These are our best tips for traveling with cats in a car.
We named our cats’ ig account catventurers hoping that they would adapt well to a life of adventure. Even though they didn’t become quite the catventurers we were hoping for, we’re really happy that they have adjusted well to RV life.
There were a lot of great lessons we learned on the way, and today we’re sharing our tips to help your cat(s) adjust to life on the road!
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Last Updated: June 23, 2020
23 Useful Tips for Traveling with Cats in a Car
We have two cats with different personalities. Mika adjusts well to any situation and doesn’t get bothered by much. Sebastian, on the other hand, is more skittish and doesn’t like being introduced to new situations. We thought it would be smart to get Mika comfortable before subjecting Sebastian to the stresses of the outdoors.
If you’re planning on doing a road trip with cats, here a few tips to help them get adjusted. Keep in mind that each cat has its own personality, so there will be some trial and error to find what works best for you.
1. Make Sure They Have a Microchip
We adopted our two orange tabby boys from a shelter, so they have already been chipped. If yours doesn’t, make sure you get one implanted. We already had a scare on day one of our trip where one of them ran out of the car into the woods.
If someone else were to have found him and took him to a vet, they would have our contact info. A collar with a phone number tag also helps, but our cats have breakaway collars that they often get out of.
2. Start with Short Rides
This will get your cat used to all the new sensations of riding in the car. You’ll also find out how he / she handles travel and whether car sickness will be an issue. Some cats even get hyperactive (they’ll be all over the place), which can make it difficult and dangerous for you.
Our cats don’t enjoy the small spaces, but crates are a good way to start. Cats typically feel more comfortable in a space they are familiar with. There are people who believe that the cats should always be in a crate in a car for their safety. It might depend on the cats personalities, but ours like to roam and sit on my lap.
We currently use this crate because we can open and close the sides as needed and there is even a mesh layer.
4. Talk to Your Vet
Depending on how your cat handles being on the road, your vet may be able to help. Though we probably wouldn’t sedate our cats, some may suggest you sedate them or give them medication for motion sickness when traveling with cats in a car. There are also pheromone sprays to help calm your cat in stressful situations.
5. Plan Pit Stops
Give your cat a break every 2-3 hours. It’s also a good time to let them use the litter without the car moving around or rest and relax.
6. Pack Extra Supplies
You never know where you’ll be and you don’t want to be stuck somewhere without supplies you need for your cat. Also, pack extra portions for any special food or medicines your cat will need.
7. Feed Your Cat Early
Give your cat 3-4 hours to let their food settle before hitting the road. Otherwise, you may get a present during your drive.
8. Keep Them Hydrated
Make sure you have water for your cat along the way. We like to use this collapsible camping cup for their water and their food, both in the car and in the trailer since it packs away nicely.
Storage space is limited, so anything that compresses into something smaller is great.
9. Reward Them
Have treats handy so you can let them know they are doing a good job. Just like any behavior, giving them treats helps reinforce positive behavior. You may not think it’s possible to train a cat, but ours can sit, shake, and stand. We’re also in the process of leash training them.
10. Pet-Friendly Hotels
If you or your pets need a break from the road, look for pet-friendly hotels. There are more of them out there than you think! Make sure you call and ask if they allow both dogs and cats. Our favorite cat friendly hotel chains are Kimpton Hotels and La Quinta.
Things That Will Make Traveling with Cats Easier
When you road trip with cats, these are great for any accidents they might. If it’s been a while, we sometimes forget certain behaviors they exhibit when they need something. We’ve had one instance where one cat got sick and threw up and got diarrhea all over the car., which then made the other cat vomit.
Now we always keep some puppy pads handy. We’ll place them under their sitting areas and also stash several of them near the front so we can grab them when they get sick.
You need to keep around extra trash bags for the same reason as above. You never know when they’ll have an accident. We like to pick up the doggie poop bags available at most rest areas.
We mostly use this to transport them to the vet and the vets love this thing! When we move them from the trailer to the car and vice versa, we just carry them in our arms, but otherwise, we transport them with the U-Pet.
We’ve taken Mika on shorter hikes, but we’re hoping to take him on some longer ones. We’ll let you know how it goes!
Mika isn’t bothered by car rides or changing environments. The only thing he hates is being confined in a small space. With Sebastian, not so much!
During our trip, we picked up a Thunder Shirt. He felt immobilized at first (it was hilarious and cute) but eventually got used to having a snug shirt around him. We usually put it on him right before our drives to our next camping spot.
For us, the limited space just meant we spent as much time as possible outdoors. For the cats, it meant that when they got hyper, they’d run back and forth 23 ft at a time. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to leash train them so that they could also spend time outdoors too.
If you’re trying to leash train your cats, get a harness and leash that fits snug around the neck and chest (you should be able to fit two of your fingers in the neck portion).
Some of them work better than others. With the first one we bought, one night, Sebastian popped out of it and ran into the woods. We were searching for him in the dark for half an hour while hearing other (possibly predatory) animal sounds. We thought we lost him or he was going to get eaten!
Since we are in such a tiny space, we decided to change from our usual clumping litter to pine. It masks the odor much better and doesn’t get all over the floors. They still get pine out of their box, but it’s much easier to pick up. We usually put their litter box right by the door, so that we can sweep it up right there.
Instead of buying a litter box, we decided to buy a big plastic container with a lid. This has worked best for us, since we are transporting it from the trailer to the car almost every other day.
If you feel like the box needs replacing, it’s also really affordable. So far ours has lasted 2 months, and it doesn’t need to be replaced yet. Also, the lid helps trap the odor inside after they do their deed on a car ride. We even considered getting this disposable one that lasts two weeks (has anyone tried these yet? do you like it?).
