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Car Travel with Your Cat

While some cats travel well they are the exception, and many cats (and their owners!) dread the appearance of the cat basket.

Sadly for vet visits, cattery stays and a host of other reasons cats do sometimes need to travel.

With their strong sense of territory, and dislike of change, this can be very upsetting for cats.

So, how can you make travelling with your cat easier? 

Read more about moving house with your cat

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Pre-planning

What type of carrier is best for cat car travel?

Safety is the most important part of car travel with any pet – theirs and yours.  This means that most cats will travel in a cat basket.

Getting the right basket can make a big difference to your travel experience. Carriers should be:

  • Strong - so it doesn’t get damaged 
  • Have the ability to lift the top off - so you don’t have to extract your cat through a small door
  • Easy to clean - in case of toileting or vomiting 
  • Hard to grab onto with claws – wicker baskets look nice but can be very difficult to untangle a determined cat from!
  • Appropriately sized – cats should be able to stand up and turn around comfortable but don’t need overly large carriers as they like to feel enclosed and secure. 
  • Comfortable to carry – think about the journey you have to make. Can you handle the carrier with your cat inside?

How can you get a cat used to a carrier?

Part of the common feline aversion to cat carriers is that it is a new and scary place. Cats also rapidly figure out that when their cat carrier is visible it’s time for a journey, and this negative association can make getting your cat into their basket even worse.

Getting your cat basket down a few days early, or having it out all the time if you have space, is a great way to take away some of the fear associated with their cat basket.

By having nice, comfortable bedding in there, or popping some yummy treats inside, you can help your cat start to associate the basket with pleasant experiences. This might not make them enjoy a car journey, but feeling like they are in a familiar place can make the trip less anxiety-inducing.

On the Day

  • Line the cat carrier with something absorbent in case of accidents, such as newspaper or a puppy pad.
  • Spray the carrier with a calming pheromone spray such as Feliway, or use catnip as a good distraction.
  • Never have your cat loose in the car. This could lead to an accident, hugely increases the risk of your cat escaping, and increases the chance of injury of both you and them in a crash.
  • Assess the weather. While British climates are rarely extreme on warm days it can get extremely hot in a cat carrier, so make sure there is good air flow and never leave your cat in the car unattended. Cats die in hot cars too! On colder days you can cover the carrier with a blanket, making sure there is air flow but no drafts.
  • Taking two? Have a separate carrier for each cat to help stop them overheating, or becoming grumpy with each other. Sadly stress and confinement can lead to cats behaving out of character.
  • For adult cats taking up their food for a few hours before travel can help reduce the risk of travel sickness.
  • Make sure your cat carrier is well secured in the car. Using a seatbelt can be a good method. Carriers can also be placed behind the back seat if there is enough room for ventilation.

On Arrival

When you arrive at your destination you will most likely be somewhere unfamiliar to your cat – suddenly the basket might not seem so unappealing at all!

Make sure there is a reasonably small safe space for your cat (a single room is ideal), put out everything they will need, and then open the basket door.

Don’t pull your cat out of the basket if you do not have to.

Let your cat explore in their own time and retreat back to the carrier if they want to.