Travel By Car With Cats & Dogs

It has been a very tough year for everyone, and with most borders still closed and international travel off the cards at the moment, more and more people are now traveling by car within the US. While it is a bit easier to travel with a dog because they tend to be used to being in a car, even if it’s only for a short trip to a local park, many cat owners don’t even consider traveling with their cat because it sounds like a crazy idea. However, it’s all in our heads, and traveling with your pet, whoever they are, is not only possible but also can be stress-free and enjoyable!

Simba and Shasta, for example, have been to England, Korea, and Hong Kong, and have just returned from a 12-day car trip to North Carolina. They are now preparing for their upcoming 18-day car trip to Florida.

In this post, we pooled our experience of traveling long-distance with cats and dogs and created a checklist for you to make it easier for you to plan your upcoming trip. We personally tried all products mentioned in this post and liked or loved them. This doesn’t mean that there are no better options out there though! None of these brands have contacted us, paid us, or incentivized us in any way to mention their products. If you have any recommendations from your own experience, please send us a message, and we will consider updating the post to include your tips!

Simba and Shasta heading to North Carolina

#1 Pre-Order & Packing Checklist

Here is our ‘should-have” list of items that you should order 2 weeks in advance to ensure they get delivered before your departure:

  • Calming anti-stress collars (see below)
  • Anti-anxiety spray for you (see below)
  • Anti-anxiety spray for your pet (see below)
  • Mobile/foldable cat litter tray
  • Car protection for dogs (see below)
  • Mobile enclosure for cats (see below)
  • Cat backpack or carrier bag for transportation to/from your car
  • Small trash bags and poo bags
  • Bones and other chewies
  • Collapsible water bowl
  • Hot water bottle with cover
  • Favorite toys, blankets, and treats
  • Pet food, pet bowls
  • Medications (if your pet is taking any)
  • Cats: Cat litter, cat litter box, litter box scoop
  • Dogs (and trained cats): Lead, harness, poo bag dispenser

Product Recommendations:
Anti-stress collars for cats (seen on Simba and Shasta in the photo)
Anti-stress collars for dogs
Car seat protection for dogs
Car barrier for dogs
Car enclosure for cats (is secured by seat belts, includes mobile cat litter tray & collapsable water bowl)
Anti-anxiety spray for pets
Anti-stress spray for you

#2 Prepare Your Pet

Out of all actions below, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of pet tags with your contact details, because if your pet accidentally escapes while you are away from home, you need to ensure that people who find them are able to contact you immediately.

  • Check that all vaccinations of your pet are up-to-date
  • Find and enter in your phone emergency pet hospital numbers for all key locations
  • Clip their nails a day in advance so that they can’t injure themselves/wreck your car
  • Ensure that your pet has a collar with a tag that has your phone number on it
  • Check that your pet insurance covers travel and is still valid (if any)
  • If your pet has a long coat, brush them thoroughly on the morning of departure
  • Check your car and remove any car air fresheners, they can really irritate your pet as they have very sensitive noses (and cats really hate all citrusy smells!)

#3 Transport Your Pet to the Car

For cat owners: Don’t underestimate the importance of a hot water bottle for cats – they feel more relaxed when there’s something warm next to them to reassure them. Put it in a special cover to avoid scalding and wrap it in your old t-shirt or jumper, your cat will really appreciate the gesture.

  • Ideally, plan to depart at the time when your pet tends to be inactive/sleep
  • For cats, put their carrier/backpack in a visible place a few days in advance
  • Transport all bags and other items to the car the day before
  • Put the anti-anxiety collar on your pet an hour before departure
  • Take your dog for an extended walk/play with your cat to wear them out
  • Install the car protection covers/cat enclosure and blankets in the car
  • Put the heater/AC on in winter/summer to prepare the car for your pet
  • Prepare the hot water bottle, put it in its cover to avoid scalding, take it to the car
  • Spray the area where your pet will be traveling with anti-stress spray
  • Don’t be nervous and behave as normal – your pet will only get stressed if they see that you are! If you behave as if it is business-as-usual, they will calm down quickly

#4 Driving with Your Pet

The most important point here is to use your car’s child safety locks’ feature because sometimes dogs and cats can accidentally open a window or even a door and fall out.

Moreover, never ever let your pet roam free in the car, even if they are well behaved. There have been many cases where a dog sees another dog or a cat hears a sudden noise while you are on the road. Out of fear or excitement they may jump on the steering wheel or crawl under the gas/brakes’ pedals, causing a serious accident.

For dog owners: Please never ever drive your dog in the back of your truck. A friend’s Labrador who was used to being transported in the back of the truck saw another dog and jumped out while she was driving at full speed, breaking his back. She had to take him to the vet and put him down, which was really heartbreaking.

  • Use car child safety locks to ensure your pet does not open a door or a window
  • Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times
  • For dogs, make regular stops to walk your dog so that they can stretch their legs
  • For cats, they are more likely to use their mobile litter box when you are driving than when you stop, because they get used to the car being in motion after a while
  • For cats who are trained to walk on a leash: We don’t recommend that you walk your cat during rest stops. They are much more likely to escape in a place that’s not familiar to them, and trust us, every cat can get out of their harness if they really want to!

#5 Hotel Stays with Pets

  • There are many hotels, motels, and B&B that will allow you to stay the night with your pet, but you need to check this in advance to avoid disappointment
  • When you are searching for a suitable hotel or travel accommodation, apply the “pets allowed” filter for a list of pet-friendly options
  • IMPORTANT FOR CATS More often than not, “pets allowed” or “pet friendly” means “dog friendly” and they won’t check in cats; call the place you are planning to book to double check if your cat will be welcome (the same applies to Airbnb rentals!)
  • Pack a separate bag with ‘pet hotel stay’ items to make their hotel stays as comfortable as possible and avoid unpacking fully every night: Food and water bowls, favorite toys, pet bed or blanket, treats, and a mobile litter box + cat litter for cats.
  • For cat owners: If you have a cat pheromone plug-in room diffuser, take it to your hotel room with you and plug it in, it will help your cat to relax

We wish you an amazing trip with your pets! Let us know how it goes, and if you have any tips you would like to share with our pet parent community, please CONTACT US and we will update the post accordingly!

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