Conquering the Car: The Top Tips for Your Cat
Got a road trip planned? Planning on bringing all the family? If you’re worried your cat will be a little nervous or if you know your cat will be nervous – have a read at our top tips below!
Ever heard that saying, ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’? Well as dramatic as that sounds (we had to set the scene), it turns out there’s a little truth behind it when it comes to working with nervous animals. You have known about this big move, road trip or travel adventure for the past months, weeks or days but your feline friend wasn’t in on the conversation about whether to avoid the A470 or head down the M4. They were still deciding whether it would be more helpful to walk in front of the screen or flat out step on the keyboard to bring to your attention they thought dinnertime was a little overdue (and by a little, they were thinking a lot).
They didn’t notice Google maps in the background.
Curate the Crate
Let them know what’s coming up by introducing them to their travel crate or carrier a week or two in advance. Let them investigate their crate at their own pace, allow them to throw in a cheek rub and spread their scent across their new territory. Place their favourite blanket, a playtime toy regular or their must have pillow into this new space. This will allow your cat to get familiar with their travel surroundings, so they can understand a crate is a safe and comfortable space where they can seek comfort just as they can in their space in your home. Once they understand this, they will be much calmer and relaxed travellers (It’s kind of like when you’ve been to the hotel before and you know it’s safe, clean, comfortable (they even have free slippers) vs. when your friend recommended that place they’d only heard of. Which turned out to be somewhere over there, down the lane, through hole in the hedge No.5 and you didn’t read the reviews on Trip Advisor before you booked – you’d be a little nervous right? *hint, the correct answer is YES).
It’s all about timing
We’ve all been there, you said you’d be there for 10am but it’s currently 10:02am and you’ve just sent that text saying your 5 minutes away *you’re currently reversing out of your drive, knowing full well that is the only action you’re going to complete in the next 5 minutes*. Unfortunately when it comes to getting on the road with a nervous cat, you’re going to need to set your alarm a little earlier (without hitting the snooze button a casual 3-4 times) and have a schedule you can follow to ensure your smallest family member is able to keep up with the whole team.
We’re not talking a military precision schedule here (we understand travelling isn’t always smooth sailing *cue: when you were convinced you’d printed off the tickets last night, only to descend into chaos because you forgot your chosen “safe place” was the front pocket not the back pocket of your bag) but it is important to make sure you know what needs to be done and when.
- Feed your pet at least 2 hours before you travel. Your cat will travel better if they do not have a full stomach, as this will reduce the likelihood of illness during the journey. However always ensure your cat has access to water, dehydration will not aid a smooth, travel experience.
- If you are taking a long journey and breaks are unavoidable ensure your carrier is: secure, your car is parked in the shade and a window is left open as it doesn’t take long for a car to heat up when the sun is shining on it. (Remember burning yourself on the black seatbelt? Yup, that’s what we’re talking about.) FYI: If it is a hot day, never leave your cat inside the car even for a short break.
- Provide an opportunity for your cat to go to the toilet, whether that involves using a lead and letting them go outside or placing a litter tray in their crate. However for nervous cats the best solution may be to place a cat carrier within a secure crate when you have stopped for a break. This method will provide the extra space required for a litter tray whilst keeping your cat safely contained (and reduce the chances of them enacting their version of the great escape).
Practice the Plan
Try a run through before you go on the journey, implement your routine and actually start the car. Drive up and down the driveway or a short road a few times to let your cat get used to the sounds and sensation of the car and what it feels like when your car is in transit (Remember, they aren’t with you on the morning commute, the midday dash to beat the queue at the hot food counter or that midnight drive to your favourite unnamed *it’s important to protect our dignity, cough, identity here* takeaway spot. What is a routine activity for you, can feel like a rollercoaster ride to them). So make sure you repeat this process a few times until your cat is comfortable, it may even be worth increasing the distances to short drives around your local area just to make sure you’ve resolved all their suspicions and worries about your driving *CAR JOURNEY, we meant car journey… honest.
Inevitably it is not possible to show your cat every part of the travel experience before you go but completing these steps will ensure when the big day comes they won’t be faced with an entirely new set of circumstances and minimising the uncertainty will help you minimise their nerves.
Maximising everyone’s enjoyment.