traveling with cats in a car

Traveling With Cats In A Car Everything You Need To Begin

If you’re considering traveling with cats in a car, you’re in the right place. Driving with cats and staying sane can be challenging. Especially, if your cat is not used to leaving the comfort of their house and going on adventures.

As a pet owner, it’s important to ensure that both your vehicle and feline are ready to travel. The factors that come into play when traveling include the length of the trip, size, and the number of cats, and the personality of your cat.

This means you need to have the right litter box, cat carrier, travel litter, harness, and other supplies. It’s important to take your cat’s safety into consideration. If you’re in an accident, you want your cat to be as safe as possible.

*This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Driving With Cats

Whether you’re traveling long distance, moving across the country or just going for a short road trip, these tips will ensure that your four-legged friend is ready. If you’re just learning how to travel with cats, these tips will help you prepare traveling with a cat.

Traveling With Cats In A Car

First and foremost, the most important thing when traveling with your cat is putting safety first. These tips will help ensure that you and your friend have a safe trip wherever you’re going.

Never Let Them Roam Around Freely

Whether they are lying on the passenger seat or on your lap, your feline friend should always be secured safely in a cat carrier.

Your feline friend is a part of your family and you would never let your children ride in the vehicle without a seat belt.

Many states now have a distracted driving law that states pets should be restrained properly and securely to ensure a safe drive. Check out this website to see if your state has enacted the distracted driving law.

Most of the laws are pertaining to dogs, but cat owners can easily be distracted as well.

If you’re driving and your cat is not secured in their carrier, they could easily be scared by other drivers, an abrupt stop or anything else.

This could easily lead to you getting involved in an accident and can injure or God forbid kill your kitty.

Related: Can A Cat Rid In A Car Without A Carrier

Never Leave Your Cat Unattended In The Vehicle

It’s so easy to think that your cat will be okay if they are left in an automobile for a short while. However, you Never want to leave your cat in the car, regardless of how long.

On summer days the temperature inside the car can get as hot 99 degrees or higher in just 20 minutes.

In the winter, your automobile can act as a refrigerator, which means that your kitty can freeze to death.

If you’re traveling with your cat and you need to leave them in the vehicle, always follow these tips:

Make sure someone is with them: If you’re traveling with other people, make sure that they stay in the vehicle with your four-legged friend.

Take them with you: If you’re traveling alone, then you’ll have to put kitty in a cat carrier and take them with you.

Drop them off: Find someone who will watch your cat or drop them off at your house before you stop and run any errands or take care of business.

Some states like California now penalize irresponsible pet owners that leave their pets unattended in the vehicle.

Regardless of whether it’s against the law or not, you would never leave your children in the vehicle. You should never leave your cat unattended in it as well.

Best Cat Carrier for Car Travel

One of the most important things you’ll need when driving with a cat is finding the best cat carrier. I’ve found some of the safest cat carriers for your feline friend. I’ll even show you how to install it in your vehicle below.

Best Cat Carrier for Long Car Trips

Finding the best cat carrier will vary from feline to feline. It’s important to ensure you find one that is spacious enough for them to move around easily.

We personally liked the SportPet Foldable Travel Cat Carrier. The wide-side opening door made it so easy for kitty to climb in and out.

It folds easily, which makes it perfect for traveling or just a quick trip to the vet. This carrier comfortably holds pets up to 25 Lbs.

Best Cat Carrier for Multiple Cats

If you’re traveling with two cats, you’ll want to check out the Necoichi Portable Stress Free Cat Cage . It’s quick and easy to set up and comfortably fits two cats.

This is the perfect size for a mid-size or small cat. This carrier is perfect if you’re going on a long distance drive with your four-legged friends.

Your cats will have enough room to walk fully upright and move around.

Budget-Friendly Soft Carrier

Traveling with a cat can be expensive, there’s so much to gear to buy. Putting safety first doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to break the bank to find the best carrier to protect your cat.

Before you buy a carrier, do some research. Go to a local pet store like PetSmart, PetCo, or even Walmart and find a cat carrier that you’re interested in.

Once you’ve found one that has good reviews, go to Amazon to see if they have the same product. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save on your cat travel supplies when you shop on Amazon.

Best Hard Sided Cat Carrier

Most people prefer a hard-sided carrier for their vehicle because it’s easier to fasten in the backseat. The AmazonBasics Top-Load Pet Kennel makes it easy to put your cat in and secure them safely for the trip.

