Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Fumipets
Embarking on Adventures with Feline Companions: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Cats
Traveling with cats can be a rewarding experience, deepening the bond between pet and owner while exploring new horizons together. However, feline companions come with their unique set of considerations and challenges when it comes to travel.
Whether you’re planning a road trip, air travel, or a weekend getaway, this comprehensive guide aims to equip cat owners with the essential tips and insights to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey for both you and your four-legged friend.
Traveling with Cats
The idea of going on a trip with the cat in the vehicle is probably not tempting to most of us. But, believe it or not, if a cat is properly acclimated and trained to ride in a vehicle, they will come to like it. And you will as well!
Many of us plan or go on family vacations throughout the summer months and during the holidays, and more often than not, families bring their beloved pet along. Summer is also a popular period for house buyers and sellers, which might result in a long-distance transfer.
Hopefully, your cat is still young or hasn’t experienced a bad vehicle journey, making your forthcoming road trip more feasible. If this isn’t the case, don’t worry; even “adult cats” can be taught new automobile tricks.
Getting ready for a road trip with your cat
Step 1: Make your cat adore its carrier.
If they want to travel in the car with you, they’ll need to be properly “buckled up” to protect not just themselves, but also everyone else in the vehicle and on the road.
Unrestrained cats, after all, may be a distraction, obstructing your ability to steer or brake, and possibly becoming a lethal projectile in the case of a collision or abrupt halt. As in this example, when a stray cat in the automobile distracted the driver and resulted in three accidents!
Spend some time educating your cat to enjoy their carrier before the big trip day comes to make restraint stress-free for both you and your cat.
Do you have a carrier for your cat but don’t have one yet? Our suggestions, which include carriers that have passed crash tests, may be seen lower down.
Step 2: Get your cat to love the car.
Now that your cat like their carrier, it’s time to encourage them to enjoy driving as well! Here are some suggestions to get you started. Pro Tip: It’s ideal to undertake this automobile acclimation phase with two persons… one to drive and the other to pat, praise, and treat cat! However, it may be done with one person if done correctly.
Take kitty in their carrier to the vehicle.
Sit in the rear seat with your cat in their carrier when the vehicle is parked and the doors and windows are locked. To play with your cat, stroke them, praise them, and give them goodies, partially open one of the carrier doors. (Caution: If the weather is extremely hot or cold, avoid conducting this sort of in-car training for your own and your cat’s safety.)
Place an interactive, treat/kibble-dispensing toy in their carrier with them after kitten seems calm and pleased in the car (the Egg-Cersizer and the SlimCat are great choices ).
When you ultimately graduate to the “real thing”… driving, this will assist to keep them involved, playing, and happy. I suggest placing a mix of their usual kibble and a few tasty cat treats in the dispenser, but don’t overfill it; you don’t want to make it too easy for kitty and you don’t want them stuffed themselves.
Now secure kitty’s carrier to the seat (the rear seat is better since your cat will be less likely to distract you and you won’t have to worry about the passenger seat airbag hurting them in the event of an accident or quick halt). Now it’s time to start the automobile. See how kitty reacts to the engine’s rumbling sound and vibration.
Also, pay attention to how they respond when you switch on the air conditioner or heater, and don’t forget about the radio! If any of these noises make kitty feel worried, feel free to console, calm, and treat them.
You are not going to reinforce or increase their fears by soothing them, contrary to what you may believe and what many others assert. (Obviously, you can only do this if you have a second person driving the vehicle while you’re sitting in the back seat with your cat.)
Caution: If you’re performing this acclimation for your cat in your garage, make sure your garage door is open or pull your vehicle out of the garage and into the street or driveway. Carbon monoxide is very harmful to both of you!
It’s time to take some short drives after your cat is acquainted with the engine’s sound and vibration. You don’t want to overdo it here; start with driving down the street, then a block or two, and gradually increase the distance of the drives. Also, if you routinely drive with your windows open, do several “test” drives with the windows down to determine whether the sound of the air flowing by and the shifting air pressures are safe for cat.
Never take these drives any farther than your cat is willing to go. Also, remember to drive slowly and gently on the gas and brake pedals. Note: Having more than one person in the vehicle will allow someone to continue to monitor, comfort, and play with kitty while the other person drives and concentrates on the road.
