When I first got my cat, I was looking online for posts with tip and tricks on making a cat comfortable while traveling. There were lots of posts on leaving the cat at home and having someone check on it every few days, or getting a dog instead of a cat if you plan on travelling. Although I still don’t take my cat on planes (yet?), I do take him with me on road trip vacations. He has been to Cape Breton, all over the South Shore of Nova Scotia, New Liskeard (Northern Ontario), and now Ottawa. From street cat in Halifax to Eastern Canada traveler.
After all these years (6) people still ask me: “Doesn’t he get sick in the car?” “Why do you do that to the poor thing?” “Why not leave him at home with an auto feeder?”. Well, I showed him that the car is a safe place, I do everything I can to make it enjoyable for him, and he would rather be with us in a new place than home alone for days on end. Im going to share with you a few steps that I took to make my cat a car lover.
I started with small trips
We started by doing small trips quite often to show him that the car wasn’t a scary place. I would put him in the car and we would drive to my parents house for supper. Or we would drive to the park (not a dog park, obv) and I would let him out on a leash to explore the trees. I know this looks crazy to outsiders, but cats like to be outside just as much as any other animal. I keep him, and other small animals safe by keeping him on a leash.
Harness and leash
He really isn’t a runner, but it’s nice to have the leash wrapped around my arm when we open the car door or have to get him from the car to the house. When we first got it, i laid it on the floor in our house. A few days later, I put the harness on him and let him walk around inside with it on for a few hours each day. After he was comfortable with that, I attached the leash and we practiced exploring the house together – he learned that he can’t go under the bed on the leash because I can’t get under there too. After he seemed comfortable inside, we took him to a local wooded park that isn’t popular with dogs and let him explore – he loved it!
We do have a small carrier for when we go to the vet, but for bigger trips in the car we purchased a crate that is the size of one seat and has multiple windows and openings. It’s big enough that he can stand up inside and move around to get comfortable. The windows allow him to see us while we are driving. And the multiple openings allow us to have easy access to get him while we are in the car. I don’t like to have him just loose on the back seat because if we were to be in a car accident, he would be flung around the car and probably would get very hurt or worse. The crate will protect him in a similar way that a seatbelt protects us.
I line the bottom of the crate with a pee pad (just in case), a towel or blanket, and then in one of the corners I stuff something he likes from home. Right now he is obsessed with a specific cloth bag, so I put that in his crate for our trip to Ottawa.
Before we go
About 30 minutes before we leave for a trip, I remove his water and food. During this time, I pack his bag. Things we bring with us:
- Hard and soft food
- Bottled water
- Small dishes to serve food and water
- I bought these Head to Tail Calming Treats for our recent trip because I wasn’t sure how he would react to so many new houses and people
- I also brought his regular reward treats
- A couple of toys
- Disposable litter box with fresh litter
- I use Natures Miracles brand of disposable boxes. I find they hold up very well.
- Wrap this in a garbage bag, and then just unwrap it when you get to your destination
- My cat won’t use the box in the car, even on long trips, so I keep it wrapped and behind the seat for the drive. When we stop, I take the box out and put it on the floor of the car in case he needs to go.
- If we are going for a long trip I also bring nail clippers and a brush
When we arrive
As soon as we arrive, I unpack everything for him, starting with his litter box. I make sure fresh water and food is available. I take his carrier and put it in a ‘safe’ hiding space for him. I then leave him alone. I go downstairs or outside and just let him explore his new space. After a few minutes, he will be out and loving the new space.