Car travel with cats can be a little tricky, especially during the busy holiday season. But this doesn’t mean cats can’t enjoy a road trip! Whether you're driving across the United States or just down the road, there is plenty you can do to make holiday traveling easier on your feline friend.
Here are some guidelines for how to travel with a cat in a car on your holiday road trips.
Holiday Travel Safety Tips
Make sure the trip is right for your cat. While we’d all love to bring our pets with us over the holidays, it’s important to be mindful that not all trips and destinations are pet friendly. Sometimes the best option is to have a trusted pet sitter watch your buddy until you return. If you’re not sure whether you should travel with a pet, consult your veterinarian. If your cat is the homebody type, you can set her up for stay-at-home success with a smart pet feeder and a self-cleaning litter box.
Avoid leaving your cat in the car unattended. Even during the chilly months around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, the inside of a car can get dangerously hot in a surprisingly short time if the sun is shining. Whenever possible, always bring your cat with you when you leave the vehicle.
Before you go, find a local vet at your destination. When traveling with a pet, it never hurts to be too careful. To make sure you’re prepared for anything, look up veterinarians in the area you’ll be visiting, and make sure to call and confirm holiday hours so you know when and where to go, just in case. Also, if your cat is on any medication, make sure you pack these in a secure place and bring your cat's medical paperwork with you.
Use a pet travel carrier. Cats typically feel safer in a small, sheltered space while in a moving vehicle. Additionally, you don’t want to risk your cat wandering into the front seat while you’re driving, or escaping out an open door or window at a rest stop. It’s best to place your cat in a designated pet carrier or crate at home and let her stay there until you reach a secure, indoor destination. Start preparing early. If your cat becomes comfortable entering the cat carrier at home, it’s much easier and less stressful for her (and you) to use the carrier when traveling.
Keep multiple cats separated. If you have more than one cat, each should get their own carrier. A road trip with cats can get stressful quickly if they have to share small spaces, and traveling with cats in cars is much safer without the risk of feline fights breaking out!
Check on your cat often. Some cats curl up in their carriers and don’t make a peep until the trip is over, while other cats may get talkative on the road. Though the carrier is the safest place for your cat to be in a moving vehicle, you can’t always see what she’s up to while you’re driving. Make sure to stop regularly to see that she’s comfortable and content in her carrier.
Break up long trips. Unlike dogs, who can hop out on a leash for walks at each pit stop, cats should generally remain in their carriers until you reach your destination. If you plan to be on the road for many hours, consider giving your cat a break by staying overnight along your route. Your cat will appreciate the chance to move around, eat, drink and potty outside the carrier.
If you do want to give your cat the chance to stretch her legs at pit stops, consider a harness and leash made especially for cats to keep her safely by your side.
Equip your cat with contact info. You should always make sure your cat carries her identification with her, either on ID tags attached to her collar, or in a microchip. Include your updated contact info. If your cat somehow goes missing, this will help anyone who finds her to get in touch with you quickly so you can be reunited as soon as possible.
Holiday Travel Comfort Tips
Give your cat room to move (but not too much.) When setting your cat up in a pet carrier or crate, make sure she has enough room to stand up and to turn around – but not much more than that. The idea is to give her just enough room to get comfortable, without being able to roam around or be jostled while the vehicle is moving. A comfy blanket or pet bed can help her feel more relaxed and cozy, but make sure you don’t stuff more items in there than she needs. Choose a carrier appropriate to your cat’s size and line the floor with soft bedding, but don’t pile toys or blankets in a way that crowds her out.
Use a travel litter box. One of the most challenging parts of traveling with a cat is managing the litter box. Most litter boxes aren’t very practical for use at a pit stop or while visiting a travel destination. That’s where a disposable litter box comes in handy! This kitty travel toilet gives your cat a portable place to go, anytime, anywhere. Complete with disposable scoops and odor-absorbing crystal litter, a disposable litter box even folds up for storage so you can pack it away until it’s time for a potty break.
Make your holiday destination feel like home. Help your cat feel like she’s home for the holidays with familiar items like beds, blankets and toys. Before you let her out of her carrier, make sure to check out the place to ensure there are no potential risks for your cat such as open windows, or narrow spaces where she may try to hide. According to the FDA, popular holiday plants like mistletoe, holly and poinsettias can be toxic to cats if ingested, so be sure to check for these.
Give your cat a space of her own. Place the pet carrier in a quiet corner and give your cat time to acclimate before you open the door. It’s a good idea to leave the carrier open in a comfortable, secluded spot for the duration of your stay. This way, your cat always has a secure, familiar place she can go when she feels like it.
Make sure your cat has access to fresh water. If your cat seems reluctant to drink, try a pet fountain. Many cats prefer to drink moving water, so a pet fountain with 24/7 access to fresh, flowing, filtered water can encourage them to drink when they’re distracted by new surroundings.
Stick to your cat’s usual meal routine. Another way to help your cat feel at home is to maintain her normal eating times. If your trip’s itinerary makes this a challenge, an automatic pet feeder can help ensure your cat gets her meals on time, every time, even if you’re late getting back from shopping or other holiday activities.
Keep your cat entertained with fun cat toys. Looking for a Christmas gift for your cat? Putting cat toys under the Christmas tree can help keep your cat out of with the tree itself! If your curious cat is tempted to knock those Santa Claus decorations off the shelf, an interactive laser cat toy is the perfect stocking stuffer to help her redirect some of that pent-up energy.
Cat Travel Checklist
Here’s a list of items to make traveling with a cat safe, comfortable and fun this holiday season:
- Collar and ID tags with contact information
- Cat food
- Food and water bowls
- Cat harness and leash
- Pet travel bag
- Disposable litter box
- Cat litter
- Pet fountain
- Beds, blankets and toys from home