Let me tell you a horror story. A horror story that lead to learning a lot of tips for road trips with cats. So, an educational horror story.
Once upon a time, about six years ago, Pete and I were driving up to New York and took the cat we had at the time. I felt so bad keeping him cooped up the entire trip, so when we stopped at a rest stop for gas, I went over to a grassy area with the cat and his favorite food and decided to let him stretch his legs.
He darted out of the harness and leash I had him on … and under a truck.
I tried, to no avail, to get lure him out. So I did what any normal person would do. I sobbed in front of the truck’s tire until the owner came out, popped the hood, reached in, grabbed our cat, and returned him to me.
When I look back now, I realize how dumb I was. That cat had only lived in our third-floor apartment. He didn’t know the outside world, he didn’t know what grass was, and he sure didn’t need to stretch his legs.
We got him back, thank goodness, but we also learned a lot of lessons about traveling with cats. I figured I would pass that knowledge on to you.
Tips For Road Trips With Cats
These tips aren’t in any particular order. They’re all really important for a successful trip with your cat.
1. Get a personalized collar.
Before you even embark on your trip, make sure your cat has a collar with his name on it, your name, and your phone number. You can pick one up at your local pet store and get it personalized while you wait.
You’re going to do your best to make sure your cat remains with you at all times, but in the event he runs off, you want to have a way to have him returned.
Honestly, having a personalized collar is a good idea to have, even if you’re not traveling with your cat. Outdoor cats aren’t permitted in our county, and yet, we have found numerous ones that have gotten outside. Every time we can, we pick up the wandering cat and call and text the owner. So personalized collars really help.
2. Use a pet carrier.
Your cat may not love heading in to a cat carrier, but it’s sure better than letting him roam free in your car. Imagine opening the door and your cat bolting into the unknown. You cat may cry in the carrier, which is the saddest sound in the world, but it beats you crying!
You can actually buckle your cat in, if you don’t like keeping it in a carrier. A pet seat belt might actually be better in case you happen to get into an accident because then your cat will be buckled in instead of the carrier potentially flying across the car.
Okay, so yes, because I know you’re wondering. A pet seat belt is actually a thing. A car’s built in seat belt is made specifically for people. So you want to purchase a pet seat belt, for your cat. The pet seat belt has a buckle at one side, which latches into the car seat belt’s buckle. It then has a clasp to attach to the cat’s collar.
If you don’t want to spend money on a pet seat belt, use the car’s seat belt to buckle the pet carrier, if you’re leaving the cat in there.
3. Pack your cat’s favorite food and treats.
You won’t be feeding your cat on the road trip, but you will when you get to your destination. Having your cat’s favorite food with you will make him feel more secure. Changing his environment and food might be too much.
If you can, feed your cat at home a few hours before your road trip. You don’t want to feed him too close to driving time because that could cause him to get sick and vomit. And you don’t want to have to worry about cleaning that up while you’re driving.
If you’re driving for a few days, then of course you should feed your cat along the way. But if the road trip is only a few hours, your cat will be fine not eating.
4. Pack water for your cat.
When you get thirsty, think about your cat. You’ll want to pour water into a bowl and let your cat have a drink. If you’re worried about your cat running around the cat, just unzip the pet carrier enough to allow a small, collapsible water bowl in. Ideally, you’ll want to give your cat some water when you’re stopped at a rest stop. If not, you run the risk of the water spilling all over if the driver stops short.
Definitely pack water for your cat to drink on your road trip. You don’t want fill his or her water bowl at a rest stop bathroom. You don’t know what’s in the water coming from the rest stop’s faucet, and you don’t want to run the risk of your cat getting sick from something.
5. Don’t worry about a litter box …
Cats are smart. I’m not sure how their little bodies are wired, but they know there is no way for them to go to a bathroom on a road trip. So they don’t. They won’t go in the carrier, so don’t worry about that.
When you get to your destination, have a litter box available and introduce your cat to it.
… 6. Unless you’re staying overnight.
If you’re breaking your trip up over multiple days, you’ll want to pack a litter box to bring into the hotel (or wherever you’re staying). Be sure to check with any hotels (campgrounds, etc.) you might book to assure they are pet friendly. You don’t want to get there and then find out your cat isn’t welcome.
7. Don’t leave your cat alone in the car.
No matter what you do, never leave a cat alone in the car. If you have to stop for the bathroom, make sure a passenger stays in the car with the cat when you go inside, then let your passenger go in while you watch the cat. Don’t leave your cat alone at any point during your road trip and do not leave your cat in a hot car under any circumstances.
Do you plan on traveling with your cat this summer? Let us know your tips for road trips with cats in the comments.