When we adopted our first cat, Fish, we knew that we wanted to include him in our travels. We knew it would be more fun than finding a pet sitter, and then worrying about him while we’re away. So, right from the beginning, we took him with us.
Fish went on his first road trip down the west coast from Victoria, British Columbia to San Francisco, when he was only 3 months old. Since then we have continued to take him and his kitty brother, Chips, with us everywhere we go! We’ve learned A LOT about traveling with cats, and today we’re sharing our best tips with you.
Our most important piece of advice is to plan ahead. This doesn’t mean that you need to arrange every aspect of your trip – we often don’t – it just means that you need to think about where you’re staying and what kinds of things you’ll do. For us, there are four main options for where we’ll stay: tent, car camping, trailer, or hotel. Each of these options comes with its own obstacles when traveling with your feline friends.
If you’re thinking about only sleeping in a tent or your car, consider the fact that you won’t be able to do any activities that don’t include your cat. When we travel in our car we often book one or two nights in a hotel along the way. This allows us to do some activities like shopping, water sports, eating out, etc., that aren’t cat friendly.
Staying in a hotel with a cat can bring its own challenges. In some places it can be difficult to find cat friendly accommodations, and when you find them they often charge additional pet fees. Hotels may also not allow your cat to be left alone in the room, so be sure to verify the pet policy before making your reservation.
Another option is to get a small travel trailer to tow along on your adventures. Although it’s not always the most convenient when maneuvering around cities and locating parking, the cats are super comfortable in ours, and once we’re set up it feels like home.
Once you’ve decided where to stay, the next thing to consider is how to make your cat comfortable in the car. The safest way for your cat to travel is using a crash-tested seat belt harness, or in a secured carrier. And plan to make plenty of stops so he or she can access the litter box and get a drink.
Fish and Chips have been accompanying us on long car rides since they were kittens, so they’re both very relaxed in the car. However, Chips does have a tendency to get motion sickness on winding roads. We find that the best way to prevent this is by raising his bed to the height of the windows and encouraging him to look outside as the car is moving. If that doesn’t work, we pull over and give him a little break. When we’re planning to sleep in the car, we take the extra precaution of covering our stuff with a blanket that’s easy to wipe off – just in case Chips gets car sick or they get something yucky on their paws.
Bringing your cats along on a road trip also means you’ll need to pack some additional items. We have a second litter box that we always keep in our car, as well as a second litter scoop and some biodegradable bags. You don’t necessarily have to keep a little box in your car, but if you travel with your cats frequently it may be more convenient.
Pet wipes are also key. You can use baby wipes, but I personally don’t like the smell so we purchase wipes made specifically for pets. They are super gentle and have a lovely coconut smell. They’re great for cleaning up all kinds of messes from dirty paws, and if Chips gets car sick.
Having a “cat bag” similar to a baby bag can make packing much faster. We have one that contains collapsible food and water bowls, extra leashes, cat jackets, wipes, treats, and food. It’s also a good idea to bring along nail clippers if you’re going for more than a few days. We try to keep our cat’s nails trimmed when we’re traveling so we don’t end up with sharp claws digging into our shoulders on hikes.
Finally, it’s a good idea to take your cat’s vaccination records anytime you travel together. If you’d need to see a veterinarian, or use a daycare or boarding facility, showing that your cat is up to date on his shots would be necessary.
It’s really imperative to understand your cat and what they’re comfortable doing. Fish and Chips have been traveling for almost two years and they see the car like it’s just an extension of our home. If your cat has only ever ridden in the car to go somewhere negative – like the vet – you’ll need to do some training and may need to work up to a longer trip. Start with getting him or her used to wearing a harness and walking on a leash, and practice sleeping in the car or tent before you go to avoid sleepless nights.
One last thing I need to stress is never leave your cat in the car on a hot day. This is why planning ahead is so important. If you book an activity that doesn’t allow you to bring him along, you’ll need to find a pet sitter or kitty daycare where they can stay comfortably.
We even plan our grocery stops around the cats, running those errands in the evening when it’s cooler, or having one of us stay in the car with the cats. If you’re not prepared to make a few sacrifices along the way, it’s probably a better idea to leave them at home. However, we strongly believe that bringing them along makes the trip much more enjoyable and increases our bond. Hopefully this article helps you enjoy adventures on the road with your feline friend, too!