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13 Useful Cat Road Trip Tips To Know Before You Travel With A Cat In A Car

So you’re planning on going on a road trip with your cat in the car?

I don’t want to tell you that travel with a cat in a car is going to be a breeze. It’s all about your cat and their needs. Every cat is different and will behave differently in the car – especially to travel with cats long distance.

A cat may be fine for a few minutes to an hour in the car, but once you hit 3, 4, or even 8 hours driving – how are they going to be? What about the different terrains you may encounter while driving with a cat? It may not be flat the whole way so you have to be prepared for bumpy and mountainous driving conditions.

Because there are so many unknowns when you travel with cats long distance, you have to prepare for the worst. Here are my top cat road trip tips for when you travel with a cat in a car.

P.S. If you’re traveling with cats long distance and staying overnight, be sure to read my cat road trip tips for staying in a hotel with a cat.

Psst! This blog post contains affiliate links in it which sends me a bit of extra money if you use them… at no extra cost to you!

How To Travel With A Cat In A Car For Long Distance Road Trips
Useful Resources You Might Need For Travel With A Cat

Book a Pet-Friendly Hotel:  Hilton Pet Friendly Hotels
Car Rentals: Rental Cars at Low, Affordable Rates | Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Travel Safe Carrier: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca
Travel Cat Backpack: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca
Cat Travel Digital Planner: Etsy.com

You might also be interested in reading…
What You Need To Travel With Your Cat | 15 Tips For Staying In A Hotel With A Cat


Travel With Cats Long Distance – My Experience

My experience driving with a cat comes from my 26 hour road trip from Montreal to Florida (and back!). That’s about 50 hours driving with a cat in a car and staying overnight in 4 hotels.

The drive when very smoothly but I also learned a lot about how to travel with a cat long distances.

13 Cat Road Trips Tips How To Travel With A Cat In A Car

1. Buy A Large Travel Carrier – Don’t Let Them Wander Free In The Car…

When you travel with a cat in a car, the safest place for them to be is in a car safe carrier. If you let them wander free in the car this causes risks for your safety and your cats. Even the most well trained cat is risky.

I’ll admit I’ll take my cat out of the carrier when he starts meowing for attention. But it’s very rare. The rule is that he has to stay on my lap at all times otherwise he goes back in his carrier. I do this only when I see he’s lonely in the back and for a short amount of time.

You want to look for a large car safe carrier. There are few options you can choose from. I like this large carrier from Amazon – it’s perfect to travel with a cat in a car. It’s large enough for my cat to stand up, move around, and has a metal frame and leash for safety.

Shop PetSeek Large Cat Carrier On Amazon

Sturdy and collapsible structure for safe travel with a cat in a car, leash and seat belt attachment for safety.


2. Get Them Used To Their Carrier Ahead Of Time

A cat’s carrier should be their safe space. You want them to be used to the space before even bringing them into the car in it.

To do this, I left the carrier out in the house for my cat to constantly wander in and out of. Leaving treats for him in there, giving him treats when he sleeps in there …etc.

If you have enough time, I would even train them to be comfortable when it’s closed. Start closing the carrier, then give them a treat. Slowly keep the carrier door closed for longer periods of time so they get used to being enclosed in it as well. (This was an issue for my cat – he loved it so much when he was open, but the second I would close it he would freak out!)

P.S. If you’re using a different carrier for the car and the hotel when you travel with cats long distance, try to get them used to both. The car carrier is so large that we used a cat backpack to transport him from the car to the hotel. The carrier was his safe space in the car, but then it was the backpack at the hotel overnight. We use the Pecute Cat Backpack. See it on Amazon here.

You might also be interested in reading…

Honest Cat Backpack Review: Pecute Cat Backpack


3. Travel With A Cat In A Car – Get Them Used To Driving

The best thing you can do for your cat before you travel with cats long distance in the car is to get them used to driving as much as possible beforehand. Driving is a lot to handle – there’s motion, a lot of different noises, lights …etc.

You want them to be as used to the car as possible before venturing on a long cat road trip. Getting them used to their carrier at home is one thing, bringing it into the car is a whole other ball game.

When we first started bringing our cat into the car he would meow like crazy and rip out of his carrier. I would have to sit in the back with him to put him back in. Eventually – he learned. I can’t stress enough that this process takes time, so if you have time before your trip there’s nothing better you can do for your cat.

