Tips on how to make your cat enjoy car travel

Stef Zisovska
Author: Kenny Louie from Vancouver, Canada. CC BY 2.0
Author: Kenny Louie from Vancouver, Canada. CC BY 2.0

Is cat travel possible or is it better for kitty to stay back home while you’re on a 2 week road trip? The answer is: it depends on your cat. Travelling by car with your cat is possible, but it requires preparation. If you are a cat owner who can’t live without your cat during the vacation, then there are some things you must practice before you force your cat to get into a car.

Why cats hate car rides?

It’s simple – cats don’t like new things and changing their everyday routine makes them angry. If your cat’s biggest excitement is to get out on the balcony and try to hunt a pigeon, then driving around in a car for hundreds of miles will make it nervous for sure. You need to understand this and stop pushing your cat to do something that you would like it to do. A car ride for a cat means taking it away from its mom or taking it to the scary vet station.

It is an unwritten law of the universe that cats hate cars
It is an unwritten law of the universe that cats hate cars

The two bad memories have something to do with your car. So, when you’re trying to make your cat sit calmly on the back seat, get ready for some mayhem as soon as the engine starts. Be patient with your cat and teach it that the car is not a scary place to be. The teaching process can be longer than you may be expecting, but if you want your favorite paws with you in the car, you need to try it.

A carrier is a must

No matter if you have a big cat or a kitten, it needs to be in a carrier during the whole drive. In case of an accident a loose cat will turn into a crazy jumping ball with claws. As a driver, you need to concentrate on the road, not if there’s a kitten under the pedals. Make sure to introduce your cat to the carrier at least few weeks before the trip.

Cat’s need to travel in a carrier for their own safety, and for yours
Cat’s need to travel in a carrier for their own safety, and for yours

Make the car cat’s territory

Cats hate new surroundings and are afraid if smells they don’t recognize. If you let your cat “investigate” the car and leave its smell inside, it will feel safer and more familiar when it gets inside the car again.

Cat’s bed

If your cat has a bed, favorite blanket or a towel, place it on the back seat. This way the cat’s smell will be already in the car. Put your cat on its bed and let it smell it and get comfortable. Once it lies down on it, you’ll know it’s time for the next step.

5-minute car visits

Close yourself and your cat in the car for 5 minutes every day. Let the kitty explore the new location, get under the seats, climb everywhere. An active tail, fluffed fur, and downturned ears are expected reactions the first days. When your cat gets calmer, extend the car time few more minutes.

Don’t let your kitten be scared
Don’t let your kitten be scared

Car meals

This one is a classy, old-time trap. When kitty doesn’t panic in the car anymore, start feeding all its meals inside the car. Even better, give your cat high value treats that it’s never tried, so it feels rewarded.

Start the engine

Put your cat in the carrier and place it on the back seat. Start the car just for a few seconds and turn it off. Get out of the car without walking away from it and repeat the whole process couple of times. Your cat will get used to the engine sound and you being near at the same time.

Allow your cat plenty of time to get comfy
Allow your cat plenty of time to get comfy

Drive time

Finally, start driving the car very slowly, so your cat doesn’t get scared. Repeat the whole process every day if possible if you want to have positive results. It may be hard at the beginning, but don’t give up. Good luck!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival