While there are some cats who do not mind travelling by car, and even enjoy it, for many felines it is a very stressful experience. This is partly because trips in the car often tend to end at the vet, which is not most cats' favourite place! But being cooped up and travelling is not the sort of thing home-loving cats tend to enjoy anyway. So here are some hints ant tips to make car journeys less stressful for your cat, and therefore also easier for you. Some will only apply on longer car journeys, while others will be equally applicable to short trips...
If your cat has not been in a cat carrier before, he is likely to find it rather frightening. If he has used one, but only to go to the vet, then the carrier will have negative associations. Now is the time to convince him that cat carriers are quite nice really. So keep the carrier in the house for a few days before your planned trip, and allow the cat to get used to going in and out of it. Perhaps feed him some treats in there, or encourage him to use it for sleeping. That way it will be less stressful for him when the journey actually begins.
Make sure you have some soft, absorbent material in the carrier, such as towels and bedding, so that your cat will be warm and comfortable. You might also want to line the carrier with absorbent 'puppy pads', in case your cat pees in his carrier, although most cats will make sure they don't do this.
You can buy these sprays, which are designed to help keep your cat calm. Feliway uses pheromones, and Pet Remedy contains herbs such as Valerian. Both have the same effect, but sometimes one is better than the other for an individual cat, so do try them in advance. I actually have one cat who loathes Feliway and won't go near anything if it has been sprayed with it! So do check in advance, but these sprays can be very effective for many cats.
If your cat isn't microchipped, or the chip isn't up to date with your current address, now is the time to make sure this is done. Your cat is unlikely to escape, but it is always possible; you could have a minor car accident, for instance. If your cat is microchipped, you are much more likely to get him back if the worst happens. Even if he wears an identity collar, do make sure he is chipped too, as collars can come off and get lost.
Many cats will refuse to eat on long journeys. However, it is a good idea to have some food and offer it to your cat, just in case he is hungry. Dry food is much easier to manage in the car, as long as your cat likes it.
Many cats seem to do the equivalent of crossing their legs on car journeys, however long a distance they are. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to have cat litter and a tray handy, just in case your cat needs it. If he does, stop in a suitable place, make sure all car doors and windows are securely closed, and then let your cat into the car interior to use the tray. You will of course need suitable items to clean up after your cat...see next on this list...
These have all sorts of uses, so take plenty of them. If your cat goes to the toilet, you can put the used cat litter in a plastic bag and dispose of it later. Wet wipes can be used to clean up if your cat is sick, as occasionally happens on car journeys. You can also use them to clean yourself if necessary. Paper towels are useful for all sorts of things.
If the back seat is free, you can strap the carrier in using the car seat belts. This is the safest thing to do, giving the cat some protection in the event of an accident. It will also prevent the carrier bumping around, which many cats find quite upsetting. If you can't do this, do try to find some other way to immobilise the carrier, for the sake of safety.
Many cats get upset on bumpy roads, being driven round sharp bends, and when being driven fast. If your cat is crying and seems disturbed, this is often the reason. You can greatly improve matters by driving as smoothly as possible, with no sharp braking, and going round curves gently. If at all possible drive the whole time at less than 50 mph; your cat is likely to prefer it.
Even if your cats are great friends at home, it is probably better to put them in separate carriers on a long car journey. They need room to move about if they are going to be confined for a long time. Also, stressed cats can sometimes attack the nearest thing, even their friends, and the last thing you need is a cat fight in the car! If your cats do like each other, put the carriers next to each other so the cat can see its friend, but keep them separate.
Familiarity usually helps, so if you can, get the cat used to being in the car, as well as being in the carrier, before a long journey. Hopefully if you do that, and also follow all the hints given above, your car journey will be reasonably pleasant and non-stressful for your cat, and therefore also for you.