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Most cats are stay-at-home pets, preferring the creature comforts of familiar surroundings over the excitement of new adventures. But even if your cat prefers to avoid travel, you can’t always avoid putting him in the car. Cats need to go to the veterinarian, after all, and you don’t want to avoid essential health care for your pet.
And who knows? Someday you might retire, buy an RV and make your cat a snowbird. Anything’s possible if you know the tricks to making the car comfortable for your cat.
Though most cats can learn to tolerate riding in a moving vehicle — and a few may actually enjoy it! — most need help getting to that stage. Just like some people, some pets get motion sickness, while anxiety is a problem for others. Some cats vomit when experiencing motion sickness. Other pets may drool excessively, with copious amounts of saliva drenching the upholstery.
Talk to your veterinarian about medications that may help with either the anxiety of travel or the stomach upset and vomiting. For some anxious pets, medication may be helpful while he becomes more comfortable in the car. For other pets, especially those with queasy stomachs, antianxiety and antivomiting medication may be needed long-term. Your veterinarian can also advise you if medication is not the best option for your cat.
Choosing the right products — and helping your cat get accustomed to them — is a key part of your travel preparation:
Cat Carrier. A carrier is the best way to travel with a cat, and they’re relatively inexpensive in feline sizes, so don’t scrimp and stuff your cat in a pillowcase or cardboard box. Many feline behaviorists now recommend a hard-sided carrier with openings on the front and top. These carriers provide a low-stress way for cats to be removed and returned to a secure environment.
Tip: Your cat’s carrier isn’t something she should see only when going to the veterinarian. Use treats and praise to teach your cat to go into the carrier and leave it out — and open — for her to use as a safe retreat. When your cat sees her carrier as a refuge, she’ll be more comfortable in it while on the road, especially if you cover it with a towel to hide the disconcerting sight of moving scenery (or D-O-G-S in the veterinary waiting room).
Pheromone Sprays. For scaredy cats, pheromone sprays are something to consider. Talk to your veterinarian about these products.
Harness and Leash. A frightened cat can get loose in a heartbeat. Though you may not have considered putting a harness and leash on your kitty, it can be a real lifesaver if your traveling cat decides to bolt. Get your cat accustomed to the new gear in advance of the trip and be sure to have an ID tag as well as a microchip to help you get your cat back if he does escape. (It’s always a good idea to confirm that your cat’s microchip is registered and the information is current.)
Other Critical Gear. If you’re going for more than a short trip, you’ll need food and water dishes and spill-proof containers for both. Litter boxes can be handled by disposables, as long as you use your cat’s regular litter. A basic pet first-aid kit is recommended as well, and travel will be easier if you have a book of pet-friendly hotels or a tablet or smartphone app with these listings. Make sure you take any medication your pet is on, along with what you need to give the pills, such as a pill gun or pill pockets.
Finally, to spare yourself aggravation the morning of your departure, make sure you know where to find your cat when you are ready to leave. If your kitty is likely to hide out, put your cat in a spare bedroom with food, water, a scratching post, toys and a litter box the night before you leave so your cat can’t roam too far. Once in the car be extra vigilant that your cat doesn’t get too hot. Never leave your cat in the car alone on a hot day. Even on a warm day the temperature in a car can reach dangerous levels within minutes — well over 100 degrees — even if the windows are partially open.
Despite the challenges, cats can learn to travel. Work with your veterinarian to help keep your kitty calm and prepare for any other health issues. Make sure your cat’s always secure and you’ll be on your way to new adventures.
This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.
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