Summer is the perfect time for road trips, travel, and adventures, but for many cats, a long car ride is the last thing they want.
Cars can often be a scary, stressful place, so it's important to spend time making your cat feel comfortable and to make sure you're fully prepared before you leave. Here are 9 tips to travel safely with your cat this summer.
1. Visit Your Vet Before You Leave
Before you leave, stop in for a checkup with the vet to make sure your cat is healthy enough for travel. Car rides can cause stress and anxiety for cats which can worsen any current medical conditions, so it's important to get the seal of approval from your vet beforehand.
If you know that your cat has car anxiety, this is also a great time to talk with your vet about potential anxiety or anti-nausea medications to help keep your cat as comfortable as possible. You should also refill any prescriptions that your cat is already on.
2. Make Their Cat Carrier a Safe Space
To stay safe in the car, your cat will need to be in a carrier that can be securely fastened with a seatbelt. This will be far less stressful for your kitty if they're already comfortable inside their carrier.
For most cats, the carrier is only brought out when they need to go to the vet, making it a source of anxiety. To help combat this, leave your cat's carrier out all the time with the door unzipped in an area they frequent. You can also put a blanket or bed inside the carrier to make the area more comfortable and give them a place to build up their scent.
3. Pack All of the Essentials
Before you leave, make sure to pack all your cat's daily necessities, as well as extra supplies in case of emergencies or delays in your schedule. Here are a few things to include in your packing list:
- Litter box, scoop, and extra litter
- Food, including extra portions
- Drinking water
- Food and water bowls
- Collar and ID tags
- Something that carries their scent, like a bed, blanket, or favorite toy
- Up-to-date medical records
- Medication and supplements, including extra doses in case of emergencies
- A few different types of toys
- Treats and catnip
- A harness and leash if your cat is leash trained
4. Plan Your Route Ahead of Time
Never assume that the hotel, Airbnb, or vacation rental you want to stay in is pet-friendly. Many places may even be dog-friendly but not cat-friendly, so it's vital to plan ahead and research appropriate accommodations. Always call ahead to verify that your chosen lodging is cat-friendly and to ask about any specific restrictions or policies regarding cats.
If you're planning a long road trip, it may be tempting to push through and drive long-hour days. But don't forget that your cat still needs to take breaks to eat, use the litter box, and rest while the car isn't moving. Some cats even love being on a harness and leash to stretch their legs.
5. Take a Test Drive
A long drive can be a tough experience for your cat to adjust to, especially if their only experience with the car has been on the drive to the vet.
Start by strapping your cat's carrier into the car, and simply sitting next to them without the car running. Give them a treat if they're calm to help build positive associations. From there, increase the practice at your cat's pace, starting with turning the car on and working your way up to longer drives.
6. Get Your Cat Microchipped
Anything can happen while you're away, and if your cat were to escape from the car while you're at a rest stop or run off from wherever you're staying, a microchip gives you the best chance of getting them back.
Microchips keep a record of your phone number, name, and address. The first thing that many people will do if they find a stray animal is to take it to a local vet or animal shelter, and there they can quickly scan for a microchip.
7. Stay Protected with Pet Insurance
You always want your cat to be safe, especially when you're away from home, but accidents happen. And your cat could get injured or sick while you're away from your primary veterinarian.
Last-minute vet appointments, especially at an emergency veterinary clinic, can be very expensive. This means you may be faced with the difficult decision of having to choose between getting your cat the best medical care and being able to pay your bills.
With pet insurance, you can prepare for the cost of unexpected vet bills. Get a cat insurance quote from AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) before your next trip. You'll have one less thing to worry about, and you'll know that your cat is protected in case of an emergency.
8. Manage the Temperature Inside Your Car
Cats can be sensitive to temperature, and during the summer, your car's temperature can rise quickly. Even if you're comfortable with the heat inside your car, your cat may not be. Keep the temperature at a moderate, cool level, so your cat is comfortable and not at risk of dangerous health problems.
Never leave your cat alone in the car, even if the windows are cracked. The temperature inside your car can rise almost 20℉ in only 10 minutes, and it can be more than 40 degrees warmer inside than the outside temperature. That means your cat could quickly suffer from heatstroke or worse, even if you're gone only a few minutes.
9. Use Pheromones to Make Your Cat Feel Safe
If your cat gets stressed by car rides or suffers from car-related anxiety, using a pheromone inside the car can help keep them calm. You can spray their cat carrier, use a pheromone wipe to wipe down areas of your car, or even use a plug-in diffuser.
The pheromones help send reassuring messages to your cat because they mimic marking pheromones, as well as those produced by mother cats to help bond with their babies.
Is Your Cat Ready for Summer Travel?
Including your cat in your travel plans can be a great alternative to leaving them with a pet sitter, and it's a great opportunity to create new, fun memories. As long as you help ease your cat into car rides and take all safety precautions, your cat will be ready for summer travel in no time. So, get your cat carrier out, clean off the car, and hit the open road for an adventure with your feline friend!