The top door opens from the left or to the right, which makes it easy to put a scared or nervous cat inside. Of course, you should make sure that you get your cat used to the carrier before your trip.

If your cat is used to the carrier, they will be less like to show signs of feline anxiety and stress during the trip.

What Type of Carrier To Buy?

Basically, it comes down to what you can afford to buy. I’d recommend using a soft-sided carrier if you’re going on a short drive. If you’re planning on a long distance road trip, then invest in a hard-sided carrier.

A hard-sided carrier is more secure than a soft-sided carrier and can protect your cat if something was to happen.

Car Safety Harness for Cats

I’d recommend taking along a cat harness to protect your kitty during travel. You never know when you’re going to stop and let them stretch their legs.

Having a harness can prevent them from running away in the middle of nowhere.

How to Put A Cat In Carrier

Once you’ve purchased your carrier, it’s time to practice putting in your vehicle. It’s important to know how to do this correctly because it can protect your cat if you’re involved in an accident.

If you prepare ahead of time, your car journey with your pet will be so much better.

Where to Put Cat Carrier In Car

The safest place to put the cat carrier is in the back seat. In a common accident scenario from the front or side impact, your cat’s carrier will be pushed in the back of the passenger seat or the door.

Never transport the cat in the front seat. If the airbag deploys, it could kill your cat.

Secure It With The Seatbelt

Make sure that you’re wrapping the carrier with the seat belt and shoulder strap. Wrap it and loop it through the top and side of the carrier and then make sure that you click the seat belt buckle securely.

Multiple Carriers

If you’re using multiple carriers, you will want to place them sideways on the back seat. If there’s enough room on the floorboard between the front and back seat, you can place them on the floor.

The most important thing is to make sure that the carrier is properly ventilated, otherwise, your cat can suffocate. I’d recommend trying to keep them on the seat where your cat can see you.

Otherwise, your cat will feel uncomfortable and may start panting heavily or meowing excessively.

Carrier Surroundings

Avoid having anything around your cat carrier that can fall on it or can impede their ventilation. If something hits the carrier, it can stress your cat out and cause them to become uncomfortable.

Check and Double Check

Just like you would double check your child’s safety seat before going on a long trip. Double check that your cat’s cat carrier is secured safely and as stable as possible.

You should not be able to wiggle it from side to side. If it does, then it’s not secured safely and your cat is not ready to be transported.

Video On How to Secure A Pet Carrier In A Vehicle

If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this video that will walk you through on securing your pet carrier before transporting your pet.

Ready to Travel

Once you’ve secured your cat’s carrier and it doesn’t wobble, no matter how hard you try, then you’re ready to travel.

Just make sure that you stop often to give your cat a break and allow them to stretch their legs. During your stop, you can provide food and water to your cat.

Giving your cat a little bit of playtime will help you get a break from driving. You’ll both feel good about getting back in the car until you reach your destination or the next rest area.

Cat Sedative for Traveling In Car

Some cats just don’t like to travel and no matter how much you try, they never get used to it. This means that whenever you take your cat out of their comfort zone and put them in the vehicle, they go crazy.

They may get aggressive, meow excessively, or show other signs that they just don’t enjoy it.

There are many things you can do to sedate your cat to make it a much more pleasant trip for both of you.

Many people have had success with using Benadryl for travel and other natural sedatives. Read my cat sedative for travel to find out what actually works.

Should You Sedate Your Cat?

Unless you are comfortable with giving them the correct dosage according to their weight, then I personally wouldn’t recommend it.

Instead, schedule a veterinarian visit and talk your vet about your cat’s issues. They will be able to provide you with the correct sedation or anti-medication for traveling.

The best part is you won’t have to worry about hurting your cat by giving them the wrong dosage amount.

Cat Travel Sickness Is Real

Humans are not the only ones who suffer from car sickness or motion sickness. It’s not unusual for cats to develop gastrointestinal distress when traveling in a vehicle, by air, or on a boat.

If you’ve never been on a road trip with your cat, you should know how to spot the signs.

Symptoms of Cat Car Sickness

  • Subdued behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Lip licking
  • Vocalization
  • Urination or defecation
  • Heavy drooling

Motion sickness in a feline is caused when the inner ear apparatus becomes infected and messes with their equilibrium and balance.

Motion sickness in cats does not have any long-lasting consequences. Although, it can be a nuisance on your four-legged friend and yourself.

Make sure that you have an enzyme cleaner on hand. It’s likely that you’ll have to clean up some messes that your cat has no control over.

