Five Cat Road Trip Tips For Safe Travels

Cat on a road trip

At the end of May, we moved from Minnesota to California. It should only be a three-day trip, but since we had our kitty, Blanca, with us, we opted to make it a four-day trip. We did this to limit the number of hours our kitty had to be in the car per day. I spent many hours researching information to make the road trip comfortable for us and kitty. Below are a few cat road trip tips to help you plan a jaunt with your feline friend.

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Tip #1: Finding pet friendly hotels

The key to success here is doing your research ahead of time. Any hotels that accept pets will say so on their website. Be sure it says pets and not just dogs. Some hotels will accept pooches, but not kitties. If you want to be 100% certain, call the hotel directly to get clarification.

When you make the reservations online be sure to let them know that you will be traveling with your kitty. Most times you can just put a note in the “Special Requests” type area of the reservation.

Kitty at a hotel

NOTE: One of the best cat road trip tips I can give you is that if you are moving with a cat, do some test drives with your cat in the car.

I took 2 weeks to test drive the cat. It wasn’t just so she would get used to the car (she never did).  It was also to see if I could figure out a way that would make her more comfortable for the 6 to 8-hour days in the car.

Here’s the thing, every cat is different. Our cat has this weird separation anxiety thing. She hates being alone. She hates being cut off from people. We figured out a solution to keep her from meowing for hours on end and us from losing our minds over it.

We did lots of A/B testing, if you will. 

Tip #2: Carrier is key

One of the biggest worries about traveling with a cat in the car is that the cat will bolt out an open door or window.  We had a policy that the doors and windows were not to be opened until kitty was secure in her carrier.  We had hoped to just keep her in there all day, but her separation anxiety was too great. More on that later.  Pro cat road trip tips: Buy some puppy pads (small ones should be fine). Use them to line the carrier just in case kitty has an accident in there or gets sick.

Since we were driving during the summer, we couldn’t leave our kitty in the car when we wanted to stop for lunch. Many drive-thru meals were had. We would get the food and find a shady place to park the car. By the way, we made sure Blanca was secure in her carrier before we even went to the drive-thru.

FYI: This is the carrier we used.  Our vet said it would be OK for kitty to stay in it during the entire car ride because it had enough room for her to stand up and turn around.

Tip #3: Harness that cat

With all the stuff I read from veterinarians, a collar and leash combo is not good for kitty, so we got her a harness designed for cats.  We also got a leash.  What this did is allow her to get out of her carrier while in the car, but we could control where she went. She always tried to get in my lap while I was driving, so we blocked the path from the back seat to the front and kept a rein on her from getting anywhere in the car that might not be safe for her or us.

As per the aforementioned separation anxiety, someone had to sit in the back seat with her the entire time. It wasn’t that bad. She usually just settled in our laps. It was kinda nice to have a purring, furry critter snuggling with you as you passed through the wilds of Wyoming.

Snuggly kitty in the car

Also, get a small ID tag for your cat. Granted, our cat is chipped, but if she got away from us and someone found her, it would be faster for someone to call the number on the ID tag than to take it to a place with a chip scanner.

Tip #4: Motion sick? Cat box, please!

Controlling kitty’s food and water intake was essential to everyone’s comfort.  Some kitties get car sick.  The trick was to stop feeding and watering her at least 3 hours before we got in the car. This also helped with her not needing to use the cat box…mostly. 

For a temporary cat box, I used the following: Just get some of those cheap aluminum roasting pans or chafing dishes.  We found one that fit perfecting in the floor area of the back seat. Also, we lined the floor on that side with a plastic drop cloth that way if kitty had an accident or kicked out a bunch of litter it would be easy to clean up.

We used the same temporary cat box set up for the hotel rooms, but with a slightly bigger pan. Instead of a drop cloth, we just used a large garbage bag.  You know the ones usually reserved for raking up leaves? Use that.  Lay that down and then put the cat box on top of it. Not only will it catch most of the litter, it will also help if kitty misses the box and you have a garbage bag ready to toss the used cat box when you are ready to leave the next day.

Tip #5: A different cat box

I made sure we had a box with all the stuff kitty might need: Food, aluminum pans, paper towels, paper bowls, disposable utensils, etc. It was a box that came out of the car and into the hotels with us, so it was always near one of the car doors for easy access. Some people use a bag, but it was easier to put in our car if we used a box.

Please do your own research before you take your kitty on a long road trip. Also, talk to your vet about any concerns and make sure kitty has all her vaccinations. Most hotels require that pets be current on vaccinations.

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