You’re wondering how to take a long road trip with a cat? Whether it is safe, possible, and not a ridiculous idea? So long as you plan ahead, prepare yourself and your cat well, you’re sure to have a peaceful car journey!
This article covers all topics ranging from how to safely secure your cat to how to keep them calm whilst on the road. We will also discuss the best cat carrier for long distance travel and the best cat litter box for a road trip.
There is a lot to consider, research, and buy, so use this ultimate cat road trip planner to show you the way with ease! A challenge I face myself is being organized, that is why I bring you a Packing List and Top Tips.
Its important to reduce the stress and anxiety your cat might face on a journey. Read on to create a stress-free adventure with your furry feline friend.
How To Road Trip With Your Cat (Top Tips)
Here are 8 tips on how to road trip with your cat in a way which will ensure safety and minimizes stress.
Generally cats can get quite stressed whilst traveling. They are very used to structure and their home environment. If you are going on vacation, consider leaving your cat with a friend or licensed professional cat sitter instead of taking them with you.
If you must travel with your cat, here are 8 pieces of advice for the perfect journey.
1. Choose The Perfect Cat Carrier And Secure It With A Seatbelt
It is important for your cat to be comfortable and safe whilst you are on the road. Ensure that the carrier allows enough room for the cat to stand up and move around. The bottom should be padded but secured.
The back seat is ideal an idea place to secure the carrier with a seatbelt. The boot of the car should be a last resort and you should check the carrier is held in place.
2. Give Your Cat Experience In Their Carrier At Home Prior to Departure
Get your cat used to their carrier in advance of your road trip. Your cat may need time to see their carrier as a safe space, and not a trap, especially if they’ve only been in for limited, stressful vet visits.
In the lead-up to your road trip, have their carrier in the house, visible, and incorporated into regular play. Use treats, toys, and lovely blankets to put your cat at ease. Monitor your car for signs of stress or anxiety.
- Feliway® products contain pheromones that assist with cat behaviour and anxiety. Use Feliway® wipes to wipe the carrier to settle your cat.
3. Spend Some Time With Your Cat In Your Car With The Engine Running Whilst Not Moving
Once your cat is comfortable with its carrier in the house, get your cat used to the car (inside the carrier and never loose). Start by spending time in the car with the engine turned off. When your cat seems relaxed, turn the car on (but stationary) to get them used to the sounds and vibrations.
Initially begin with very short trips, then progress to longer journeys. Give your cat time to acclimatize and settle. Work slowly, over months is ideal; the hard work will be worth it! The same applies to a Road Trip With A Dog!
Don’t forget to use our Road Trip Questions For Couples, for in-car entertainment!
4. Ensure Your Carrier Has An Inbuilt Litter Box To Prevent Accidents
Having your cat do their business in the car might not sound appealing, but a litter box saves accidents on your road trip. I recommend a carrier with an inbuilt litter tray section (see suggestions below).
Disposable litter boxes make it easier to clear up.
5. Use A Harness And Leash To Keep Your Cat Safe
In an unfamiliar setting, when hiking or sightseeing, a cat harness and leash is essential. Have your cat’s ID attached to their collar! This is a must if you are not having a litter box in their car carrier, but stopping regularly instead.
Before you leave, invest time in getting your cat used to their harness, in the house, and on walks. Preventive Vet has expert step-by-step information around how to walk your cat on a leash safely.
6. Avoid Leaving Your Cat In The Car Unattended
Hot cars are dangerous for cats! When you stop to use a bathroom yourself, make sure you are quick, no more than 10 minutes. Different states have different laws of leaving pets in a parked cars so use this table of state laws to check in with your route.
If you do allow your cat outside of their carrier whilst inside the car. Make sure it is whilst you are stationary. Do not allow the car to free-roam whilst you are driving as this is dangerous.
- Leave the windows open an inch if it is hot out
- Park in the shade
- Have the air con on before you stop so that the car is left cool
- If cold, provide your cat with extra blankets
7. Find Pet-Friendly Hotels In Advance Of Departure
Pet-friendly hotels are essential when planning how to travel with a cat. Motel6.com allows 2 cats per room, free of charge and they have 1400 hotels across the US.
Redroof.com has 650 hotels across their brands, and pets stay free!
Pets Welcome is a great search directory. Booking.com and Airbnb filters on their searches help you find cat-friendly accommodation.
Other hotels may accommodate on request but some charge a large additional fee, often per-pet; this can add up!!
8. Check In With Your Vet Before You Leave
In addition to gathering and packing your cat’s medical records, I advise a check-in with your vet before a long road trip with your cat. Top up on medications, check they are healthy, and also that they are up to date with flea and wormers.
Plus if you are traveling to states in the US that require a rabies vaccination, you will need to plan in advance. Take a list of vets along your route in case of emergencies!
What To Pack When Traveling With Your Cat
Here are the essentials you need to pack when traveling with your cat:
- High quality cat carrier including blankets and toys
- Cat litter box including liners and scoop
- Dry and wet food with a few treats for rest stops
- Bowl for eating and plenty of fresh water
- Key medication, medical documents and pet insurance certificate
- List of vets on route and cat first aid kit
- Grooming/cleaning products and a towel in case of accidents
As well as your own Road Trip Accessories, it is important to know what to pack when on a road trip with your cat.