Decreasing Your Cat’s Car Sickness

Before you take your cat on a long distance road trip, make sure that they are gradually acclimated to the travel crate or carrier they’ll be spending time in.

You can do this by introducing them to the carrier before the trip. Leave the carrier in their favorite place with the door open.

Provide snacks and toys to help them become comfortable around and inside the carrier.

I’d recommend doing this at least a month before you plan your trip. It can take your kitty sometime before they become comfortable with a cat carrier.

Best Travel Litter Box for Car

If you get a big enough carrier where your cat can move around freely, then you may want to consider getting a travel litter box for the car. If not, then you can always make plenty of stops and allow your cat time to use the bathroom.

The Necoichi Pop-up Portable Cat Litter Box is perfect for your home, road trips, or flying with your cat. It’s easy to clean and folds and snaps which makes it easy to transport anywhere.

Travel Size Cat Litter Box

I always recommend using a disposable litter box when traveling by vehicle. It’s perfect because you can take it and use it while on vacation and then throw it away before you return.

You don’t have to worry about having a dirty litter box in your vehicle, which is nice for your passengers.

Travel Kitty Litter

Every cat has their own favorite litter. We personally recommend Dr. Elsey’s Premium Clumping Cat Litter. It is a hypo-allergenic litter that contains no perfumes, deodorants, or plant proteins.

Which is nice, if you’re traveling with someone who has allergies. We love it because it helps us keep our disposable litter box cleaner longer.

Researching Cat Friendly Hotels

It’s important to do your research and find the right place to stay. Not all “pet-friendly” hotels welcome cats. Those that do, may charge a steep pet fee.

You don’t want to suffer from sticker shock when you’re checking in or out. I’ve put together a great source of hotels that allow cats along with everything you need to know.

Don’t overlook using other resources such as GoPetFriendly.com to help you find lodging for you and your feline friend.

Call Ahead and Confirm

Regardless of what the website says, call the hotel, motel or other lodging and confirm that they have availability and ensure that you are allowed to bring your cat into your room.

Jot down the name of the person and the confirmation number, even if they say they are going to send you an email.

Always have a backup plan in place, just in case something falls through with your plans.

Cat-Proof the Hotel Room

Do a thorough visual inspection before allowing Fluffy to roam around the room. Make sure that all the windows and balcony doors are securely shut.

If you have children, make sure that they are not running in and out leaving the room door open. You may also want to talk to the hotel staff and have them remove any expensive furniture or excessive furnishings that are not needed in the room.

Removing the expensive furniture can save you on pet fees or damage fees.

Another option is to have some cat repellent spray like this one from Amazon. You can spray this on all the furniture that you don’t want your cat near. These sprays are safe for your cat and harmless for the furniture.

The best part is that they will keep your cat’s sharp claws off of the furniture.

Check the crooks and crevices in the room to ensure that there are not any hazards like mousetraps, poison, exposed electrical wires, chemicals in the toilet or bathtub, dangling curtain cords and so forth.

Secure Your Cat In The Hotel Room

Fluffy will most likely be anxious, especially, if they are not used to being outside of your house. It’s important to make sure that she is as comfortable as can be.

Bring their bed, toys, and other familiar items from home. These items have a familiar scent on them and can help them relax.

Hang the “Do Not Disturb” on your door. This will ensure that housekeeping will not enter your room and help kitty escape.

Make Sure Your Cat Has Been Treated for Fleas

For the most part, cat-friendly lodgings are clean. However, it still doesn’t hurt to make sure that your cat has been properly treated for fleas.

They are going to be exposed to other animals that may or may not be treated. I recommend a home flea treatment such as Advantage, Frontline or Advantage.

Most home treatments will protect your cat from:

  • Biting fleas
  • Ticks
  • Larva or eggs

You’ll feel much better knowing that your cat won’t pick up anything from the previous guests that stayed in the room.

Getting Rid of Fleas Using A Natural Remedy

I know that some cat owners don’t like putting flea treatments on their cat’s because they are afraid of the side effects. If Fluffy isn’t treated properly against fleas, there’s a good possibility that they may get them while staying in different pet lodging.

Well, this video will show you how to get rid of fleas on your cat, if they do happen to get them while you’re traveling.

You are going to need the following:

  • 200 milliliters of apple cider vinegar
  • Half a teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2-3 spoonfuls of warm water
  • Half a teaspoon of sea salt

Hopefully, Fluffy doesn’t get fleas while staying at the hotel. But it’s always nice to know that you can get rid of the fleas yourself.