Our cats shed a lot! Especially in the heat. It wasn’t as noticeable in a larger space, but when you’re living and traveling with cats in a car or RV, you definitely want to prevent as much of the shedding as possible.
We furminate them once a week to keep the fur around our place minimized. If they’re home and we’re about to take them on a long trip, we make sure we furminate them before we go too.
We also had a lint roller handy in the car. Unless you don’t mind being covered in fur (why is it whenever you wear black they want to be extra affectionate?), you should probably get one. If you’re a pet owner, I’m guessing you already have one.
This is a must for cats in any scenario (unless you’re lucky enough to toilet train them – we were halfway there when we lived in a house with more than one bathroom). We picked up a cheap one and velcroed a Ziploc bag to the side of our litter box where we keep it.
We bought two sets, one for the trailer and one for the car. We use it every day to sweep up any of the litter that gets of our the box, and it helps to clean up any other dust or particles too.
Not sure how you other cat owners do it, but our cats hate water. Most healthy indoor cats can keep themselves clean, and don’t require a bath, but our boys like to get messy! Some people say it might be their dog-like personalities that also make them care less about their hygiene.
When we furminate them once a week, we also use the waterless bath foam on them too. They seem to like this much better than the spray.
If you let your cats go outside, be sure they have their flea meds. We let ours enjoy the outdoors from our trailer window and on occasional walks with a leash, but we don’t let them roam on their own.
Mika doesn’t mind rides in the car, but once we started driving on mountainous and curvy roads, it gave him car sickness. We tried Dramamine and got another prescription medicine to try from a vet, but neither worked for curvy roads.
We try to let him sit on the center console so he can look forward, but he always insists on looking out the sides and at the ground. He can be so stubborn (Jacob likes to joke that he gets that from me)! So far, we haven’t figured out the best solution for this other than trying to find better road conditions even if it means going out of the way.
Have you tried traveling with cats in a car? Can you think of any other cat travel tips?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
This Post Has 15 Comments
I didnt. Understand the # 14. THUNDER SHIRT-
Actually youu didnt it explain either
What is? And for what?
Please, how do you furminate a cat???? My boy sheds really bad and really doesn’t like to be brushed. I looked the word up in the dictionary and it is not known. Must be your word, :).
It’s actually a specific product! Check it out: http://localadventurer.com/furminator
Lol furmanator is a name of a brush. I have one, however my persian specifically does not like THAT brush..but it works well.
We traveled a lot with our two girls. It was in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Our longest trip was to and from Memphis TN to Portland OR. We had not bought a trailer at that point. We drove our Chevy Vega hatchback which gave them plenty of space to move around. I put their litterbox way in the back. They shared an airline kennel with blanket to hide under if desired. Bitsy and Puddin’ were both leash trained and had harnesses matched to their names, pink and blue. They were great little travelers. You are doing so like we did. I believe you will have wonderful times with your furbabbies. Share with us, please.
Thanks, Mary & Boyce! Sounds like they went on so many great adventures with you! We still need to try air travel with our guys, but so far they’ve adjusted well to car travel. :)
I’m a camper and I was leaving my two cats at home. I miss them and am looking for a way to take them with me. Thanks I’m going to try your ideas.
let me know how it goes! :)
Hi. My husband and I lived in an RV trailer for 13 years. We did not have pets during that time as we did not want the responsibility of them at that point in our lives. We are now retired, and have bought a house. Neither one of us ever owned a cat, but strange things happen sometimes, and we are now the proud humans of three curious, adorable kitties. The youngest of them, Frank Zappa the Cat, loves to get in our car whenever the door is opened for any reason. We have not taken him anywhere yet, but we are definitely thinking about giving it a try. He is such a curious boy, though. We have an open wire crate that we used when he was attacked by a dog in our yard, while he was recovering and had to have his leg wrapped and wear a cone for two weeks. I am going to be checking out the products you mentioned in this article because I would love to travel with all three of our cats. I am sure Rosie The Boy Cat and Morti Cat would like to go to Memphis some day.
That’s awesome, Karen! Yes, these products are all super helpful!
We found that our cat Lillevenn did not tolerate traveling in a carrier – even the expensive Sleepy Pod. After several incidents of peeing and pooping in the carrier occurred, we decided to let her ride free. She is much happier riding between us on the center console or on the back seat and will even use the litter box while we are moving. After the initial voicing of her displeasure she usually settles down and tolerates the ride. We are working on leash training her – though usually she just wants to munch on the nearest blades of grass.
It definitely depends on the cat. Even though people would disagree and for their safety, they need to be in a crate, it’s so hard as it is to travel with them. Sometimes you can’t be that picky about it. Ours don’t like being in a carrier either, but we also didn’t try that hard to crate train them, so the carrier isn’t a familiar space to them.
My 11 mo. Old kitty Sammy has been leash trained since he was 4 months old. But harnesses never worked for him , his middle name should be Houdini..I use dog cold as they do ‘t break away like the cat collars do. We go walking in the park ten miles away every weekend! Until this month Sammy has always had his car ride in his crate and YES he would cry and complain the whole way. 2 weeks ago I started letting him ride with me w/o the crate but still wearing his collar and leash. Much better! He rides on the headrests mostly, but he wanders front to back. The mobility and being able to look around seems to be a big factor.
This was really helpful, thanks for doing this. My cat is 2 y/o and never been in a car, other than being brought home from the shelter, and she’s rarely ever been outside.
So glad you found this helpful! It will definitely be an adjustment. I feel like most cats don’t enjoy being in the car. Are you going on a trip soon?