We ask a lot of our cats when we take them along with us for a long car ride. The unfamiliar sights and smells they encounter, the sounds of traffic, and the sensation of moving while being enclosed can all contribute to their anxiety. Therefore, it can be a sore trial for animals that enjoy their independence and are used to being in control of their own comings and goings. How can we minimize all of these sources of stress for our pets?
It’s a good idea to take steps to prepare in advance of your trip. You should begin by selecting a comfortable crate or carrier, one that your cat will be able to turn around inside of and one that is well ventilated. Make your carrier more “homey” by lining it with a towel or placing a pet bed inside it. Encourage your cat to spend some time inside it and you can even use treats and/or catnip as an added incentive.
Once your cat has grown used to the carrier, begin getting your pet acclimated to car travel. Take short (no longer than ten minutes) drives around the neighborhood with your cat travelling inside the carrier. If this becomes a comfortable experience for your pet, gradually extend the length of time spent on the road.
You may want to look into various natural products that exercise a calming effect upon cats and can even reduce the effects of motion sickness. Homeopathic calming drops can be added to food and water and even placed directly on your cat’s tongue. Rescue Remedy is a good flower essence formula that works to relax cats without overly sedating them. There are even air diffusers and sprays that mimic pheromones that cats feel comfortable with. If natural remedies don’t seem to do the trick you could obtain prescription drugs through a veterinarian.
Be sure to bring some products from home along with you on the trip, such as the litter box and your usual food and treats. Put some familiar toys into your cat’s carrier if possible as well. If possible, avoid feeding your cat right before travelling to avoid possible motion sickness. While in the car, take every effort to eliminate noise, and drive slowly to minimize jolts, bumpy turns, and sudden stops. Try to remain calm yourself so your cat can take some emotional cues from you! If it’s safe to do so, you can put your hand through the carrier’s openings to calm your cat and also talk to your cat throughout the trip using a calm voice! Any way you can think of to offer reassurance and to mimic the conditions of home life will have a beneficial effect upon your cat and help to weather the unsettling journey.