Cat climbing on a car's chair.

Traveling With a Cat by Car

When traveling with your pet by automobile, always keep the safety and comfort of both driver and passenger in mind. As a result, always use a travel carrier when transporting your four-legged friend by car. Not only will your pet feel more secure in a carrier, helping to reduce stress associated with the ride, but it will help minimize jostling and jolting movements that could injure your pet.

If you have a cat that is too large to fit comfortably into one of these carriers, or if the carrier is too big for your car, then the backseat is the place to be, not the frontseat! An excited or stressed-out, unrestrained pet in the passenger seat of an automobile creates a very dangerous driving condition. In addition, cats allowed to ride in frontseats can suffer serious or even lethal injuries should airbags deploy in an accident.

Special restraint harnesses or seatbelts are available commercially and should be used to secure your pet to its assigned seat. Keep the interior of your car cool and well ventilated. Cats that are excited and forced to travel in hot stuffy cars or those filled with cigarette smoke can hyperventilate and overheat.

Cigarette smoke in itself can be quite irritating to the eyes, nose, and mucous membranes of your pet, and has even been linked to cancer in cats! Also, car exhaust fumes can quickly overcome a pet left inside an idling car. If you become stuck in traffic, be sure to crack the windows and keep the air circulating within the car.

And never leave a cat unattended in a parked car if outside temperatures exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit or drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do, your pet could succumb to heat stroke or hypothermia, respectively. For trips over 2 hours, be sure to take plenty of breaks to give your pet water and to relieve itself (keep a clean absorbent towel lining the floor of the carrier, since many cats on long trips will refuse to use a litterbox if offered one).

Crushed ice is a neat and spillproof way to quench a thirsty traveler’s thirst. If your pet gets car sick, try feeding a small amount of food about 30 minutes prior to your trip. Often, an empty stomach coupled with stress can predispose a pet to motion sickness. If this fails to work, an antihistamine may be administered prior to travel.

Contact your veterinarian concerning the various over-the-counter medications you can use and their dosages. For those pets absolutely terrified of the car, a stronger tranquilizer prescribed by a veterinarian may be needed. Although this should be used only as a last resort, it can be an effective tool for taking the edge off your phobic friend and thereby making the ride much less stressful for everyone concerned.