You might also be interested in reading…

How To Prepare A Cat For Travel: Training Tips & More

We started out taking our cat in the car as much as we could on short drives. Around the block, to the grocery store for an online pick up…etc. We started out playing classical music in the car to try and calm him down even more.

Eventually he got used to it and would fall asleep as soon as we got into the car.

Someone likes poking his head out to say Hi and to get some pets!

4. Make Their Carrier Feel Comfortable & Cozy

You want there carrier to feel like home, not a barren cold carrier they’re stuck in for several hours.

There are a few ways to make your cat feel more comfortable in their carrier to travel in a car with long distances. I put his bed and a blanket inside so he has a warm place to sleep.
I even put a scratcher in there if he wants to use it- although I never saw him even look at it. You can add a toy or two if you want to as well.

Another recommendation is to put a blanket on top of the carrier. This will make the space feel cozier and warmer. Plus, this way they can’t see outside if the motion makes them nauseous. I find my cat freaks out when light shines in, so you can also use it to block out the light.

Plan the ultimate vacation

My digital travel planner template has everything you need to plan your vacation: research templates, travel planner itinerary, travel budget templates…etc. . You can print it out or use it digitally on your phone, tablet, or computer.


5. Cat Road Trip Tips To Keep Your Cat Calm While Driving

If your cat is still uncomfortable driving, you may want to get them something to calm their nerves a bit. Feliway has a travel spray that mimics cat pheromones to calm them down. You can spray this in their carrier 15 minutes before you leave and it lasts from 4 to 5 hours.

Another option is to buy calming treats that you can give them while driving. (Some people were nervous about the spray making the driver sleepy – we didn’t have any issues with it).

If your cat needs something stronger, you can also speak to your vet about getting some medication for the trip.

Shop Ways To Keep You Cat Calm When You Travel With A Cat In A Car On Amazon

6. Cats Can Hold In Their Pee… But Accidents Happen

You can try to get your cat to use their litter before leaving, but that’s probably not going to be successful. Plus, you shouldn’t worry because cats can hold their pee for up to 24 to 48 hours!

Of course, accidents do happen, especially if they’re nervous. With his in mind, plan for the worst. We lined our cats carrier with absorbent pee pee pads. That way, if our cat had an accident while driving, it was an easy clean up. It’s also good to have in case your cat gets nauseous and throws up. See pee pee pads on Amazon.

You can still plan to offer your cat their litter box at every stop… more on travel cat litter boxes soon…


7. Buy Cat Travel Litter Boxes & Use Your Normal Litter…

A big question when travelling with a cat in a car is what to do about the litter box? It’s not like a dog that you can let out to pee on the grass.

You want to buy a smaller litter box that you can close. There are small cat travel litter boxes you can buy but you can also use a small plastic container with a cover (what we did). This way, you can easily cover it up and carry it from the car to the hotel. Or you can easily take it out to let your cat use and cover it up so you don’t have to smell it.

Another cat road trip tip for the litter box is to use the same litter you’re using at home! There are a few reasons for this… if you buy a small travel litter that comes with litter, it’s usually not quality litter that’s provided. It can be dustier and won’t mask the smell as well.

The ultimate cat travel planner!

My digital cat travel planner template has everything you need to travel with your cat: research pet-friendly places, cat packing lists and checklist. You can print it out or use it digitally on your phone, tablet, or computer.

But the main thing is that your cat isn’t used to it. They’re already being introduced to so many new environments and changes – don’t change their litter on them! Remember, you want to keep as many things as constant as you can. Using the same litter that you do at home is one of the best ways to do that. Your cat is already used to it, you know they like it, why would you change it?

I even went as far as taking the old litter on the car ride (don’t worry I cleaned it out first!). But this way it already even smelled like him – he knew it was his!

Shop Cat Travel Litter Box On Amazon

Portable Cat Travel Litter Box for Easy Drive with Kitty and Cats. Lightweight, Sturdy, Leak-Proof, Collapsible


8. What About Your Bathroom Breaks?

When you travel with a cat in a car, your needs often get overlooked. But they really shouldn’t. Just like you you need to think about your cats bathroom breaks, you also have to think about your own. Unlike cats, we as humans can’t (and shouldn’t) be holding in our pee.

Depending on if you’re driving with anyone else when you travel with a cat in car, you may have to leave your cat alone in the car. There are a few factors to keep in mind. What’s the temperature – is it too hot or cold? And will they freak out if they’re left alone int he car?