Best Cat Carrier For Long Distance Car Travel
Having the best car carrier for long-distance travel is crucial for your cat’s comfort.
We love the Necoichi portable cat cage and litter box set; room for your cat to relax, as well as a built-in section for litter.
Always secure your carrier with a seatbelt or straps!
Best Cat Litter Box For A Road Trip
Or if you prefer, use disposable litter boxes in the allocated carrier section, to help with cleaning.
We love Dr. Elseys Ultra Clumping Cat litter; recently voted NY Times ‘Best Pick’, and Preventive Vets recommend it too!
Don’t forget a reliable litter scoop.
Litter box liners are great for extra cleanliness!
How To Calm Down A Cat In The Car
To calm down a cat in the car, ensure your cat is secure in a comfortable cat carrier with their home comforts such as toys and blankets. Take regular, relaxing breaks if your cat is restless or suffers from anxiety. Spraying Feliway, a calming pheromone, 10 minutes before departure can reduce stress for cats whilst traveling.
You should also make sure the temperature in the car is cool and comfortable. If you play music, keep the volume minimal and try to choose something relaxing.
If you’re wondering how to calm down a cat in the car and create the most relaxing, peaceful long road trip, here is a quick list of tips:
- Drive calmly and keep music off, low and relaxing
- Have your cats home comforts in their carrier; toys, blankets, etc
- Stop for a relaxing stroll if you feel your cat is restless
- Use Feliway® products such as wipes, collar or spray to calm your cat
- For anxious cats, try the Thundershirt Harness which cradles your cat.
- Feliway® pheromone products are highly recommended to calm nerves. Try this Feliway Travel Spray for use in the car.
- Purchase a calming collar that contains pheromones if your cat is anxious.
Can Cats Go On Long Car Rides?
A cat will be fine in a seatbelt-secured carrier for a long car ride up to 6 hours. Make sure there is a litter tray inside, regular water breaks every 3 hours, and a cool car temperature. For longer journeys of over 6 hours, make sure you monitor your cat for signs of stress or anxiety, and stop for regular walking breaks.
If you let your cat out of the cat carrier make sure you are parked in a safe location, a free-roaming cat within your car is dangerous. Make sure your cat is wearing identification and consider disposable litter boxes for your cat to use.
Cats can go on long car rides so long as you have gotten them used to being in the car and taken practice trips in advance of your long travels. Never leave your cat in a hot car.
Are Road Trips Bad For cats?
Road Trips are not bad for cats provided you take the appropriate steps to ensure their safety and minimise anxiety and stress. Free roaming cats are safety hazards and they should be secured safely in a cat carrier full of blankets. Keep the car temperature comfortable and minimise loud sounds.
Each cat is unique in its needs, anxiety levels, tolerance of being in a car, and medical history so there is no ‘one size fits all’ scenario on a cat road trip. If natural calming methods are ineffective, contact your veterinarian to discuss medication.
Prepare your cat by settling them into their car carrier at home first, prior to taking a trip in the car. Failing to prepare may result in an anxious or distressed cat and an unpleasant journey. It’s not fair to take your cat on a long road trip if they’re in distress.
If after training, your cat is still not happy, you might need to make the choice to find a pet sitter. Trusted Housesitters is my go-to place.
Can I Sedate My Cat For A Long Car Ride?
If required to reduce anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe medication such as Buprenorphine, Gabapentin or Alprazolam to sedate your cat for a long car ride. You should first try natural training to accustom your cat to a comfortable cat carrier. Also, take regular breaks and fill the car with their favorite toys and home comforts.
Try natural training methods before you consider sedation. Time spent getting your cat used to their carrier and the car environment in a gentle and timely manner before your trip should mean that your cat can travel well.
As a last resort, your vet will give you professional advice on sedation medication.
I hope you found this information useful, and that you have the most amazing travels with your cat. Please comment on any other Cat Road Trip suggestions that you have, I’d love to hear them!!
How Do You Travel Long Distance With A Cat In The Car?
You travel long distance with a cat in the car by planning well, packing well, and stopping regularly:
- Get your cat used to their carrier and car in advance of your long road trip
- Get your cat used to a harness and leash in advance too
- Pack everything you need (see our packing list)
- Keep water, food, and spare litter within reach in the car
- Stop every 2-3 hours and use a harness and leash to walk your cat
- Never leave your cat alone in a hot or cold car
- Find pet-friendly hotels for your cat road trip
- Keep the car environment calm
- Keep your cat in their carrier whilst driving at all times
- Take important documents with you and have a list of vets on the route
How Long Can A Cat Travel In The Car?
So long as your cat is settled, it can travel in a car for as long as you can, with regular stops along the way. If you have an anxious cat, you may need shorter trips and more stops.
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Holly is an animal lover with a passion for travel and living a plant-based lifestyle. She enjoys practicing and teaching yoga, cooking, and visiting new places. She currently delivers self-care sessions that utilize EFT (emotional freedom technique) to support people struggling with their breakups.