Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Many cats are uncomfortable with car travel. Unlike dogs, most cats are never taught to enjoy car trips. Many kittens have limited experience with car rides during their primary socialization period (2-7 weeks); when a kitten does go for a ride in the car, the destination is often the vet’s office, which can be scary in itself. Finally, a ride in the car involves unfamiliar noises and sights, as well as unusual and potentially unsettling motion. Taken together, it’s no wonder many cats are unhappy when they are asked to ride in the car.
The best way to make car travel less stressful for your cat is to get her used to the car early in life. But if you have an adult cat with an established fear, there are still steps you can take to reduce travel anxiety.
The safest way to transport your cat is always in a carrier; this will help prevent her from distracting the driver and may reduce her risk of winding up lost or injured — or worse, in the event of a car accident. But rather than forcing your cat into the carrier when it’s time to leave the house, teach her to enjoy spending time in her crate. This will make it easier to get her into the crate and into the car.
Training your cat to enter her crate willingly makes heading out in the car less frightening for her and less stressful for you. Start by teaching your cat that her crate is a safe place. Make the carrier inviting by placing her regular meal just outside the carrier. As she grows relaxed around the crate, move her food bowl inside the crate, pushing it farther back at each meal until she’s eating entirely inside the crate. Drop treats, such as freeze-dried chicken or a stuffed kitty Kong, inside her crate during the day to encourage her to investigate the space outside of meal times. You can also teach your cat to enter the crate on cue by following a target stick.
Put comfortable plush bedding on the inside of the crate to make it homey and inviting for your cat. You can spray Feliway, a synthetic cat hormone spray, into the carrier to encourage relaxation. Once your cat is comfortable inside her crate, practice closing the door for short periods while your cat is inside. Give her a favorite longer-lasting treat, like a dental chew, to gnaw on while the door is closed. Over time, work on closing the door for longer periods of time; while the door is closed, intermittently place favorite treats inside the crate.
When your cat becomes used to relaxing in the closed crate, work on getting her used to the sensation of being moved. Pick the crate up and hold it for a few seconds and then put it down. Work up to carrying the crate around your house. Reward your cat frequently for staying calm.
Next, take the crate out to the car. Set the carrier in the car with the car door open; give your cat a treat and then take the carrier out of the car. Practice this on a few occasions; once your cat gets used to being in the car, shut the car door and then open it again. If your cat remains relaxed, turn the car on, and then turn it right back off. Next, move the car just out of the driveway, then pull right back in and park.
Keep your pace slow; this will help your cat stay calm, which will make this a more positive experience for both of you. Work up to short trips in the car, like a spin around the block or a stop at the coffee shop drive-through. With experience, your cat will learn that riding in the car is nothing to fear. You can also make the car less unfamiliar to your cat by rubbing a towel over the scent glands located by the side of her cheeks; rub this towel over the inside of the car to distribute your cat’s smell and make the car a more familiar and relaxing place.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
The Community Hospital staff took care
of a lost black Lab who wandered into
their ER with an injured leg.
Dr. Debbie Mandell shares the signs of
heat stress, plus which breeds may have
conditions that could put them in…
These scented oils may help you relax,
but putting them on your cat or dog
could have serious consequences.
You may love the idea of sharing your
bed with a kitten, but Dr. Marty Becker
says you should wait until he's older.
There's a lot of false information out there
about heartworm disease, so we're
debunking common misconceptions.
A rare breed that's often mistaken for a
Chihuahua, the Russian Toy is a tiny dog
known for his big personality.
Annual examinations are the cornerstone
of a good preventive care regimen and
can save you money in the long run.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.