When we first started out driving with a cat, we didn’t leave him alone for a second. We were two people driving so while my partner would fill up with gas, I would use the bathroom. Then we would swap, I would stay at the car – seeing if the cat needed anything (water, food …etc.) while my partner used the bathroom. This way, it also never felt like we were ever waiting for the other person.

The ultimate digital travel planner bundle for you and your cat!

My digital travel planner template has everything you need to plan your vacation and it’s paired with my cat travel planner.

By the end of the trip, the cat was more used to the car so we would leave him for brief moments if we both needed to use the bathroom at the same time. We would make sure to crack a window if it was hot. But we weren’t driving in extreme temperatures.

If you’re alone driving with a cat, try to train them ahead of time to be okay in the car alone. Or another option is to use a duffel or cat backpack to bring them inside with you. We love the Pecute cat backpack for this.


9. Staying Hydrated On The Road… Think About Water For Your Cat

If you’re packing water for yourself, make sure you have extra for your cat and a bowl to give it to them (get a collapsible bowl on Amazon for this). Our cat didn’t want to drink water during the drive at all. Whenever I offered it to him he was too interested in what was happening outside.

It’s okay if they don’t drink during the day, but make sure they drink enough at night. Dehydration in cats is a real thing.

To make sure my cat stayed hydrated on our road trip I bought chicken in water from Purebites. You can also buy wet food to give them when you arrive at your destination to make sure they’re getting enough water.


10. Pack A Quick Access Bag With Your Cats Necessities

You’ve packed everything for your cat and maybe even have a separate overnight bag for them. But you’ll also want to pack a quick access bag. This bag will keep everything you may need for your cat while you’re driving. You can either keep it in the front with you or have it be accessible in the back seat.

It should carry all your cats necessities and what you’ll either need in the car or when you stop. I packed a small bag of treats (two kinds for a nice variety!), food, his harness and leash, collapsible bowl, Feliway spray, and a toy. You should also keep any medication that your cat has here as well as his proof of vaccination.


11. How To Travel With A Cat: Don’t Just Ignore Them For 8+ Hours!

This may sound obvious but depending on your cat, they may just sleep in the car the whole time, so they can be easy to forget about.

I noticed that towards the end of the day, our cat did get lonely. He would start to meow and walk around in the carrier.

Every stop even if I didn’t take him out, I would go around to give him some pets and offer him food and water. But he was often too distracted by what was happening outside to even care about me.

So, instead, while on the road I would open up the carrier when he was calm and just stick my hand in to pet him every once in a while. He really appreciated this to know that we were still there and give him a bit of human touch. Normally he doesn’t go this many hours without sitting on our lap. Then he would calm down and go back to sleep.

This is also where sometimes I would take him out of the carrier to sit on my lap if he was really agitated. This is really about listening to your cat and their needs.

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Keep track of your travels every day with my digital and printable travel journal. Use it on the go on your phone or tablet, or print it out!

12. When Driving With A Cat Don’t Go Too Long Without Stopping

Even if your cat doesn’t get out of the car when you stop, or you noticed they still don’t drink water, it’s still important to take a break.

You don’t want to go too long in the car without stopping and giving them the option to get out.
I would plan to stop max every 3 hours but also listen to your cats needs. If they’re getting restless stop earlier for them. Give them water, food, and maybe even offer them the litter box.

My cat never wanted to go out in the end, he felt safest in the carrier in the car. So I did stop taking him out and offering him water by the end of the trip – I knew he didn’t want it. But I would still visit him in the backseat and give him some much deserved pets!

13. Cat Road Trip Tips: The Best Places To Stop When Driving With A Cat

Depending on where you’re driving with a cat, there may be road side rest stops. On route from Montreal to Florida these were quick on and offs from the highway. They had bathrooms and typically a large grassy area with picnic tables.

I found I could take my cat out to the grass on the leash and harness here. It’s a good spot to set up a bathroom break for your cat and offer water and food outside the car.

The only downside is that they may not have a gas station to fill up at. So you’ll still have to make another stop for that.

You might also be interested in reading…

Top 50 Long Distance Road Trip Tips For A Safe & Easy Drive

Useful Resources You Might Need For Travel With A Cat

Book a Pet-Friendly Hotel:  Hilton Pet Friendly Hotels
Car Rentals: Rental Cars at Low, Affordable Rates | Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Travel Safe Carrier: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca
Travel Cat Backpack: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca
Cat Travel Digital Planner: Etsy.com

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How To Travel With A Cat In A Car For Long Distance Road Trips
How To Travel With A Cat In A Car For Long Distance Road Trips

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