Car Travel With Cats: What You Should Know

Simple Survival Strategies

Make the cats comfy in the bathroom. After a couple of trips, I found it was easiest to just keep the cats in the bathroom overnight when we stopped at a hotel. Let your cats out of their carriers, but leave the carriers in the bathroom with them in case they want to hang out in a “familiar” place. Put the litterbox in the tub to create some separation between the box and your cats' sleeping and eating area. In this setup, your cats will be contained, probably can’t damage anything and are easy to corral when it’s time to go. If you're worried about being mean, don't be. Your cats will likely feel more secure in that smaller space anyway.

Photo credit: Caroline Golon
Everyone should stay in their carrier for safety.

Don't open the carrier in the car. Some cats will stay in their carrier if you open it, and some won’t. Even if you just want to give them a few reassuring chin scratches, don’t take the chance. You may think you know your cat, but all bets are off when you’re on the road. Your kitty may freak out and bolt, and you run the risk of him jumping out of the car or burrowing under your luggage in the back seat, impossible to reach unless you unpack the entire car. Trust me on this one.

Be prepared to take pit stops in shifts. During our first cat-accompanied road trip, we realized at the first rest stop that someone would have to stay in the car with the cats. This posed a slight issue for us as we were traveling with two small human children in addition to the cats, so we took turns taking the kids to the restroom and for quick playground let-off-steam runs. While it may seem like a hassle to eat and potty in shifts, never leave your pets alone in a car.An enclosed car can heat up quickly and dangerously, even when it’s cold outside.

Update microchips and tags. My biggest fear about traveling with my cats was that one of them would escape and be lost forever. It’s a valid concern because cats get weird when they’re in unfamiliar places, and if you let them out of the carrier, even for a second, you may be in big trouble. Make sure to update your cats’ microchip information with your cellphone number, and if they don’t wear collars and tags already, make sure they’re wearing them while you’re on your trip.

You may think you will never find yourself in a situation where you have to take your cats on a long car trip (I never dreamed I’d have to do it four times), but life takes unexpected turns. Traveling with cats isn’t easy, but it can be done. If you think ahead, take extra measures to keep your cats safe and prepare for unpredictable behavior, then you and your cats are more likely to arrive safely at your destination.

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