Travelling With a Cat: Keep Your Furball Comfy & Calm During Car Rides
A couple of months ago, I had to plan my first car trip with my cat. My boyfriend moved to a different city for work, and I wanted to go visit him and stay for a couple of weeks. And since I couldn’t find any willing friends or family to leave Suzy with, that meant taking her along. My boyfriend was super excited when he heard she’s coming as the two had quite a liking for each other. But for me, travelling with a cat meant a whole list of worries.
My boyfriend lives a 5-hour car ride away from me. And I was worried about how Suzy would take this. She’s been allowed to roam free in my yard for her whole life, and locking her up in an enclosure for 5-hours could be a very stressful situation for her. So, I did my homework like a good cat-mum and prepared thoroughly for our first car ride together. With the help of a roomy and comfy cat enclosure, some training, fun toys and snacks, Suzy stayed calm through the whole ride. In fact, she took it so well that on the way back, she even slept for most of the time. What a relief, now I know that anywhere I go, I can easily bring my furry baby along.
If you too are feeling anxious about an upcoming trip with a feline friend, worry not. Here are some things I’ve found to make the whole experience much more pleasant for both the animal and the owner.
A Good Cat Enclosure Does Help a Lot
For safety’s sake, all pets travelling in a car need to be inside a secure carrier. This is especially important for curious animals such as cats. The thing is, if your cat is free to roam inside the car while you drive, he could get under the pedals or in front of your eyes. And this can cause a serious accident. Even well-behaved cats that sit still in the car could be injured by some object falling down on them and crushing them. So, be sure to get your cat a good enclosure.
When it comes to cat enclosures, there are all sorts of designs out there. When choosing one for your pet, you need to have several factors in mind. For one, it should be big enough for your cat to be able to comfortably lie, stand and turn around inside. To avoid making mistakes, measure your cat before buying. Take her measurement from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail as she’s standing, and add an extra 10 cm to this, both in length and in height. The extra room will allow the animal to comfortably roll, raise or wag her tail or stretch without feeling restricted.
Then there’s also the material to think about. Soft-sided cat enclosures are made of nylon or ballistic nylon. A soft-sided crate is lightweight, easy to carry around and collapsible for convenient storing. However, these types of enclosures aren’t suitable for fussy cats or first-time travellers. There is a chance that the cat can tear out the mesh ventilation if he becomes stressed out. In this case, a hard-sided enclosure would be a better solution. This type of cat crate is sturdy and durable. And in case of a heavy object falling on it, it will protect the cat, as opposed to a soft-sided carrier. Hard-sided crates feature steel mesh ventilation which is much sturdier than nylon mesh, so there’s no risk that the cat will tear it and get out.
Make It Comfy & Familiar
While your cat will be safe inside a crate, you also want to ensure that he will experience positive feelings when travelling. Cats are very sensitive to new environments and feel most calm when they’re in a familiar place. So, to take off some of the anxiety your pet might feel during a new experience such as riding in a car, you can try to make it more comfortable and familiar. For instance, you can line the carrier with the cat’s own blanket or a towel you’ve petted him with. The presence of his own scent can calm a cat as he will associate the crate with his personal territory. If there’s enough space, you can also add some of his toys to keep him company if he’s bored.
Take It Slowly
Don’t just put your cat in the car and start driving. Give your pet some time to get adjusted to the new environment. Some weeks before your trip, introduce your kitty with the car. Get inside the car together, close the door, and let him sniff around and explore. Five minutes is long enough. Repeat this a couple of times a day, for several days, and extend the time if you notice the cat stays calm.
Once the cat accepts the car, place him inside his enclosure and set it on the back seat. Then start the car and back it to the end of the driveway and stop. Turn off the motor and get out, leaving the cat inside for a bit. When you take your kitty out, give him lots of praise and a snack as a reward. Do this several times until you notice that the cat takes it as normal. If the cat shows signs of stress, you may be moving to fast. This process may take slowly, but it works, trust me. Before your big trip, you can try taking short rides around town to help your cat get used to.