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Car Trips with Cats

A car trip is just no fun without taking everyone in the family, even the furry felines. Many people wouldn’t think so but some cats enjoy being in a car and will cope quite well if they feel safe and secure.

Whilst the road trip might be fun, travelling with a pet in a car requires some planning to make sure that the journey is safe for them as well as for the rest of the family. Just like every other member, cats must be secure and should know how to behave in such an environment.

Begin getting a cat used to being in a car whilst still very young. Train them to sit quietly in their designated spot whilst the car isn’t even moving and then let them get used to the movement of the vehicle in short trips of just a few minutes. Make sure that someone else is driving during this training process so that you can concentrate on the pet whilst the driver concentrates on the road.

Bailey the Travelling Cat

Bailey the Travelling Cat

It’s inevitable that if not for a holiday, a cat will need to be transported in a car even if just for a visit to the vet. Cats tend not to be as comfortable in moving vehicles as dogs but will become used to it if started early in life, even when they are kittens.

Cats should never be allowed to roam free in a vehicle as they are incredibly quick and it will only take seconds for them to distract the driver or get down at their feet amongst the pedals. A scared, unrestrained cat in a moving vehicle is a recipe for disaster.

Travel crates come in various sizes and materials and are the best option for transporting a cat, making sure that it feels secure whilst everyone else in the car will be safe as well. Make sure the cat is used to the crate before it has to ride in it in the car and start with short trips of just a few minutes, gradually building up to longer ones. Don’t be too concerned if the cat meows continuously, especially in the beginning as this is just its way of letting you know it isn’t happy. Eventually it will settle down and may even relax and enjoy the trip.

Sometimes a cat that is not used to travelling will defecate fairly quickly once the car starts moving and this can certainly be uncomfortable for everyone, including the cat. A good tip is to put two layers of bedding in the crate with the top one being disposable. This layer can then be removed quickly leaving the crate and the car clean for the rest of the trip but only attempt this from inside the car with the doors closed to prevent the cat from escaping if it gets out of the crate.

Cats need to access water when they travel, especially on a long road trip. Foldable water and food bowls are a great idea as they can be kept in the car and filled with water every hour or so for the animal to drink. There are also non-slip travel bowls that are designed for the back of moving vehicles and allow the animal to access water at any time without it spilling.

Take a few treats on the trip since take-away food from road houses is too rich and not a healthy option. However, for animals that are not good travellers, only offer them a tiny amount of food so that they don’t get an upset tummy or wait until you’ve reached the destination before letting them have their meal.

All pet owners know how dangerous it is to leave a cat or dog in a car and yet many do just that thinking they will just be a minute whilst they pop into the shop. However, the reality is that it takes six minutes or less for an animal to suffer severe heat exhaustion in a car and die; this is much less time than it takes to line up at the supermarket for milk and bread.

Tests conducted by Melbourne’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service on a 29°C day after the car’s air conditioner had already cooled the vehicle to a comfortable 20°C showed that it took just 10 minutes for the temperature to increase to 44°C. Ten minutes later it had skyrocketed to 60°C.

Animals are not able to regulate their body temperature, especially if they don’t have access to water, and if left in a space such as a car where the air is hot around them will suffer severe dehydration and heat exhaustion. It’s just not worth the risk to pick up a few groceries.

All pets should wear a collar with identification showing their home address and phone number but it’s important to remember that when travelling, an extra tag may need to be added to show contact details whilst they are on the road. Microchips are also a great investment but make sure the details on the database are fully up to date.  It is now law in WA that cats need to be microchipped and wear a tag.


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