Unlike dogs, cats usually don’t like riding in cars. Whereas many dogs adapt easily to traveling and can go on road trip vacations with you, cats are usually much better off left at home. In fact, most cat owners usually only take their kitty for a car ride when it’s absolutely necessary, such as for visits to the vet. There are, however, times when traveling with cats is unavoidable. I experienced such a time when I moved to another state a few years ago. I put my belongings on a truck, loaded my three cats in carriers and into the back seat of my car, and away we went. From this road trip, I learned firsthand what to do, and what not to do, when faced with the need to travel with cats.
Careful planning is essential if you are to have any hope of a good experience when traveling with cats. As early as possible before your trip, make a list of supplies you’ll need to obtain, purchase them, and put them in a safe place. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute for supplies, nor do you want to discover mid-trip that you forgot something indispensable. A sturdy cat carrier is a must, because cats do not travel well in cars and can get under your feet, claw your legs or otherwise become a dangerous distraction. I prefer the heavy-duty plastic cat carriers that have open-weave metal doors for air circulation. When traveling with cats for long distances, you need a cat carrier that allows some fresh air into it. I like to put a soft towel on the bottom for cushioning.
You will also need to bring food and water, bowls, kitty litter, scooper, plastic bags for waste, and a litter pan. They sell small litter pans made for kittens, which are perfect for travel. I poured some kitty litter into a gallon milk jug, which was more convenient than lugging along a big, heavy container of litter. You might also want to pack one or two of their favorite cat toys. This will provide something familiar with their scent, and give them something to play with in the motel. Your cat may or may not feel like playing, but at least they will have the option.
I learned the hard way that it’s probably not a good idea to give your cat very much food before you set out on your travels. I was cruising merrily down the highway, singing along with the three-cat harmony coming from the back seat, when suddenly I smelled something awful. My worst fear had become reality; Rocky had diarrhea in his carrier. Suffice it to say, I fed him very, very little for the remainder of this two day trip. Some cat’s digestive systems are highly sensitive, and stress combined with the movement of the car can wreak havoc on their stomachs. Hence, it’s wise to just feed them very small amounts of food until you arrive at your destination.
The one thing I debated about buying and bringing along is a leash and body harness. Cats are notoriously anti-leash creatures, but I now realize this is an essential supply when traveling with cats. Further, you should practice putting it on your cat and taking it off before your trip, so you will be familiar with how to use it – because there’s a good chance you will need it. I had to stop at a rest area after Rocky had his “accident.” This rest area didn’t have a lock on the door, so I put the harness and leash on Rocky, and tied the leash to the sink while I cleaned out his carrier, and then him. If he had been running loose in the room and someone opened the door, I likely would have never seen him again.
If you find yourself faced with the need to travel with cats, I hope these tips will help you have a smooth and safe trip.