Traveling with Your Cat- Tips for Cat-Friendly Road Trips

Thinking about a road trip soon? Heading to a campground? A motel by the ocean? Or just feel like hitting the open road to destinations unknown?

If you are a pet owner that loves to travel but feels sad or guilty leaving your kitty at home, with a friend, or at the boarders—why not bring your furry four-legged feline along for the ride?

Travelling with your cat by your side is not only a terrific option, it can be a fun, bonding experience for you and your cat as you hit the open road looking for a carefree adventure.   

As one of the most cost effective ways to travel, heading out in the open road with your cat is both affordable and your ticket to freedom. Although most people probably think cats don’t make very good car companions because they’ll be restless and distracting meow-ers, the truth is… not only are felines great to travel with, many cats actually enjoy the ride, as well as the adventure!

Whether you want to give yourself a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of daily life or are yearning for a new, exciting outdoor adventure, one of the great aspects of planning your road trip is it can be as involved or simple as you want it to be.

As with any trip you take with a pet, planning, as well as preparing your cat companion before you hit the road will be key to the success of your trip.

Take a look at these terrific traveling tips for helping your cat get ready for the road!

Tips for Traveling with Your Cat

1. Plan Your Road Trip

Unless you enjoy the freedom and flexibility of just jumping in the car and heading off to destinations unknown, planning for your trip (especially with your cat) will ensure it’s a fun, comfortable, and safe adventure for both of you.

  • You’ll want to think about where you are going and how long the trip will be. Knowing how long it will take to arrive at your destination will help in planning stops along the way. For long road trips you should plan to stop at least every 2-3 hours. It also is a good idea to check the weather conditions before you leave.
  • Reservations will need to be made unless you are planning on pitching a tent on your adventure. Explore all the pet-friendly accommodations along the way and at your final destination. Inquire about any pet fees the hotel/motel charges on a daily or weekly basis, so there are no surprises when you check-out.

2. Packing for the Road

Cat carrier

  • As any cat owner will tell you—having your cat move around freely in your car is simply not a safe way for you or your cat to travel.
  • Cats that roam freely in the car while you are driving can be a distraction and cause potential accidents; they can even become a dangerous projectile if you have to stop short or are involved in a crash.
  • Cat carriers provide a safe, quiet, and comfortable place for your kitty to enjoy the ride; and, it might even alleviate some of their anxiety during the trip.
  • Cat carriers that are comfortable, well-sized, strong, and well-ventilated are ideal.
  • Prepare for unexpected messes and accidents. Bring along some wipes, an old towel, and some trash bags to make clean-up a breeze.
  • Safest place for the carrier in your car—the back seat or on the floor of the car.

Cat harness & leash

  • A well-fitted harness and appropriate length leash are the best way to keep your cat safe.
  • A cat harness and leash are a must for those pit stops when your cat needs a bathroom break or could use a bit of exercise to stretch their legs and explore.
  • Many cats simply are not used to wearing a harness and/or a leash, but they can be trained. Take a look at these great tips from Adventure Cats that will help you make leash training a positive experience for your finicky feline.
  • A cat leash and harness are certainly a necessity for travel, especially if you don’t want the added stress, anxiety, and heartbreak if your cat escapes during your road trip.

Portable litter box

  • If you are going on a long road trip you’ll definitely want to bring a litter box so your kitty can relieve themselves.
  • Using a compact travel litter box, with a litter scoop, extra litter, and scented waste bags will be all you will need when your cat has to do their ‘business.’
  • The ideal travel litter box should be waterproof, easy-to-clean, and collapsible.
  • Let your cat get acclimated to using the new litter box before you leave on your trip and always use the same litter that you use in the box at home.

The essentials

  • Pack a food bowl and water dish for meals on the go.
  • Ideal for long or short road trips, a collapsible water dish or travel bowl designed to hold both food and water are convenient to use and easily stored.
  • Depending on how long you plan on being on the road, you’ll want to bring an adequate supply of your cat’s regular wet/dry food.
  • Don’t forget cat treats so you can reward good behavior along your adventure.
  • Pack any regular medications and those the vet prescribed specifically for the trip (nausea and calming).
  • It’s always a good idea to bring along some of your cat’s favorite toys when you travel. Having the ability to play during their time in the car will help keep them busy and happy. The scent of familiar toys can make their carrier a more comfortable place that can reduce your cat’s anxiety and provide a greater overall sense of well-being.

3. Prepare Your Cat for the Road Trip

Talk to your veterinarian

  • It’s always a good idea to speak with your vet first so they can confirm if your cat is healthy enough to travel and up-to-date on vaccinations/flea treatment/heartworm meds.
  • Your vet can also provide additional travel tips, make recommendations, as well as prescribe a sedative for cats that are prone to stress and/or an anti-nausea medication such as Meclizine, Cerenia, and Dimenhydrinate.

Car travel- practice makes ‘purrfect’

  • Being restrained in a carrier can cause your cat undo stress, especially if they have never been confined to a carrier.
  • You’ll want to train your cat so he/she associates their carrier with a positive experience. Placing a treat(s) inside the carrier and leaving the door open so your curious cat can go in and out to retrieve the treat can make them more at ease and better acclimate them to being confined in the carrier.
  • Once your cat has adjusted to being in the carrier take a couple of ‘practice runs’ around the block or into town, making each trip just a little longer.
  • Preventative Vet also offers some really terrific tips on making your carrier a cat-friendly place.
  • While some cats embrace wearing a harness and leash so they can explore outdoors other cats have no idea what a leash and harness even is. For those cats unfamiliar with the concept, training is recommended. Why Animals Do The Thing offers some great harness and leash training steps that produce positive results! You can find the steps here.
  • Exercise your cat by playing with them before you leave.
  • Give your cat water and food before you hit the road.

Identification and Microchip

  • Your cat should always wear a collar with an identification tag that has your current information on it.
  • If your cat isn’t microchipped already you might want to consider it for your trip.
  • Make certain the information on the ID tag is up-to-date and that the information associated with the microchip is accurate.

Always take along your vet’s number and the number for Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 in case of any emergencies

4. Hitting the Road with Your Cat

Rules for the Road

  • Take breaks—both you and your cat need them
  • NEVER leave your cat in the car unattended
  • Loud music can make travel more stressful for your cat; so turn down your driving tunes or play something mellow and relaxing.
  • Talk to your cat once in a while so they know you are thinking about them

Pet-Friendly accommodations

  • Whether you have a destination in mind or just want to go where the road takes you, it’s always a good idea to have a list of pet-friendly hotels/motels along the way.
  • PetsWelcome offers pet owners a road trip planner that helps you find pet-friendly accommodations on any route your road trip takes you.

Final thoughts

Cats make terrific traveling companions. Whether your feline is innately adventurous or just needs a bit of training, your cat can be the best car companion you have ever had.

Paying attention to your cat during your road trip is very important. Your cat will provide you with cues or signs of discomfort, fear, or illness so you can act accordingly. Any new situation might cause your feline stress, so bringing the ‘right’ supplies will be essential for creating a cozy comfort zone in your car.

There is nothing quite like the freedom and flexibility of jumping in your car and hitting the open road. Traveling by car with your beloved cat offers adventure and fun for both of you. It also enables you to have a more meaningful travel experience—especially when you are focused on the journey and not the destination.