As a slow traveling nomad, one of the greatest adventures I have encountered took place in my own car! For anyone looking to road trip with a cat, it’s time to get ready for a new kind of experience, one that will undoubtedly strengthen your bond forever.
At this point, Cal and I have been road-tripping together for over a year and a half. We’ve gone from Los Angeles to Anchorage and back. While Cal has always been a curious soul, like most cats he has not always been brave. Speaking for myself, I have always been well-intentioned in my planning, but not always been smart. Together we have grown closer and are excited to share what we’ve learned along the way.
Cats need restraints too
The question is not if you restrain your cat, it’s how. This is not only for your own personal safety (in the event of an accident), but keeping your cat restrained in a moving vehicle is actually the law in most states. Practical matters aside, restraining your cat will also bring peace of mind for the driver. We all know how skittish how furry friends can get and a car ride only serves to heighten their anxiety. A carrier or harness will allow your cat to move around without darting underneath the driver’s feet.
You have 2 options for restraining your cat in the car. The most popular choice is a cat carrier. If you go this route, I’d recommend purchasing the largest carrier that will fit on your vehicle. This will allow your cat to stretch out and hopefully leave room for a small litterbox, just in case. Depending on your cat’s personality, you may also try a cat harness. This takes some extra time and effort in training, but if your cat is as curious as mine, this may be a great option.
Top tip for your road trip with a cat – Desensitization
If I’ve learned anything about cats, it’s that things go a lot easier when they want the same thing that you want. Believe it or not, this is possible with a thoughtful desensitization process. You can start by simply showing your cat their carrier or harness a few times a day. Each time they approach the new object, reward them for interacting with it. When not actively training make sure to hide the object (this way they learn to approach you whenever they see you holding the harness or carrier).
In a slow and patient manner continue to coax your cat into the desired interaction. Once your cat is comfortable with the harness or carrier, it’s time to restart the process with the car. Start slow, only a few minutes at a time, and then reward them when car time is over. The goal is to make the car a pleasant and happy place for them.
In an ideal world, you have plenty of time to warm your cat up to the idea of climbing into a carrier and riding around in the car. In a non-ideal world, you may have to improvise. The most important thing you can do is let your cat spend plenty of time in a non-moving car. Cats are sensitive souls and too much change can be very jarring, it’s best to warm them up to the car before exposing them to movement as well.
Update your cat’s microchip
This seems like a no-brainer, but in the event that your cat gets out of the car or carrier, you’ll be glad you took the time to update their microchip information. If you are like me, you probably have not looked at your cat’s microchip information since the day you adopted them. The good news is that it’s easy to view and update your information on the national database. Never got around to microchipping your cat? No big deal! Most vets will provide a microchip for little to no cost. And the procedure only takes a few minutes.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to be prepared for every possible situation. This means having all of the necessary supplies on hand at all times. Emergency supplies such as a first-aid kit, water and food are essential but don’t forget about your cat’s everyday needs either. A small litterbox, food and water bowl will not only meet your cat’s basic needs, but it will also help them to feel at home in the car. Make sure to bring a scooper and disposable bags too. Trust me, you’ve never been so motivated to scoop litter as you will be once you’re sitting next to it in a car!
Taking breaks for an enjoyable road trip with a cat
This is especially important if you have a long road trip planned. Like dogs, cats need to be able to move around and stretch their legs. A few minutes of break time every hour or so will help them relax and get some human interaction if they desire. Also, a lot of cats will not eat, drink or use the litterbox in a moving vehicle. So make sure to give them plenty of time to meet their physical needs during your breaks.
This is probably the most important thing you can do when traveling with a cat. If you’re anxious, your cat will be too. Now that you are fully prepared, it should be easy to stay calm and act like everything is perfectly normal. This will help them relax and hopefully enjoy the experience.
Conclusion on how to road trip with a cat
Any road trip with a cat can seem daunting at first. But it’s actually a unique way to strengthen your bond with your feline bestie. There is nothing better than enjoying the open road together! With a little preparation and patience, you can make sure that your cat has a safe and comfortable trip.
Slow traveling the US? Read How to nomad America, 6 myths busted, starting with vanlife
Curious how Cal feels about all this? Read A Cat’s Perspective – It started with a box