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How to Prepare a Cat For a Car Ride

7 Helpful Tips For Taking Your Cat on a Road Trip

It's no secret that cats aren't huge fans of riding in cars. I have never seen either of my cats get excited about seeing the car like my dog does. (She will take a flying leap into the car and happily settle in.) Sometimes, however, taking your cat in the car is necessary, and sometimes the car ride is long. For example, I drove my two cats from California to Ohio last year when I moved, and it took us about four days in the car. Overall it went well, but I wish I had asked my vet for advice before leaving. The good news is, I have since checked with a vet to find out proper protocol for any future trips. (We drive back and forth from Ohio to New York a lot, so these tips have helped us become pros.) Keep reading to find out what Vet Set veterinarian Dr. Eva Radke had to say about taking your kitties in the car.

  • Use a carrier: Your cat will be contained and feel safer in a carrier rather than roaming free in the car. "I recommend bringing the carrier out at least a day in advance so that your cat has a chance to become familiar with it." Dr. Radke said. She also recommends putting the cat's food and water inside the carrier to not only encourage them to go in but to show them positive aspects of the carrier.
  • Withhold food: There's a strong chance your cat might get sick while riding in the car, and the less that's in their stomachs, the better. Dr. Radke recommends withholding food for about four to six hours before getting in the car.
  • Give them something familiar: As a way to comfort them during the stress of being in the car, give your cats something that smells like home. "My own cat loves sleeping with a worn t-shirt or other article of clothing that has my own scent on it, so I'll often put my shirt from the night before in the carrier with him during a road trip," Dr. Radke said.
  • Use natural sedatives: Dr. Radke actually advises against sedatives, as in her experience they've stressed cats out more than going without. However, she suggests natural products like Rescue Remedy and Feliway as possible options.
  • Make sure the cat has ID: We can't stress enough how important a microchip is. When out and about, you never know when an accident could happen and your cat could get away from you. Do your best to make it easy for them to be returned.
  • Logistics: Make sure you have everything you need (plus some) before you leave. Food, treats, medications, paperwork, litter, everything.
  • Pay attention to temperature: You wouldn't leave a human in a hot car, so you shouldn't leave your cat in one either. Common sense.
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