Cats And Car Rides: How To Get Them To Mix

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
Is your kitty equipped for your next road trip?

While dogs enjoy car rides and actually look forward to them, cats are skittish creatures of habit who prefer to stay on solid ground in an environment they’re used to. It can be quite hard to train a cat to tolerate being in a moving vehicle, but it isn’t impossible. And doing so will make it a lot less stressful on your pet if you wish to travel with him or if you need to bring him to the vet (after all, being at the vet is stressful enough on its own).

Start Early

While any cat can be trained to tolerate being in a car, it’s a lot easier for a kitten to adjust to the experience and become used to it to the point that he no longer feels stressed by it. Therefore, if you can, start training him early.

Related: Tips For Taking Your Cat On Vacation With You

Get Your Cat to Love the Carrier

Many cats get frazzled at the sight of their carrier, knowing that they’ll be forced into it and taken to the vet, but you can make your cat feel comfortable while inside it. Use the natural flower essences and pheromones listed below, but start by purchasing a comfortable carrier your cat will like, such as a soft-sided carrier filled with blankets and a catnip toy. Leave the carrier out in the house even when you aren’t planning a trip so that your cat can grow accustomed to going into and out of it as he wishes without viewing it as a threat.

Use Flower Essences

Bach Flower Essences are completely natural remedies that can help animals suffering with a variety of ailments. They’re commonly prescribed by holistic veterinarians, and they won’t cause any side effects. Rescue Remedy is the go-to Bach Flower Essence for animals who are undergoing any kind of stressful situation, including a car ride. You can begin administering the remedy up to a day before your anticipated trip and then continue giving your pet the remedy at regular intervals and during the journey as well. If you start seeing a positive response, though, you can decrease the amount you’re giving.

Related: Study Finds Most Pet Travel Seats Not Effective During Car Crashes

Typically, you can give four to eight drops at a time. You can do so by mouth, taking care not to contaminate the dropper while ensuring the remedy at least hits the mucous membranes for absorption (it doesn’t need to be swallowed for it to work). You can also apply it topically, usually on the ears and head, by putting some in your hand and patting your cat with it. And, finally, you can also opt to put some into your cat’s wet food or water bowl.

Another great thing about Bach Flower Essences is the fact that they’ll work when sprayed in a cat’s environment. So you can spray your pet’s carrier prior to putting him into it in order for him to feel less stressed once inside.

Try Pheromones

If the Bach Flower Essences don’t work, you can also try a product known as Feliway, which contains a feline pheromone that brings about a sense of tranquility in a stressed pet. Spray this product in your cat’s carrier only, as it shouldn’t be used directly on your cat.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve done everything you can to get your cat comfortable with being in his carrier, the next step is to make him comfortable within the car. This takes a lot of practice and patience.

Start by bringing your cat into your car and strapping the carrier to the seat just as you would if you were going for a ride. But instead of hopping into the driver’s seat, sit next to the carrier and make sure your pet is calm. Once your cat shows that he’s at ease, give him a treat. Follow this routine many times until your cat can go for longer periods of time in a calm state, waiting for his treat.

Once your pet is fine with being in a car that’s off, it’s time to test him with the engine on, following the same reward system for remaining calm. Then head out on really short trips, starting with going around the block and then going a little further away from home each time. Eventually, you should take your kitty out on the highway and to and from your vet’s office so he gets accustomed to the twists and turns and varying speeds. Rewarding his calm behavior with treats will ensure he ends up enjoying the ride.

While many cats never fully adjust to car rides, the key is to at least get your pet to the point that he isn’t overly stressed by the experience. Doing so will limit your stress as well.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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