Keeping Your Cat Safe and Happy on Car Rides
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Keeping Your Cat Safe and Happy on Car Rides

Cats hate riding in cars, but at some point, you’ll have to take your pet on a trip, whether you’re moving or you need to visit the vet. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make these trips easier and safer for you and your cat.

Why do Cats Hate Cars?

While dogs are happy to look at and sniff everything when they’re in a new environment, cats like routine and control: being in a noisy box that bounces around is a scary break from this routine. Worse still, most cats only leave the house to go to the vet, where they’re poked and prodded by strange people and surrounded by scary animals. To keep your cat safe and happy, you need to create an environment that reduces these stresses.

Choosing and Using a Carrier

If you’ve been on the Internet for more than 5 minutes, you know that cats love boxes. Why? They feel secure when they can have their backs against a solid surface because they know nothing can sneak up on them. The right carrier can give your pet that sense of security while keep it contained so it can’t interfere with your driving.

The carrier should be large enough that your cat has space to stand, move and turn around, but not so big that it won’t feel secure. As a rule of thumb, the space inside the carrier should be one-and-a-half times the size of your cat. For longer trips, there should also be enough space to place a food dish and water bowl inside the carrier. Fabric carriers are padded for your pet’s comfort, but they’re susceptible to damage and the zippers can be opened if your cat is determined to escape.

If you choose a hard-plastic carrier, the cat will need a soft surface to lay on that won’t slide around in transit, like a large towel or bed. The carrier should be belted into a seat to keep it from moving around both during normal driving and during an accident.

Getting the Cat into the Carrier

How do you keep your cat from disappearing as soon as you pull out the carrier? Leave it out with the door open so they can get inside on their terms. Throwing in a couple toys or a treat will encourage your cat to go in, while comfortable bedding will encourage the cat to use it to take naps. The sooner you can do this, the better, as it gives the cat positive associations with the carrier. If your cat really hates getting into it after a few trips to the vet, you may consider getting a new carrier in a different color that doesn’t carry the smells of the old carrier to get a fresh start on training.

Going on Longer Trips

Generally, a healthy cat will be fine staying in a carrier for trips under 6 hours. If you need to take your cat on a longer trip, such as a cross-country move, you’ll need to plan around stops.

Even if your cat has a microchip, it’s a good idea to put a collar around its neck with your contact information. This helps the cat be identified as being owned and can help whoever finds it get in contact with you sooner so you can be reunited in a few minutes instead of a few hours.

Before letting your cat out of the carrier, make sure it’s wearing a harness with a leash. Attaching a leash to a collar can strangle your cat, while a harness spreads out the load.

There are spill-resistant water and food containers available, but these are intended for flights, not the bumps of car travel. Wait until the car is stopped before feeding your cat. Cats can be fussy about the taste of water, so you may want to bring water from your home instead of refilling at stops.

Before your trip, pick up some disposable litter boxes for bathroom breaks. These can be thrown in the trash after use.

When Accidents Happen, Get Your Car Fixed Right

No matter how safe you drive or how much you prepare for the safety of your pets, accidents are bound to happen. If your car has been in an accident and needs collision repair, bring it in to Merton Auto Body. Our Sussex location is great for those within the Lake Country Area and Waukesha County, including Hartland, Pewaukee, Delafield, Waukesha, and Oconomowoc. Our staff is ASE Certified, and our shop is I-CAR Gold Class certified, which means we have experienced technicians and the latest techniques available to fix your vehicle. To get your car back on the road faster, we have an appraiser on staff and an Autobody Estimating Center to get work approved by your insurance company. To learn more, visit us on the web at


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