If you repeat these procedures every day or every few days, kitty will soon be eager to accompany you on vehicle journeys! Note that since each cat and scenario is unique, it might take anything from a few days to many months for a cat to develop a liking for automobile riding.
Don’t have a cat carrier yet?
Here are a few of my favourite cat carriers for travelling in the vehicle.
Carriers for local excursions and shorter journeys
These may also be used for longer travels with a leash-trained cat, since you won’t need the additional room provided by the ones listed farther down to accommodate a litter box. It’s preferable to select a carrier with a top opening, since this makes putting them in and out simpler and less traumatic for everyone while traveling or seeing the vet. All of the choices listed below have “top access.”
Sleepypod carriers: The Air In-Cabin Carrier and the Mobile Pet Bed (this mobile pet bed may not work on all airlines) are absolutely remarkable and wonderfully built carriers, and Sleepypod takes pet travel safety very seriously. They do their own crash testing (to the standard specified for kid safety restraints) on their products and have obtained great results in crash testing tests conducted by the Center for Pet Safety. They’re a little more expensive, but if you can afford it, they’re well worth it!
Cat carriers for longer road trips
Others cat carriers provide more space for your cat to move about, and some even include a litter box.
Necoichi portable cat cage with litter box: This carrier, which is actually a “cage,” includes straps for keeping it in the vehicle and can contain a litter box, which is offered separately. The cage in the picture above was used by a member of the Preventive Vet team on a lengthy road trip.
Pets2Go carrier: This soft-sided carrier from Pets2Go features expanding sides, giving it a bit more space for your kitten than a typical carrier. It doesn’t have enough capacity for you to incorporate a litter box for your cat inside the carrier, and it also lacks an integrated handle for fastening within the vehicle, unlike the other alternatives available.
Unlike the portable cage, it is an “additional room” alternative for automobile travel that also claims to be “airline authorized” (above).
And, if you have a lot more room in your car or SUV and really want to pamper your cat, you can turn a large dog crate (like this: wire dog crate, plastic dog crate) into a kitty condo by adding a nice soft mat, hammocks and/or shelves to make it multi-level (which cats LOVE! ), several of their toys, a nice box or tube for hiding (which cats LOVE! ), and their litter box. Just make sure their cat condo is securely strapped into the van for everyone’s safety.
Don’t want to do it yourself or don’t have the time? Instead, get a fantastic pre-fab cat condo! A veterinarian we know used one on a cross-country relocation with their cats, and they liked it.
Note: While these kitty condo options will likely make travelling less stressful and more comfortable for your cat, they will also introduce some new safety risks for them (falling from higher shelves or having shelves fall on them in the event of an accident or sudden stop), as well as for you, depending on how/if you secure it within your vehicle. If you choose one of these cat condo solutions, please keep these warnings in mind. Spend some time educating your cat to enjoy their carrier before the big trip day comes to make restraint stress-free for both you and your cat.
Where to go ‘potty’ on a car journey with cats
Getting down to “business” straight away… You’ll have to deal with toilet planning and bathroom breaks depending on how long your vacation adventures with kitty last and where you finish up. This is true both on the journey and after you get to your hotel or wherever your destination is. You may assist your cat in taking care of business while on the road in a variety of ways.
Get them a decent travel litter box, a litter they enjoy, and (maybe) a litter attractant first, and then get them acclimated to it before you ever need to use the vehicle.
A decent portable litter box is big enough for your cat to fit in and do their business comfortably, yet tiny enough to fit in their carrier (see recommended larger car cat carriers above).
Your portable litter box for usage at the hotel may be a little bigger if your journey isn’t too long and their carrier isn’t large enough to hold a litter box. The portable litter box should be waterproof, simple to clean, and foldable (for convenient storage), but robust enough not to collapse on cat while they’re using it. There are other possibilities for disposable litter boxes!
Litter boxes for traveling with cats that are recommended:
There are collapsible (Necoichi and Petpeppy) and disposable (Nature’s Miracle and Kitty’s Wonderbox) variants available. Given that you and your cat’s litter box will be in close quarters, choosing a litter with strong odour control and minimal dust potential is a smart option.
