Traveling with cats by car 🚗. How to calm your cat during the trip
First, why does your cat hate the car?
Cats are often afraid of traveling by car, because they have most likely had a frustrating experience in the past. Cats remembering those past experiences, they believe that the same thing will happen again.
Your negative experiences may be due to:
- The first trip in the car took him away from the only family (cat) he had ever known.
- The following trips end at the vet for harrowing vet treatments.
Therefore, you should help your cat associate the car with fun and joyful experiences. The process, called desensitization using classical conditioning , takes patience and time, but it works . Use positive reinforcement to associate the car ride with something enjoyable.
7 tips for your cat’s car trip
1. Training with the carrier
P or safety reasons, cats should ride in a carrier while in the car, you should take the cat loose in the car . A loose pet becomes a furry projectile in the event of an accident. The carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up, roll over, and lie down comfortably.
But sure, your cat needs to familiarize himself with the carrier, put his bedding, some toys, or maybe some catnip in the carrier and keep the door open. Let your cat get in and out of the carrier whenever they want.
Do this in your home until your cat is comfortable. If he’s sleeping inside the carrier, casually shut the door, even for a few minutes, and when you open it, just quietly walk away. You are conveying that the closed carrier is a safe haven for him …
2. Get your cat used to the car
You know how territorial cats are, so you need to help make the car part of their territory. Place a towel or blanket with your cat’s scent inside the car. Put your cat in the car with you and close the doors.
Let your cat explore your car, rub and spread its scent. You should do this a few times a day for a couple of minutes and gradually increase the time as long as you remain calm.
# 3 use positive reinforcement
Once your cat is calm in the car, start giving a treat (treat, food) at least once a week. If play or catnip is more motivating than food, let your cat indulge in that while he’s in the car. Again, associating the car with everything good will help make your cat a better traveler.
4. Place the carrier in the car
When you’ve got your cat to accept the car as his territory, it’s time to introduce the travel carrier into the car. Place your cat in the carrier and place it in the back seat of your vehicle. Make sure the carrier is secure and away from the airbags. Start the engine and that’s it. Don’t drive anywhere, let your cat get used to engine noise and vibration.
You should do this at least three times a day until your cat is used to it. Reward your cat as soon as it leaves its carrier .
5. Short rides in the car
Once your cat is used to the car and the engine, it’s time for a car ride, keep it short, then get your cat out of the car and back home. Reward your cat with playtime and treats once you leave him at home. When you consider that your cat is ready, increase the duration of the trip. Again, the key is to do this very gradually and reward your cat after each step.
6. Stay calm during the process
It is important that you be calm. Cats sense your energy. So when you’re excited and stressed, so will they. The secret to success in this process begins with you and your attitude. Remember, our cats are masters at reading our emotions. That explains why they disappear moments before you show up with the carrier. They can smell our apprehension and anxiety and know what suits them – poof! – disappear, or hide under the bed, just out of reach.
7. Breaks during the trip
If you travel a long distance, you should think about interruptions to go to the bathroom with your cat. If you have trained your cat to walk with a harness, you can put it to rest with your cat in the rest areas along the way. It is recommended as driving time 4 hours maximum.
Helping your cat to feel more comfortable traveling in a car will take some time and a lot of patience… remember, it is a gradual process that takes a few steps. Travel safely and happily with your cat!
How to take the cat in the car
Once you have followed the previous steps and decide to set out with the cat, you should keep the following in mind:
- Place your cat in a sturdy and large carrier, cover the floor of the carrier with some kind of blanket, to give heat and that the cat does not slide inside.
- If you travel a long distance, think that your cat may need to use the litter box, the easiest way is to buy a disposablelitter box , simple, clean, ecological, usable with any litter. It can last a month or more depending on the frequency of use.
- Put on the seat belt holding the carrier, try to place it in the rear seats to avoid airbags.
- If it’s a trip of less than four hours, your cat can remain the carrier. If it’s a longer trip, take your cat out for a drink of water and use the litter box.
