I travel a lot in the car. In fact, I don’t think a week goes by without me going somewhere in my human’s Mini at least once. So you might say I am kind of a cat expert at car travel. My human is big on keeping me as safe as possible when we are on the road, so why not share some of these tips? Nearly all cats need to go somewhere at some point, at least to a veterinary clinic, and I want all my kitty pals to be safe too.
Note: These tips are specifically about car safety. Acclimating your cat to a carrier with less stress is a big topic that needs its own blog post.
Tip #1 Always have an ID on your cat.
And this means a physical ID, attached to a collar or a harness. Microchips are important and all cats should be chipped. But you want people to have access to your contract info right away if your cat somehow winds up outside of the car.
Tip #2 Never, ever allow your cat to roam free in a moving car.
Most cats dislike car travel and will behave unpredictably inside a car. They could get under your feet while you are driving, or at the very least hide in a space that will be difficult to reach when you arrive at your destination. Even if you have the most well-behaved cat in the world, it’s dangerous. If there is an accident, your cat can be thrown from the car, or escape in a panic, possibly injured, never to be seen again. My human’s heart races just thinking about it.
Tip #3 Safety starts with the carrier.
Your cat should have a sturdy carrier that is also comfortable. There are a lot of opinions on which ones are best. Many experts recommend hard sided carriers, but there are also well-designed soft sided carriers that are safe too. We like the Sleepypod mobile pet beds because they’ve actually been crash tested and it is documented that they hold up brilliantly in accidents. Plus they are comfy! They are not cheap, but worth every cent.
Tip #4 Don’t ever strap your cat’s carrier into the front passenger seat.
There are two reasons for this. First, if you are in an accident, the force of a deployed airbag could severely injure or even kill your cat, even while protected by a carrier. Secondly, the passenger side is one of the most vulnerable spots in a car accident.
It’s much safer to strap the carrier in the backseat, with the help of the seatbelt. Most carriers these days have extra tabs to secure your cat’s carrier even better.
Tip #5 Prepare for extreme weather conditions.
It is important to keep a comfortable temperature in your car. Usually cold isn’t that troublesome, since you will likely have the heater on for your own comfort. Just add extra blankets to the carrier and make sure the heat vent isn’t blasting directly on your cat.
Hot weather, however, can be very dangerous. The temperature inside a car in summer is much higher than outside, and cats can easily get heatstroke and die. Even when outside temperatures read 75 or 80, inside a car, the thermometer can rise to potentially deadly levels. Always have your air conditioner on if you are driving somewhere with your cat on warm days. My human keeps the car a little colder than she would like when she is traveling with me.
If you can do it, always park your car in the shade when it is hot out so your car is not a complete furnace when you are getting ready to leave. My human always runs the air conditioner with the door open for a few minutes before fastening my carrier in the back. Even if the car is parked in the shade. She wants the worst part of the heat to dissipate.
The one exception my human makes to the carrier in the back seat rule is during hot weather, when she is worried that too much sun will be hitting my carrier. Then she puts the carrier in front of the passenger seat. It’s actually very secure there because the car is so small, and my carrier is fairly large. It’s got more shade, and there is an air conditioner vent there.
A couple more hot weather tips. On summer days when you are traveling with your cat, freeze a small bottle of water the night before. This serves two purposes. You can wrap it in a blanket or towel in the carrier to help keep your cat cool. And you can bring a small bowl so that as the ice in the bottle melts, you can offer your cat a drink if she is thirsty. Another thing to consider, if you live in a hot climate is getting a cooling mat for your cat’s comfort and safety.
Tip #6 Fill the bottom of your cat’s carrier with towels or blankets, both for comfort and to add security.
Stuff enough blankets or towels in the bottom of the carrier so that they don’t move around. This will help keep your cat from being jostled about while driving. It makes for a better ride for your cat, and if there is an accident, there is less of a chance for the cat to be violently thrown around in the carrier.
Tip #7 Never leave your cat in the car unattended.
There isn’t enough room to list the reasons your cat should never be alone in the car. Here are just a few things to consider. What if your car gets stolen? What if your car is hit by another vehicle? What if it gets too hot or too cold? What if something happens to you, and your cat is stuck in the car without you? And my human’s biggest concern: what if someone breaks into the car and steals me? Really, it could happen to any cat.
When we are traveling, where ever my human goes, I come along. That is non-negotiable. She eats at drive thrus, and takes my carrier into gas station mini marts. I’ve even been in a bank while my human was signing documents once. If someone is traveling with her, one of them will have to stay in the car while the other person shops or has an appointment. She will never, ever leave me alone. Period.
I hope these tips are helpful! Did any of them surprise you, or do you have more suggestions? Let me know in the comments.
Other posts you’ll enjoy:
- Successful Traveling With Your Cat – the Preparation
- How to Travel With Your Cat on an Airplane
- Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling With Your Cat