While it may be tempting to purchase scented litter, keep in mind that the scent may irritate your cat’s nose and lungs, causing them to become stressed and less inclined to use their litter box! Below are some suggested cat litters, as well as a cat litter attractant, which may assist a cat remember to use their box, particularly during times of transition, such as travel.
Recommended litters for travelling with cats: All of these litters are low-dust, scoopable, and provide good absorbency and odour control. In case your cat (or you) don’t like clay litter, the first two (Boxiecat and Dr. Elsey’s) are clay-based, while the third (World’s Best) is corn-based. I’ve included the suggested cat litter attractant, as well as a scoop and things for spent litter containment, to the list since they’ll be useful. When travelling, the antibacterial scoop and caddy come in handy so the scoop doesn’t end up on your car’s interior!
And, depending on the size of your vehicle, the amount of space you have available, the length of your journey, and how sensitive you are to odours or spills, the excellent Litter Genie used cat litter storage device can be worth considering. Note: The bags, as well as a litter scoop and holder, are included with this Litter Genie! If you don’t want to use the Litter Genie, a basic, sealable bucket (don’t forget the cover!) and some tall kitchen rubbish bags would do.
Is your cat used to doing their business outdoors, or do you just not want the smell of cat litter and the debris that accumulates in it in your vehicle, or is there simply no place in your cat’s carrier for a litter box? Then, depending on how long your vehicle drive is, you’ll have to make sure your cat has a good toilet break. However, if you take the time to leash train your cat well in advance of your trip day, you will be able to do so securely! Don’t worry, it’s possible! Our post on how to leash train a cat can be found here. Another crucial precaution for cats you’ll be walking on a leash or travelling with in general is to get them microchipped by your veterinarian, and make sure the contact information connected with the microchip is up to date!
Leashes and harnesses for walking cats on a leash are as follows:
If the weather isn’t too hot or cold to risk leaving your cat in the vehicle, just place them in their carrier and go about your business. Just make sure you don’t take too long. It’s normally safe to keep your cat between 40 and 65 degrees F (4 and 18 degrees C), but every cat and environment is different, so use this as a guideline.
Consult your veterinarian for more precise safe temperature limits for your cat, taking into account their age, breed (smushed face? ), and any chronic medical issues or drugs they may be on. However, if the temps aren’t in that range, you’ll have to take some extra measures while making your own pit breaks (and this includes for meals). In many circumstances, you’ll be able to carry your cat into the bathroom in their carrier with you! If it’s practicable and practical, this is the simplest option.
If the temperature is beyond the upper limit of the temperature range and you can’t bring cat inside, take the following actions to guarantee their comfort and safety in the car:
Take a toilet break somewhere where you won’t have to enter a large store or mall to locate and use a restroom. Gas stations and rest spots along the roadside are typically decent choices. Coffee cafes are often used as well!
If you have a spare set of keys, start the vehicle and turn on the air conditioner before locking the doors behind you. You’ll be glad to get back into a nice vehicle as well!
Caution: While this may be very beneficial, keep in mind that automobile engines and air conditioner compressors can and do fail, resulting in dangerously high temperatures in the vehicle.
If leaving the vehicle with the air conditioner running isn’t an option or realistic, pre-cool the car as much as possible by turning the air conditioner on high for several minutes before exiting.
You should park in the dimmest area you can locate.
Put up a reflective windshield sunscreen if you park with your front windshield facing the sun.
Cracking the windows won’t make much of a difference, but it won’t harm either (as long as your cat is safely contained in their carrier and there’s no fear of someone reaching into your vehicle and taking your belongings).
Make sure your cat has enough water to drink.
Place their carrier on the floor in front of the rear seat, rather than in the back seat. Because hot air rises, the floor should be colder.
Make your halt as swiftly as possible.
If you’re having a meal break, return periodically to check on your cat (like every 10 minutes or so, just to be safe).
If the weather is below the freezing point and you can’t bring cat inside, take the following procedures to assure their comfort and safety in the car:
Take a toilet break somewhere where you won’t have to enter a large store or mall to locate and use a restroom. Gas stations and rest spots along the roadside are typically decent choices. Coffee cafes are often used as well!
