Wouldn’t it be nice to just take your cat somewhere new and perhaps further with better scenery? Maybe you could also bring your cat to visit family in a different town? Of course! You can do so much more with your best fur friend, if you can just take him/her with you on a car ride. Don’t worry, I’m here to help!
Training your cat to be a good passenger in a car ride could be a long process; therefore, you may need to try different techniques to find out the best way to let your cat be comfortable in the car. As always, patience is a virtue so never give up!
Let me start by mentioning that Archer has come a long way with his car ride experience! Even though he has always been curious and full of wonder by nature, we still have gone through many struggles with him in the car. The first few months of his journey was extremely difficult. He had uncontrollable urges or anxiousness that made him pee and poop in the car. He would not sit still but rather wandering between the front and back seat, to the point that it was very distracting for the driver. He also wouldn’t stop constantly meowing and crying loudly, or even started to bite me for attention. Thankfully our gradual training has helped! Finally, he has now reached the comfort level of just sitting quietly on the middle console or my lap on the passenger seat, and curiously watch the world outside.
I honestly wish I knew how to train him when we first started with car rides, so that I could bypass majority of the struggles I had. Luckily with my trial and errors, I have come up with some tips and tricks which I hope could help you and your feline companion.
Here’s a list I have put together on the things you could bring for a car ride.
Carrier or Booster Seat
Pet Seat Belt
Blanket, Cushion, or Pieces of Clothing
Top-Entry Litter Box
Food, Water, and Treats
Calming Remedy, if needed
Tip #1: Begin with small trips
Let’s first get your cat accustomed to the car by taking small car rides of 10-15 minute durations.
When I first learned how to train Archer, I tried to take him on as many small errands with me as possible; such as, visiting the pet store, the vet or a nearby parks. These small car rides helped him to get used to the new environment and sound which eventually helped him adjust to longer trips.
Tip #2: Safety First
Safety is always the foremost priority for cat adventuring and driving. When you travel with your cat in the car, ensure he/she is properly secured and supervised, in order to avoid driving distractions or the mischiefs.
If you are driving alone with your cat, keep a distance between you and your cat to ensure he/she does not interfere with your driving. A carrier is a great option, if he/she is comfortable with an enclosed environment in the car; or a booster seat with a seat belt is helpful to let your cat watch the world on the road. Alternatively, you could place your cat backpack in the backseat, and let your cat sit on top with a pet seat belt fastened.
I have heard great reviews on the Kurgo Booster Seat, but I have not personally tried it yet, as I mostly travel with another passenger and would be able to supervise Archer on the road. If you are inclined to travel with your cat alone in the car, I would highly recommend you to purchase a similar product to ensure your cat is safely secured at all times.
If you are travelling with another passenger, you could consider putting your cat on a harness and leash with supervision. As you have an additional traveller, it would be easier to ensure your cat will not distract the driver.
Interesting enough, Archer doesn’t like to be in an enclosed carrier. The last few times I put him inside a carrier, he peed and pooped multiple times, which made the driving extremely difficult and smelly! My suspicion is that he may be feeling nervous or car sick when he was inside the carrier. Now, I just let him sit on top of his backpack with the harness and leash on, so he can enjoy the view at the window. Of course, I would always make sure I am not alone in the car if he is not secured by a booster seat or seat belt.
Tip #3: Make the car ride comfortable
It is always comforting to our cats when we could make them feel the car is an extension of their home. Try to bring his/her favourite blanket, cushion, or pieces of clothing to give them a familiar feel and smell in the car. This would help them get accustomed to the new environment much quicker.
I normally bring Archer’s favourite blanket and backpack on the road. He loves to curl up in his blanket or sit on the backpack.
Tip #4: Bring the essentials
Lots of things can happen on the road! Be sure to prepare for the unexpected while you are travelling. If you are driving to further places, bring a top entry litter box in the backseat for your cat.
I have definitely learned this the hard way … Before I realized Archer had anxious reactions to car rides, he has made many accidents by peeing and pooping on the backseat or floor of the car. Eventually, I figured out that a top entry litter box would solve all the problems when he could go potty whenever he needs to.
In addition, don’t forget to protect your precious car from scratches or dirt by putting on a backseat cover. I’m sure your cat may accidentally scratch the car seat when they attempt to wander or even panic in fear. Furthermore, it will make your cleaning so much easier when your cat tracks the litter outside of the litter box.
Finally, as you need to fuel your cat along the way, bring food, water, and treats! They would be a happy companion while being fed appropriately.
Tip #5: Pit stops for small breaks
If you are planning on longer car rides, consider taking pit stops once every hour or so to let your cat briefly outside.
The longest drive I have done with Archer was over 600 km/373 miles from Toronto to Montreal, Canada. The car ride was 7 hours, and I took small stops to let Archer explore his surroundings, eat, and go potty. This definitely made our trip much easier, as I was also able to stretch my legs and take mini breaks.
Every cat is different, observe your cat’s behaviour and reaction in the car by understanding their tolerance and limit. Find out whether they enjoy to be out in the open space with a leash or seat belt, or whether they feel more comfortable in an enclosed environment like a carrier.
As not all cats are able to accustom to car rides, some calming remedies could be helpful to keep your cat composed on the road. I have heard that some cats may vomit or have diarrhea in the car. Consult your veterinary for a suitable remedy, if your cat has severe anxiousness or sickness to car rides.
Lastly, celebrate every milestone! Be patient with your car ride training, and provide your cat with lots of encouragements. A little treat would go a long way for these little fur friends.