Travelling by Car with Your Cat
People think nothing of jumping in their car and setting off for another journey. Unfortunately, cats will have a very different view of life on the road. They won’t understand what is happening and will dislike being confined to their carrier. The whole process can be really distressing, even if the journey is very short.
I used to have four cats and dreaded having to transport them in my car. Every journey would be accompanied by a cacophony of wailing which made me feel incredibly guilty. My lovely cat Jason would invariably mess in his carrier and Paolo would glare at me with a level of disdain usually reserved for serial killers. Over the years I was forced to learn how to mitigate my cats’ angst. It is possible to make travelling by car a little less stressful for moggies.
Pet Carriers and Acclimatisation
It is important to choose a pet carrier which is very secure. Many cats will attempt to escape at the first opportunity so it is crucial to find a carrier which would defy Houdini. It should be big enough for a cat to be able to stand up and turn around. The bottom should be solid and leak proof in case of accidents. If long journeys are likely then it is best to invest in a carrier which is large enough to accommodate a litter tray. You can’t just let your cat out for a comfort break!
Cats should be introduced to their carriers in the home and not just five minutes before they are to travel in the car. If the carrier is left sitting on the floor and open, most cats will investigate it and may even decide to take a nap in it. If the carrier is familiar to them and has been introduced to them in a non-threatening environment, they will find it less stressful when they are confined to it in the car.
Cats can be acclimatised to travelling by car gradually by being taken on short journeys occasionally. This will also teach them that not all journeys result
in a visit to the vet or the cattery!
Comfort and Distractions
Cats will be more comfortable and relaxed if they can sit on a favourite blanket. It is best to take a spare blanket in the car in case the cat soils their bedding. It is also wise to put a toy or two in the carrier with the cat to provide a distraction for the journey. Familiar objects will make them feel more relaxed.
With some cats it can help to keep talking to them as you drive. Others will simply ignore any attempts to mollify them and just keep wailing! However, it almost always helps to keep the radio turned off as the more noise there is, the more stressed the cats will find the car.
Any cat can have an accident and soil their carrier, particularly on longer journeys. It is important to carry cloths, disinfectant and a bottle of water in the car just in case. The smell can be horrendous so air freshener can come in handy too!
Cats which are easily stressed can benefit from calming tablets when they travel. Some will be relaxed by calming sprays or diffusers which contain cat friendly pheromones.
If cats are properly acclimatised to their carrier and to the car, then travelling is liable to be much less stressful. Most cats learn to tolerate travel but few will ever enjoy it.