If you have a spare set of keys, start the vehicle and turn on the heating before locking the doors behind you. You’ll be glad to get back into a warm vehicle as well!
Caution: While this may be very helpful, keep in mind that automobile engines and heater compressors can and do fail, causing frigid temperatures to rapidly build up in the car.
If it’s not feasible or practicable to leave the vehicle running with the heater on, pre-warm the car by cranking the heater up to high (if it isn’t already) for several minutes before getting out.
Put a thick blanket or fleece in your cat’s carrier so they can cuddle up and stay warm. Pro Tip: It’s even better if it’s a fleece or blanket with your smell on it. While you’re gone, your cat will enjoy “having you close.”
If there is one, move their carrier to a sunny area within the vehicle.
Make your halt as swiftly as possible. If you’re having a meal break, return periodically to check on your cat (like every 10 minutes or so, just to be safe).
When travelling with your cat, where should you stay?
Road trips and long-distance moves with cats will almost always necessitate hotel stays for sleeping, resting, and showering. However, not all hotels or motels allow pets, and those that do may only offer a few pet-friendly rooms. So, if you’re travelling with your cat, here are some suggestions for locating pet-friendly lodging.
If you know your itinerary and intentions ahead of time, book pet-friendly lodgings as soon as possible. This is particularly critical during the hectic summer travel season and throughout the holiday season.
Some of the larger hotel and motel businesses are pet-friendly in general. Check out Red Roof Inns, Kimpton Hotels, La Quinta Hotels, Best Western Hotels, and more. GoPetFriendly.com is a searchable state-by-state database to assist you in finding pet-friendly lodging.
Pets are welcome at certain Airbnb apartments!
Pro Tip: “Pet-friendly” signifies that your pets aren’t the only ones who have lately been in your hotel! And, because not everyone gives their cats and dogs flea and parasite prevention as often as they should… you should be careful. Before you hit the road, make sure your cat is free of fleas and other parasites for the benefit of your cat’s health – and yours! Consult your veterinarian for further information on safe and efficient parasite prevention for your cat.
Traveling with your cat and dealing with fear and motion sickness
The best-laid intentions, ah… Even if you follow all of the precautions and actions listed above to prepare your cat for automobile travel, they may still be agitated or have carsickness despite your best efforts. Here are some suggestions and tools to help you avoid those risks and deal with any issues that may emerge.
Cat calm-down treats: These are fantastic and may be used both before and during travel.
Thundershirt for cats: The compressive and soothing nature of these anti-anxiety garments works wonders for certain nervous cats. You should try it on your cat long before your departure date, and you should even perform several “test drives” with them wearing their new jacket.
Feliway pheromone spray: A few sprays of this relaxing pheromone on the towel or mat in your cat’s carrier may be all they need to feel less worried and more at ease when travelling. It’s important to remember that with pheromones, a little goes a long way. Don’t go overboard – more isn’t always better.
Both catnip spray and catnip sprinkled in their carrier may give some excellent and diverting amusement for your cat, as well as a pleasant little “high” that may help alleviate their nervousness.
It is possible to reduce the chances of a cat becoming car sick and vomiting by not feeding them for a few hours before the trip. Now, this isn’t going to be very practical for a multi-day car trip — after all, kitty has to eat! However, if it’s just a one-day excursion, this may be useful.
Consult your veterinarian about a medicine developed to help dogs avoid motion sickness and vomiting.
Similarly, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medications to help reduce your cat’s anxiety during car rides. However, make an appointment with your veterinarian well in advance of your departure date, as your cat may need a current checkup and trial or test doses to identify the optimum and most effective dosage or combination for your cat.
Calming music can also help some cats relax and reduce their anxiety. And who knows, it may even make the journey more enjoyable for you?
Emergencies do happen, and you may find yourself in need of a veterinarian while on the road. You can always search for “emergency veterinarian in __zipcode/town__” on Google or use this veterinarian emergency locator. And, since emergencies aren’t the only reason you may need to locate a vet while travelling — particularly if you’re relocating to a new state or town and need to get kitty established with a new doctor — here are a number of useful vet look-up resources.
