceptable time to put multiple cats into one carrier is if they are small kittens.

 

Always make sure that your car is at a good temperature. If it’s cold outside, crank up the heat so that the cats can feel it in the back. If it’s hot, put a light colored sheet over part of the crate and turn on the air conditioning. Also, you should never leave your pets alone in a hot car! Windows up and no air conditioning is a very dangerous situation for any living thing!

How to Clean and Maintain Your Cat Carrier (15) (16)

For the most part, cats are pretty good at keeping themselves nice and clean. So it would make sense that a dirty cat carrier is not the best situation for your kitty. A clean carrier is going to help keep your cat comfortable, but also keep the car from stinking.

If you have a hard sided carrier, you will want to remove the blanket and put it in the laundry to get washed. When the blanket has been dried, put it back in your cat’s bed so they can get their scent on it. For the carrier, you will want to wipe it out with warm sudsy water made from a mild soap. You’ll want to make sure you get out any crumbs from food and other things. You’ll then want to rinse the carrier thoroughly and then let it air dry (or wipe it down with a towel) before putting everything back in.

If you have a soft carrier, you will want to remove everything from the inside and run it through the wash. This includes the padded portion of the carrier – just make sure you read the care instructions on this part for temperature settings and drying instructions.

With an empty carrier, you will want to fill a sink or bathtub with warm sudsy water (again, using a mild detergent) and dip the carrier into the solution. Wipe the interior of the carrier down with a sponge and then rinse the carrier with clean water. Finally, lay the carrier in the sun so it can dry thoroughly.

Throughout the course of using the carrier, it will get some wear and tear. After each trip, you will want to look over the carrier to ensure everything is in good order, such as:

Soft Carriers:

Zippers work easily and do not get stuck

The handles are firmly attached to the carrier

No loose threads, especially around the mesh which could allow your cat to escape

There aren’t any holes in the pad or the carrier itself

Hard Carriers:

Make sure there are no cracks anywhere on the walls or floor of the carrier

Check the hardware to ensure everything is good and tight – if not, tighten as necessary

Check the hinges and locks on the door(s) to ensure they work properly

Conclusion

Traveling is a wonderful experience for the whole family! However, if you have a cat, you may be hesitant to travel because you don’t want to put your kitty in a kennel or find a house sitter. Instead of foregoing traveling all together, why not bring your kitty along? A cat carrier will let you pack your furry friend up and bring them along with you! Not only can you use the cat carrier to travel, but it will also be very handy when you have to take your cat to the vet.

Many people will skip spending money on a cat carrier and opt for a box with some holes, or a basket. But neither of these options are going to be very safe or comfortable for your kitty to travel in. That’s why it is important that you have the best cat carrier that your money can buy. The best part is, cat carriers aren’t very expensive! Head on over to our buying guide to see for yourself!

In our guide, we provide you with five reviews on cat carriers that we believe are worth looking at. There are a few hard sided carriers and a few soft sided, so you can decide which will work best for your needs. We also provide you with a list of important features you should look for when choosing the best cat carrier, just in case you want to keep looking!

Leave us a comment and tell us what you want a cat carrier for. Will it be for travel or just going to the vet? We’d love to hear from you!

Resources:

AllFelineHospital

Leave a Comment: