Even if there is no time or budget for a full, week-long vacation–there is often room for a road trip. Those with pets especially enjoy taking the family dog or cat along on such trips. Dogs seem to love car trips, and there are tons of pet travel products geared toward dogs. Cats, however, have a less than car-friendly image–and this leaves cat owners apprehensive in planning travel. Even if the family cat is less than enthusiastic about riding in a vehicle, a positive road trip with the cat is still achievable. What are a few tips for a safe, bearable road trip travel with your cat?
Make your cat’s veterinarian the first stop in road trip planning. Road trips are stressful for a cat that spends his life in the safety of his home or yard. A trip to the cat’s vet helps ensure that he is healthy and well prepared for such a vacation. Make sure that the cat is up to date on all vaccines necessary for the trip’s destination and has an adequate supply of any necessary medications. Be sure to obtain any required vaccination records or health exam documentation requested by the pet friendly places on your travel itinerary. During the cat’s examination, discuss any anxiety concerns. Your vet may prescribe a mild sedative for use during the trip if he or she feels that your cat may become dangerously tense.
Ensure that your cat wears identification or a microchip during travel. Does your indoor cat wear identification tags and a collar? Many do not wear identification at home but should wear identification tags or be microchipped for road trips. If your pet becomes separated from you during a traffic accident, or even jumps from the vehicle or hotel room in a strange place–his identification tags or microchip are vital for his safe return.
Rethink food, drink and potty breaks while on the road. Many cats become too irritable during road trips to consider eating or drinking-or litter box breaks. If your road trip is less than eight hours, you may be best suited to skip food and potty breaks to avoid upsetting kitty–especially if he has relaxed and settled into his temporary environment. Sometimes allowing the cat space for food, water and even a small litter box inside a large travel crate is the easiest option for longer road trips.
Remember that pet-friendly destinations are not always kitty-proof. If your cat is an accomplished, door jumper–take along signs to post as reminders to your non-cat owning hosts. If your cat will not be confined to a carrier or crate at the hotel in your absence, be sure that the hotel staff remembers his presence. Of our three cats, one is a daredevil climber, another is an electrical cord chewer, the third turns everything into a toy, and the fourth is a door jumping, stealth cat. Remember to pet proof your destination. We spend a considerable amount of time ensuring that our destination is safe for, and from, our cats during the visit.
Keep the cat safely secured during the road trip. Travelers never expect an accident on the road-but wear seat belts just in case. While your cat may be more content to choose a spot freely in the vehicle, he is not safe loose in the car. If the carrier is a no-go, try a pet harness secured in the seat beside someone he trusts.
Break the trip into short bursts of travel. Some cats do appreciate some time to stretch, head to the potty, or have a quick snack. However, many cats refuse a break until they safely reach their final destination and are free of the frightening confines of the car. If your cat refuses food, water or the litter box during travel-or becomes excessively agitated during breaks, then shorter road trips are in order. If your travel plans take you several hours from home, keep kitty’s needs in mind and schedule an over night stay to break up the trip.
Pack a cat friendly first aid kit. There are a number of commercial, pet first aid kits available. Consider purchasing one or making your own–being sure to include your veterinarian’s phone number, a supply of any prescription medications along with instructions, the cat’s vaccination documentation, and cat-specific supplies, such as fur-friendly bandages. Take along gloves and a towel or pillowcase to ease administering first aid treatment.