The best part is that this is a natural cure that won’t harm your kitty. As always, consult your veterinarian when starting any type of new treatment or diet to seek medical advice.

Tips for Transporting Your Cat From The Car to the Hotel Room

  • Transfer your kitty from the hard-sided carrier to their soft-sided carrier or cat harness with leash. Get inside the vehicle and close the doors to ensure that your cat won’t run away if they jump out of the carrier.
  • Put the cats and the carrier in the bathroom. Don’t forget to put a litter box in there, to see if they need to take care of their business.
  • Place the kennel cage in a quiet area of the room. This will be harder if you’re staying in a hotel because there isn’t a lot of room.
  • Put your cat into the oversized kennel cage. This will ensure that they know where it is and will help them calm down.
  • Cover it with a blanket or bedspread.
  • Avoid turning on the TV. Most cats will be stressed and scared when they’re in a new environment. Give them time to adjust by playing soothing music. (meditation, nature sounds like rain seems to work well)

Give your kitty some time to adjust to the new environment. Whatever you do, don’t leave them alone in the hotel room.

Important Things To Take On A Road Trip With Your Cat

Okay, now let’s discuss some things that you should always have in your vehicle, especially when your feline is going with you.

This checklist will help ensure that you have everything that your cat could possibly need. It’s best to have everything, just in case you can’t find a pet store right away.

  • Cat carrier
  • Cat harness
  • Vaccinations and microchip
  • Health card
  • Enzyme cleaner and some hand cloths
  • Toys
  • Litter box and litter
  • Collar and Pet ID tags
  • Food and water bowls
  • Vet contact information

Documentation To Have On Hand

You usually won’t need a health card unless you’re traveling with a cat by plane. But it’s not unusual for hotels that allow cats to require a health certificate.

You can call ahead and ask the ones that you’re planning on staying at if they require one, but I personally feel that it’s best to get your vet to get one completed for you.

The best part is that you’ll have it if you need it, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

In Case of Emergency

No one wants to prepare for an emergency, but you never know when you might have a flat tire, get in an accident or just run into delays.

There’s a good chance that you have snacks and extra clothing for yourself. Well, your cat needs an emergency kit as well.

The great thing is you probably already have several of the items on hand right now.

Just put all these things together in a bag that’s easy to grab, in the event of an emergency. Here’s what to include in your cat emergency kit:

  • Hand sanitizing wipes (can be used to clean your cat’s bowls, toys, and etc.)
  • Garbage bags (3-5)
  • Pee pads or old towels for your cat’s carrier
  • Cat carrier (you can place all the items inside the carrier if your cat is not inside)
  • Litter pan (most disposable litter trays come in a quantity pack)
  • Latex gloves
  • Small water bottle (8 ounces should last your cat for 3 days)
  • Medication (pack at least a week’s supply)
  • Food and water bowls (you can even use some storage containers from home that have lids)
  • Canned cat food (wet food contains water, that your cat will require in an emergency)
  • Dry cat food (place some in a ziplock bag so you can feed your kitty)
  • An envelope that contains (veterinary records, your cat’s updated-picture, microchip number/company, phone numbers for your veterinarian, two pet-friendly places you can turn to while traveling)

You may also want to consider putting together a feline first aid kit. Here’s what is inside ours:

  • Tick removal kit
  • Nail clippers for cats
  • Bandage scissors
  • Antiseptic hand wipes
  • Sterile gauze
  • Sterile saline
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Magnifying glass
  • Petroleum Jelly (or another lubricant)
  • Tweezers or hemostat
  • Styptic powder
  • 1-inch bandage tape
  • sterile non-stick gauze pads

Hopefully, you’ll never have to use this first aid kit for your cat. But every pet owner should always have one in their vehicle. Of course, if you’d rather purchase one that already has everything you need, you can get one like this.

The most important thing is to make sure that you’re able to assist your pet with injuries until you can consult a veterinarian.

When traveling with your four-legged friend, it’s always best to be prepared just in case anything happens.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into traveling with a cat in a car. However, I’ve done my best to show you everything you need to do and prepare for.

These cat car travel tips are perfect for anyone regardless of the distance you’re venturing. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with your cat getting sick and everything goes smoothly on your road trip.

Related Articles for Traveling With Cats In A Car

How Long Can A Cat Stay In A Carrier?

Can A Cat Ride In A Car Without A Carrier?

Why Do Cats Hate Car Rides?

How to Calm Down A Cat In The Car

Further Reading and References

Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, DACVIM – Combating Cat Car Sickness