Most dogs love a good car ride. It means they get to see the world, experience a little wind in their faces if their people are kind enough to put down a window, and they get some up close and personal time with their people. Dogs are adventurous and care-free when it comes to car rides, or so it seems. Cats, on the other hand, aren’t quite so fond of the car. They’re more likely to have a, “What is happening right now?” moment than a, “YES! The CAR!” moment. Perhaps you have a cat that loves riding in the car and you don’t know what we are talking about; you are the exception to the rule. Most cats find car travel difficult and stressful, which means your job is to find a way to keep your cat calm and help him or her when the need to travel arises. Whether you’re moving, boarding the cat for a few days so you can travel or you simply have to take the cat to the vet, a car trip is stressful for the both of you. And we have some advice that might make traveling in the car a little less stressful for everyone involved.
Use a Crate
There is absolutely no reason not to use a crate when traveling with your cat in the car. This is an animal that can work its way under your seats, freak out and attack your head for safety and put your lives at risk in the car. A crate is absolutely necessary. And if you have a crate that is familiar to the cat, perhaps one he or she has been in before or finds its way into during the day, use it.
Cover the Crate on the Way to the Car
A towel or blanket over the crate on the way to the car can keep the cat a bit calmer than seeing the car. Most cats associate the car with the vet, even if that’s not where you’re going. Since cats don’t get to go to cat parks or the beach like the dog does, he or she is unlikely to have any happy memories of the car, so not allowing the cat to know where it’s going is a much wiser idea.
Pad the Crate
A soft blanket or towel inside the crate will go a long way to keeping your cat calm and comfortable. Cats aren’t big fans of discomfort, despite the fact that they like to sit on the railing at the top of the stairs half hanging off and always in peril of tumbling down two stories. Cats like to be comfortable, and the crate is not always the most comfortable location.
Put Your Cat Where He or She Can See You
If it’s at all possible, place your cat in the passenger seat of your car so that the opening of the crate is directed toward you. If the cat can see you, once he realizes that the car is where he is, it’s more likely that he will remain calm. You are familiar to the cat, and that’s a small piece of happiness in his or her mind.
Keep the Music Low
Don’t blare the music to drown out the whining sounds the cat is making, but don’t keep it off either. Turn it down low so that the cat can hear the music and potentially not hear the sounds of traffic going on around him or her. Cats are nervous in the car, so not being able to hear other traffic as it does its thing is going to be easier on the cat.
Talk to the Cat Before You Leave
If you can spend a little time with the cat before you go loving on it and reassuring it, it will be more relaxed before you leave. This might sound a little bit silly to some cat owners, but according to PETA it works. All you have to do is make the effort to spend just a little bit of time with the cat prior to your departure and you’ll find that things are a bit smoother.
Talk to the Cat During Your Trip
Don’t ignore the cat or talk on the phone during your trip. Talk to the cat the same way you would at home (unless you spend most of your time yelling at the cat to get off the counters) so that he or she feels safe and familiar. You want the cat to feel at home in the car, so talk to it. It seems silly, but it really could work with many cats.
Pack a Few Favorite Toys or Treats
Stick a favorite toy or treat of your cats into the crate with him or her for a bit of comfort and entertainment. When the cat is distracted by something it does love, it is less likely to panic and be a pain. It might ignore what you put in there out of sheer terror of your ride, but it might also do really well with something it loves in the crate with it.
Touch the Cat, if You Can
If you can get your fingers through the crate a bit, do it. Let the cat rub your fingers so that it feels comfortable and familiar. We aren’t saying your cat is an attack cat, but if your cat is a terrified to the point of panic, you might not want to do this. If your cat seems out of control in the car, keep your fingers to yourself. You don’t want to get bitten out of fear and panic. And again, I’m not saying your cat would ever do this, but you know his or her personality; if it seems off, keep your fingers safe.
Make the Ride Smooth and Quiet
If you can drive slow, do it. If you can keep from using your horn, turning corners too quickly or speeding through lights as they’re about to turn red, do it. If you can avoid slamming on your brakes, avoid it. Keep the ride as calm and smooth as possible and your cat is more likely to stay calm. And try to keep the crate from moving by either holding it in place with one hand, in a passenger’s lap or even with a seatbelt if need be.
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