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Before you secure your pet in the back of your SUV and take off driving, though, you want to spend some time acclimating your pet to the crate or harness. “It’s something they need to get used to,” Dr. Colleran says. She trained her own cats to love their carriers by placing them at the foot of two high-value cat trees and leaving the doors open. “It’s got nice bedding in it, and they nap in there,” she says. “When I close the door to the carrier, their heart rate doesn’t go up, their respiratory rate doesn’t go up, their pupils don’t get dilated. They just look at me like ‘OK, now what?’”
Instead of setting off on a full-day road trip, Wolko suggests pet owners take animals for brief drives for the first week or so to help them become accustomed to a harness or carrier. “You do a five-minute trip for a couple of days, and then a 10-minute trip, and you just progressively make it longer,” she says. “Take them around turns, so [your pets] can get a feel for where they’re going to go as you turn the vehicle.” And to help pets stay relaxed, Dr. Becker recommends covering the crate or carrier with a light towel or sheet to reduce visual stimuli and enhancing the ride with a spritz of calming pheromones and the sound of pet-friendly music.
Finally, place pets in separate carriers. It may save space to put two animals in the same carrier, but they can be injured if they’re thrown against each other or if one slams another into the side of the carrier.
The organization has developed crash test standards for pet transportation products, conducts its own tests and substantiates manufacturer claims. It accepts no funds from manufacturers.
Products that earn certification can be expensive, because of the cost of materials, development and manufacture. They tend to be built to last and can often give your pet — and sometimes future pets — a lifetime of use. Even if you can’t afford a certified carrier or harness, your pet tends to be safer if he’s contained. So are you. “Containment and restraint devices can help prevent accidents by minimizing driver distraction,” dog trainer Mikkel Beckersays.
Properly restraining your pet may also help prevent high veterinary bills. The cost of repairing broken bones or providing veterinary rehab can soar to thousands of dollars. “If you are in a crash, having a product that you can count on is huge peace of mind,” Wolko says. “They are expensive, but I know what happened with my Maggie, and my vet bills far outweighed the cost of a good-quality harness for her.”
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