Locate a veterinarian in your area.
Find a nearby veterinary clinic that is a member of the American Animal Hospital Association.
On the Road First Aid
You should also think about putting together a pet first-aid kit for your vehicle. Here’s a list of first-aid necessities to stock up on. Look for the icon of a small car, as these are the most important items in a small, travel-sized first-aid kit.
Travelling with a cat who has a chronic illness or is on medication requires special consideration.
There are a few steps and precautions you should take before going on a long trip or moving with a cat who has a chronic medical condition or is on long-term medications, such as a cat with diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Make sure your cat has had a recent exam with your veterinarian (ideally within the last month or so). Before hitting the road with them, you’ll have more peace of mind knowing that their condition is well-managed and that they’re as healthy as possible. Your veterinarian will also give you advice on how to make their trip as comfortable and safe as possible.
Please bring a copy of your cat’s medical records! This should include recent exam notes, laboratory test results, and the names and dosages of medications and supplements. If you give your veterinarian enough notice, they may be able to print them for you, and they may even subscribe to an app or other service that allows you to keep up-to-date copies of these records on your phone at all times. This will make visiting another vet on the road if you have to, much easier.
It’s a good idea to know about a few vet hospitals along your route and in the area of your destination before you leave, especially if your cat has a known chronic health issue. To begin your search, use the tools and links listed in the section above.
If your cat requires a particular prescription food, such as for renal disease, be sure to get it from your veterinarian before you leave. When you’re away from home and your veterinarian’s office, getting prescription diet refills isn’t always easy! You should pack enough to last the duration of your trip plus an extra (at least) two weeks.
Similarly, make sure you have enough of your pet’s medications and supplements, as well as any other supplies they require. Needles and a sharps container for safely disposing of and storing used needles for diabetic cats, as well as pills for blood pressure, overactive thyroid, and any other chronic medications, would be included. Again, bring enough food to last for the length of your vacation plus an extra (at least) two weeks.
If your cat is diabetic and requires insulin, bring a cooler and ice packs with you in the vehicle to keep it cold. You could also consider a cooler that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter, such as the Cooluli Mini, Wagan 14L, or Wagan 24L (which could hold some of your food and drinks for the road!).
Pro Tip: Depending on your cat’s insulin, you may be able to get an insulin “pen” that is more stable outside of the fridge and easier to administer to your cat on the go. Consult your veterinarian to see if an insulin pen is an option for your cat; it isn’t for all cats, but if it is, it could be a great travel (and even long-term) solution.
If you have any ideas, tips, or items that have made automobile travel with your cats simpler, please share them in the comments section below. Best wishes for your trip or relocation; have fun and be safe! Also, please return and leave a comment to let us and the rest of our community know how your vacation was.
Q&A: Navigating the Whiskered Travel Experience
Can all cats adapt to travel, or are some more prone to stress?
While individual temperaments vary, many cats can adapt to travel with proper preparation and acclimatization. However, some cats may be more prone to stress, and factors like age, health, and past experiences play a significant role in their comfort level during travel.
How can I prepare my cat for travel?
Gradual acclimatization is key. Start by introducing your cat to their carrier in a positive way, associate it with treats and comfort. Practice short trips around the house, gradually extending the duration. Ensure they are familiar with the travel environment and invest in a comfortable, well-ventilated carrier.
What essentials should I pack for my cat when traveling?
Pack familiar items, including your cat’s regular food, water bowls, a favorite toy or blanket, and any necessary medications. Ensure you have a secure, well-ventilated carrier, harness, and leash. Additionally, bring grooming supplies and a first aid kit.
How can I make car travel comfortable for my cat?
Secure your cat in a well-ventilated carrier, ideally using a seat belt attachment. Keep the car well-ventilated and make frequent stops for bathroom breaks. Familiar scents, calming pheromones, and soft bedding can contribute to a more relaxed journey.
Are there specific considerations for air travel with cats?
Air travel involves additional regulations and preparations. Choose an airline-approved carrier, check specific airline guidelines, and consult your veterinarian for health certifications. Ensure your cat is comfortable in the carrier, and consider a direct flight to minimize stress.