Tis the season! The roadtrip season that is. Memorial Day is the official kickoff of the summer roadtrip season. Why not make this the year you take your cat on the road? We consulted a top travel cat and her humans for their best tips for traveling with cats in a car.
Indiana is one well-traveled cat. At 15 months old, she has already traveled to eight states and Canada. Her humans, Tasha and Matt, not only love to travel but their work takes them between Minnesota and the state of Indiana every six weeks, with the cat Indiana along for the ride. Logging thousands of miles on the road together makes Indiana and her team the foremost experts to answer all our questions on traveling with cats in a car.
What is your #1 tip for traveling with cats in a car?
Have the cat on a harness and leash at all times in the car. Having your cat harnessed and leashed helps keep her calm. The harness kind of works like a Thunder Shirt. A harness is good security and peace of mind, should the cat get spooked or the unexpected happen.
Indiana is free to roam about the car, though she prefers to sleep much of her time in her travel carrier. She is very comfortable in the car and has never tried to get out.
How do you manage the litter box for long trips in the car?
Use a portable litter box, placed in a slightly larger cardboard box. Scoop the poop immediately when the cat uses the box to contain odor.
Tasha has a portable litter box that she bought for under $10 online. When she acquired it, she let Indiana get accustomed to it first in the home. Because it has low sides, she places it in slightly larger cardboard box with higher sides to prevent litter from getting all over the car. She trims the front low in front so Indiana can get in and out with ease. Pro-tip: Tasha has found the bulk cardboard box for Chicken Nuggets is perfect size -just ask at local McDonalds!
Should you give your cat water and food on a long car ride?
Most cats are content to forego food and drink for an 8-9 hour day of driving. They will sleep most of the day. But be alert to the environmental conditions and the individual needs of your cat. Offering water is always a good idea.
On a long day’s drive, Tasha will give Indiana treats 2-3 times. Although Indiana prefers not to eat or drink while they are on the road, they offer her food and water when they stop for meals.
Do you make stops on long drives with your cat?
Try to minimize the number of stops when traveling with cats in a car so to limit stress for your kitty.
Tasha shares that they try to drive all the way through to their destination to prevent too many stops and prevent stressing Indiana out too much. This has improved over time. As she has gotten older, she is fine making 2-3 stops on a road trip.
How To Get Started: Traveling With Cats in a Car
The key to getting started car traveling with cats is getting the cat accustomed to their travel bag/case. If you plan on letting your cat out of the bag, so to speak, you’ll also want to get the cat comfortable wearing a harness and leash.
Start by getting your cat a nice travel bag or case. Tasha has a travel bag dedicated to Indiana. She initially placed Indiana’s toys and blankets in it and around it to make her familiar with it. She started sleeping in her travel bag and became used it.
Start leash and harness training early! Tasha started leash training Indiana soon after they got her at three months old. But don’t worry: it’s never too late to teach an old cat new tricks.
When did you let Indiana start to roam free in the car?
Initially, Indiana spent much of her time riding in Tasha’s arms. As a kitten,they didn’t want her squeezing into nooks and crannies in the car. Once she got older and chunkier, they let her sit alone in the back. Now she likes to sleep in her travel bag or on the ground behind my chair.
Note: cats all seem to want to go under your feet by the gas pedal. This is a huge no no and must be prevented, avoided at all times.
Does Indiana have a playlist she likes?
Classical music is her jam. Pump up the AC and she is a happy cat. She also quite enjoys the Joe Rogan Experience, being a cat of quite refined tastes.
Advice on supplies and gear for cat travel?
Advice on supplies and gear for cat travel?
Tasha maintains a baby bag just for Indiana. It comes with all the things she may need such as medications, wipes, treats, toys, food, water, necessary bowls, a towel, etc. She also brings a scratching board for her, so she has something to scratch in the hotel room or where they will stay, to prevent her from scratching other things.
Be sure to bring important paperwork, such as rabies certificate and medical records (many records are acceptable in digital format). Always make sure your cat is microchipped (with up-to-date contact info). As a final measure of security, Indiana has a tag with both her dad’s and Tasha’s contact information.
In your travels, have you visited any cat cafes? What cat-tastic attractions are on your bucket list?
Tasha is delighted to hear there now a number of cat cafes in their home state of Indiana. . She has visited a number of cat cafes, including Cat Town in Oakland, California, Cafe Meow in Minneapolis, one in Orlando, and Nine Lives Cat Cafe in Indianapolis. What does a cat lady do for her birthday? Go to two cat cafes in Quebec!
Tasha and Matt have also visited the Cat Boat in Amsterdam, Hemingway House in Key West, The Cat House on the Kings, and Montmartre Cemetery with the cats in Paris. Tasha’s #1 place she wishes to visit is Cat Island in Japan.
Dealing with Feline Travel Anxiety: A Gentler Approach
We regularly hear from cat owners that their veterinarian recommends a feline sedative for traveling by car with cats. While we won’t dispute advice from your veterinarian, our experience suggests a gentler approach will be more effective in both the near and long term for a positive travel experience.
On early trips, Tasha used Feliway to help keep Indiana calm. She sprayed a little in the car and in her travel bag. They don’t use Feliway now because she has gotten used to the car and traveling. In fact, Tasha says she thinks they got pretty lucky with Indiana as she took to car riding very quickly. She fussed for about 20 minutes of the first car ride and the rest has been smooth travels!
Our That Cat Life household is big fan of homeopathic remedies, for people and kitties alike. If you think your cat needs anxiety relief, we have had excellent success with homeopathic remedies. HomeoPet offers two good products to consider: Feline Anxiety Relief and Pet Travel Anxiety Support. Note: we have no affiliation to HomeoPet -just fans of their products