Why Do Cats Hate Car Rides And What You Need to Understand

Why do cats hate car rides? This is what most new cat owners ask themselves, especially, if they’ve owned a dog before. Unlike dogs, which love riding in cars, cats are the opposite.

Most pet owners take put their cat in the car when it’s time to visit the vet. Therefore, the cat learns to associate the vehicle with a trip to the vet. It’s no wonder they meow and freak out, or even worse urinate and throw up all over the car or carrier.

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Creatures of Habit

Domesticated cats are creatures of habit and hate change. It is believed that many of today’s household cats are descendants of the Middle Eastern Wildcat which is known as the “Felis silvestris lybica.”

These ancient cats were extremely territorial and thrived on daily habits and routines, which has not changed from today’s domesticated felines.

All cats loved routine and following a certain schedule. They love eating at a certain time, sleeping in the same place, and playing with certain people.

When their daily habits are disturbed, they got into panic mode, some even suffer from feline anxiety.

Why Your Cat Hates Traveling

There’s a high probability that your cat NEVER travels. They’ve followed the same daily routine since they were a kitten. Most pet owners have never even taken their cat for a walk on a cat harness.

When you try to take them out of their familiar environment, they get extremely uncomfortable because they are surrounded by strange things they are not familiar with.


Cats hate really loud noises and running away from them is part of their survival instinct. They have sensitive ears and vehicles, honking horns, cars backfiring other other loud noises can be scary for them.

Their first response is to run whenever they hear something they’ve never heard before. You’ve heard the saying “scaredy cat” this is because cats are usually scared of everything.

Humans and cats have the same range of hearing on a lower scale. However, cats are much more sensitive to loud noises and can hear high-pitched noises with sounds up to 64kHz, which is 1.6 octaves higher than a human.


Experiencing uneven terrain like potholes, bumps, and uneven terrain can scare your feline friend.

Can’t See Outside

Most people put the cat carrier in the backseat or hatchback are of the car. This positioning makes it impossible for your cat to see their surroundings.

The inability to see their surroundings can make your cat meow or cry uncontrollably. They like to be able to see what’s going on around them.

Movement of The Car

If your cat has never been in a moving automobile, the sudden stops or sharp turns can be enough to freak them out.

That’s why it’s so important to get your cat used to short car rides before taking them on a long distance trip.

Strange People

If your furbaby is in a car with strange people they are not familiar with, that alone can make them anxious.

Strange Smells In Vehicle

Your car has strange smells that they are not used to. A domesticated cat’s sense of smell is about fourteen times stronger than humans.

They have about 45 million to 80 million receptors in their nose. While it’s not as sensitive as a dog’s sense of smell, you’ll be surprised at all the things that can trigger their sense of smell.

Cat Carrier

Most cats are not exposed to a carrier until they visit the vet. Whether you know it or not, you’ve already set up a negative association with the carrier.

If you really want your cat to travel in the car, it’s important to start implementing positive reinforcement with the carrier.

Not All Cats Hate Car Rides

Believe it or not, not all cats get anxious when you put them in the automobile. In fact, some cat breeds enjoy traveling and have the personality of a dog.

It really all depends on how you train your cat. I’ve seen some cats ride in cars inside of carriers and without carriers. Most cats will require some type of training if you really want to travel by car, flying on a plane, bus, or train.

Cat Breeds That Enjoy Traveling

Now that you have an understanding of why cats hate car rides, it’s time to look at some simple ways to fix the problem. As a pet owner, it’s totally possible to take your cat on rides with you.

How to Calm Down A Cat In The Car

If you just hate the thought of leaving your cat at home while you go on vacation, there are some things that you can do to calm your kitty in the automobile.

Read this article to learn how to calm down a cat in a car. These techniques will work as long as you give them time and put them into practice.

Just know that cats are not built to love traveling and you’ll probably have to train them for these types of experiences. Here are some things that you can go about getting them used to travel:

Anxiety Jackets for Cats

These work amazingly well for cats and dogs that deal with anxiety issues. It’s a vest that wraps around your cat’s body that enough pressure that results in a calming effect on them. Most are veterinarian approved and much safer than using drugs or medications for sedation.

They are great if your cat suffers from separation anxiety, loud noises, fireworks, thunder, and other strange noises. These are sold on Amazon, and here’s a listing to one of the best sellers.


I personally think sedatives should only be used once you’ve exhausted all other methods. There are tons of sedatives for cats, such as, Melatonin, Catnip, Benadryl, L-Theanine, and etc. I’ve put together a huge list of sedatives for cat travel in case you need it.

Getting Your Cat Familiar With The Cat Carrier

Your cat will be spending a lot of time in their carrier when traveling by car. If you take the time to get them used to the cat carrier before a trip, they’ll be less likely to freak out.

Start leaving the carrier in their favorite room with the door open. This will allow them to go in and out of the carrier whenever they want.

After a few weeks or a month, they should be more comfortable with it. At that point, you can put the carrier in the car and get them used to the vehicle. You’ll also want to start taking short rides with them before you go on a long distance car ride with your cat.

Let Them See Outside

If possible try positioning the cat carrier to where your cat can see outside. Some felines will do a lot better in a vehicle if they can see their surroundings.

Make sure that the carrier is secured tightly with a seatbelt in case of an accident. You don’t want your cat’s carrier to move while they are inside. It can not only cause your kitty to get hurt, but it will also scare them and cause them to hate riding being inside.

Cover the Carrier

Carry a small thin blanket that can be used to cover the carrier. This has been known to help calm a cat that is freaking out.

Sometimes just giving your cat some privacy can help reduce cat anxiety.

Can Cats Get Used To Car Rides?

Just like you can train a dog to do tricks, you can train a cat to like car rides. It won’t happen overnight and it will take some patience.

But with the right training, you can turn your homebody cat into a fun love travel enthusiast. You’ll realize that some cats can get used to a carrier while other cats want to travel in a vehicle without a carrier.

Before you decide whether you’ll be training them with or without a carrier, you’ll want to know about the cats in car laws. It’s important to know if the seatbelt law pertains to your cat.

Most states require pets to Go Pet Friendly, most state laws require pets to be restrained in vehicles.

Bottom Line

Yes, there are some cat breeds that will travel better than others. Not all cats will enjoy traveling, no matter how much training you instill.

The important thing to remember is that you can start training them to see if they will enjoy taking adventurous trips with you.

When you start training your cat, you’ll realize if they will enjoy it. If you can’t seem to get to enjoy riding in the car, no matter what, then you may want to consider leaving them at home.

Every responsible cat owner should do what’s best for their cat. Visit this in-depth article for tips for traveling with cats.

Related Articles for Traveling With Cats In A Car

How Long Should A Cat Stay In A Carrier?

Is It Illegal To Drive With A Cat Not In A Carrier?

Do Cats Hate Car Rides?

How to Deal With Feline Anxiety?

References and Further Reading

The Spruce Pets – How Sensitive Can Your Cat’s Hearing Is