It is mostly dogs who travel along with their pet parents on road trips. More than 85% of pets who travel are pups, and that’s because those beach trips, family outings, and vacations are what dogs love! They often can’t wait to jump in the car and head on down the road with their humans.
However, what about those furry felines? Cats and traveling by car are often not a great match. But, if you think about it, most cats ride in the car when they are going to see the vet. So, it’s no surprise that they are not fond of those car trips. As a result, cat parents have a big decision to make when it is time to move with their pet, especially if they have to travel far. They are upset when thinking about letting their little furry feline ride along and travel for hours at a time, and this can be stressful. Also, there is a higher number of cat parents out there who would just like to bring their cats along on their regular day-to-day car trips, just like dog parents do. In light of this, we have compiled some tips to help make your cat’s traveling experience more enjoyable and less stressful, for you and your cat!
1. Practice Using a Cat Carrier
It is best to always put your cat in a pet travel carrier when taking him in the car. It should be able to hold him comfortably, and he should have plenty of room to stand, turn in a circle and rest while lying down. There should also be enough air holes and proper ventilation for your cat to breathe normally and to provide temperature control.
When at home, let your cat go into the carrier before you use it in the car. You can put some blankets, toys and even a treat in the carrier while keeping the door open. Since cats are naturally curious, hopefully this will be enough to entice him to check out the carrier on his own, on his own terms. Continue to have the carrier available at home until your cat is used to using it.
2. Finding Comfort in the Familiar
Cats are very in-tune with their surroundings and they can also be very territorial. So, when thinking about traveling with your cat, you want to allow him to think of the car as a part of his territory. Placing a familiar blanket or towel on the car seat, and one that contains your cat’s scent, can help with this. Also, get in the car with your cat, start by closing all the doors, and then let your cat roam around the car so he can brush against the seats and get his scent on them. Start off slow, with a few times a day for a few minutes at a time, and then try it for longer periods until your cat becomes more comfortable.
3. Praise and Treats Go A Long Way
When your cat reaches a point where he is comfortable in the car, you can begin to feed him while in the car. Follow this feeding ritual for at least one week’s time so he can start to associate rewards and food, i.e. “good things”, with the car. Pet him and praise him while in your vehicle, and offer to play or give him treats while in there. He will begin to make the connection that the car is not so bad after all, especially if it is a place for food and fun!
4. Start Using the Carrier While in the Car
Over time, your cat will start to think of the car as his territory. When he reaches this milestone, you can start to bring the cat carrier in the car, as long as you have been preparing him for the crate at home at the same time. First, place your cat in the carrier and set it in the back of the car, preferably the back seat or cargo hold. Make sure the carrier is secured and clear from the car’s airbags. Then, start up the car but don’t drive; just let your cat become accustomed to the sound of the car, the engine’s hum and the vibrating sensation that it provides. Start off by doing this at a minimal of 3 times per day until your cat is comfortable. Then, when your cat is released from the carrier, immediately give him a treat and/or praise for being a good kitty!
5. Quick Trips
When your cat has become accustomed to the car and all of its noises, then it is your cue to drive. Start off slow, like backing up and down a short street or in your driveway. Try this a time or two and then let your cat get out of the vehicle and go back into your home. Give him praise and rewards, like playtime and some food once he is out of his crate. It is up to you to determine when your cat is prepared to drive a little further, like traveling through your neighborhood or up and down your street several times. Like before, start out slowly and make sure to offer rewards after each successful trip. Your cat will be the guide to tell you if he is feeling comfy (or not) with his car adventures.
6. Keep Calm and Collected
Whatever happens, it is necessary to stay calm, cool and collected during the whole car introduction so your cat will, too. Our pets can tell when we have a negative reaction, and if we are upset or show signs of stress, they often will, too.
Like dogs, your cat wants to be content while riding in the car. Your cat’s happiness is important for you and for him to have a stress-free car trip, whether it’s just while riding around town for daily activities or moving far away. By being patient and understanding, you can help your cat to be more comfy in the car. It may seem time-consuming and very slow-going along the way, but if you are consistent and take your time, your cat will let you know in his own time when he feels happy, safe and secure in the car.
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