- Once your cat has left the carrier and is inside the car, do not open the door without the cat in its harness and leash.
- Make sure your cat has an identification tag of some kind on the collar or harness. A microchip is great too, but that only works if someone finds your cat and takes him to a vet or animal shelter.
- Bring plenty of water, but you will only give it to him when the car is parked. Do not leave a container of water in the carrier while driving; it will just spill and get everything wet.
- Do not feed your cat the morning of the trip or while driving, do it the night before, you will avoid vomiting in the car during the trip.
- If the trip is in summer, take several ice packs or frozen water bottles. If the air conditioning is turned off, your cat can have problems if you have excessive heat inside the car; they cannot perspire as effectively as you can to counteract the heat. If this happens, you can attach the carrier to the ice packs that you will wrap in a cloth to help keep your cat cool.
- If you travel in the dead of winter, be sure to bring blankets for you and your cat.
- As a final point, be sure to take your health card with you in case your cat gets sick.
Harness to travel with your cat
Another option different from the carrier, to travel with a cat, would be a car cat harness . It is the typical cat harness to which a safety belt attachment with carabiner and tongue is added for safe travel.
With this harness you achieve that the cat has some mobility inside the vehicle, but with total safety. It would be convenient if the cat was used to walking with a harness.
Finally, car seats for cats can also be another option , which are quite similar to a carrier but adapted so that they are anchored to the seats of our vehicle.
Sedatives for your cat to travel
If even applying the above, your cat is very nervous when undertaking a car trip, you can opt for sedation.
Cats are not very happy when they are locked inside a dark cat carrier and carried for a long time. It is natural for them to be scared and, at times, suffer from anxiety and stress. So if you’re going on a long trip, you may need to sedate your cat to keep it calm during the trip.
If you want to know how to sedate your cat, you must learn something about sedatives. Sedatives are normally drugs or a series of foods that are used to induce sedation.
Cat owners also use sedatives on their cats to calm them down in troublesome situations. There is a wide range of sedatives that work in different ways. But what all sedatives do is modulate the central nervous system .
Types of sedatives for cats
Although there is a wide range of sedatives, there are actually two types of sedatives. Medical sedatives and non-medical sedatives . Both can be used in cats.
Medical sedatives are actually chemicals and drugs. If applied in the right amount, they are the ones that work right away and work best. Medical sedatives can be given through injections or taken as pills.
If your cat has difficulty ingesting bitter sedatives, you can try administering sedatives by injection. But the amount must be correct. Overdose can cause unconsciousness and worse consequences. That is why always take your cat to the vet and let him take care of it.
The vet will determine the appropriate dose for your cat’s weight. If necessary, he will apply it in small amounts to rule out that your cat has allergies or any adverse effect.
Here are some sedatives that can be injected by injection:
Most of these sedatives come in pill form. If you sedate your cat on your own, it is safer to give him oral sedatives . Because oral sedatives come in the correct ratio and you can determine the dosage yourself.
Some oral sedatives are:
Medical sedatives that are actually drugs and chemicals have many side effects. In contrast, non-medical sedatives are safer and have fewer side effects . There are some natural plants that if crushed or mixed with water help calm your cat.
There are some stores that sell essential oils with the essence of these plants. If you don’t want to spend money, you can also grow them in your garden. Such plants are:
- Kava Kava/ Piper methysticum
- Valerian root
- Catnip / Nepeta cataria
There are also some products sold on the market that act as a sedative and do not cause any kind of side effects. If you need to sedate your cat often, these may be the best, as they will not harm your cat’s health:
- Feliway:Feliway is a product that can be used to sedate your cat. Includes feline facial pheromones that cats use to communicate with other cats and mark their territory and objects. The Feliway diffuses this pheromone into the room that sedates cats without affecting humans or other animals.
- Syntheticpheromones : it also contains feline pheromones but in synthetic form.
- Bodywraps or towels: Body wraps or towels go a long way in reducing anxiety in cats. You can wrap your cat in one and hold it for a few hours until your cat is calm