There are guides all over the internet which outline how to take a dog on a car journey. Every canine owner can verse themselves in crate tactics and treat distractions at the click of a button. But, when it comes to cats, there’s a lot less information available. So much so that, if you’re facing a long journey with your feline, you may be at a complete loss about how to reduce their stress.
In some ways, this lack makes sense. Few of us regularly take cats on long-distance road trips. While dogs become regular passengers, most moggies prefer to keep their feet on steady ground. Sometimes, though, a car ride may be necessary. Someone moving long-distance, for instance, would have no choice but to take their cat. Or, you may want to take your feline on holiday rather than leaving it in boarding.
Whatever the reason, going into this blind could stress both you and your cat. After all, cars aren’t natural habitats for felines. In fact, the very nature of car rides goes against your cat’s instincts. Cats prefer steady ground and free movement above all. And, you’re taking away both of these safety-markers when you put them in car.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, then, that trips like these could really stress your cat out. Given that isn’t good for their health or happiness, you should look out for anything you can to reduce distress for the duration. Lucky for you, we’ve got a few pointers which should help you in this mission. Read on for a custom-made guide for cats in cars.
It should go without saying that you can’t leave your cat to roam free when you’re driving. The chances are that would distress them more. It would also pose serious safety risks for your time on the road. You would find it hard to drive straight with an agitated cat darting in front of you. Instead, then, our first pointer is about cat carriers. You can’t embark on journeys like these without one. Admittedly, most cats don’t embrace the idea of getting into a carrier. But, once inside, you’ll find this confinement helps to soothe your cat. The moment you step outside, there’s a good chance they’ll be glad of this safe space. This confinement will also go a long way towards keeping them safe. Left to roam, they could well do themselves some damage if they panic while you’re driving. But, while they’re tucked into their carrier, they won’t be able to hurt themselves even if they try.
Of course, there are a whole load of different cat carriers on the market, and you should take your time choosing one for journeys like these. Cardboard options, for instance, aren’t practical for trips like these. Instead, you should opt for either a soft-sided or hard-case carrier. A soft-sided case has the benefit of comfort and could help to keep your cat cozy for the duration of the trip. A hard-case option, however, is best when it comes to cleaning. As such, this is also well worth your attention. What’s more, you can increase comfort levels in a hard carrier with blankets and towels. Ultimately, your decision here comes down to what works for your moggy. You may even find that you have to try a few carriers out before finding the right one. The key is that you keep pushing. It’s an effort well worth your time.
Practice makes perfect
Once you have your carrier, it’s essential you set about getting plenty of practice before the big event. There’s no getting around the fact that going long-haul on your cat’s first car journey is asking for trouble. Even the most docile feline is sure to become agitated this way. Instead, as with anything, you’ll find that practice makes perfect here. Though it may seem like unnecessary stress, it’s crucial you get your cats used to the car. To start, this could be as simple as placing them in a parked car for ten minutes or so. Once they get used to that, consider driving with them for those ten minutes. Increase this until you ‘re sure they can cope with distances of up to half an hour. This slow building makes it less likely that they’ll become agitated on your long-distance drive. The main thing you want to look out for is that they seem unfazed, or go straight to sleep when the car starts moving. While nothing’s a done deal with animals, these are sure signs that they’ll remain calm and happy when you need them to. It’s worth starting this at least a month or two before the main event. After all, the more time you have to dedicate to this cause, the better your cats will be when it comes down to it.
When you’re driving with kids, the words ‘I need the toilet,’ are about the worst thing you could hear. They mean driving off-course to find toilet facilities and wasting half an hour or more on the cause. Lucky for you, your cats can’t moan about needing the toilet. But, you can bet they’ll cause just as many issues when they need to go.
As a cat owner, you don’t need us to tell you that feline hygiene is top-class. Cats love to stay clean, and they never EVER toilet where they sleep. Cats have as little desire to sleep in their pee as you do. Still, their bodies are smaller than yours, and their bladders are smaller too. As a result, they need to go to the toilet a lot more than you. And, the chances are they won’t be willing to hold. As such, failure to put precautions in place here could do untold damage.
Up to a point, your cat will have no choice but to go to the toilet in their carrier. This will distress them no end. It’ll probably disturb everyone else in the car, too. Either way; it’s an issue you don’t want on your hands. Even if your cat doesn’t give in to the temptation, they could do damage and end with things like urine infections. Again, that’s not what you want. So, what can you do here?
By far your best bet is to invest in something like the cat diapers offered by Pet Parents. In one simple purchase, these can relieve your toilet troubles altogether. All you would need to do is stick these on at the start of the journey, and change them at regular intervals along the way. Admittedly, your cat may not warm to these straight away. As such, it’s worth practicing with these, too. But, once they’re used to these additions, you can all rest easy on the day.
If you can’t get your cat to use diapers, you’re going to need to invest in a cat leash, and plan stops. It’s worth doing this anyway, as it allows them and you to stretch your legs. It’s also a fantastic chance for them to go to the toilet. All you need to do is schedule in stops in accordance to your cat’s toilet habits. If you know they use their litter tray every two hours, for instance, that’s how often you need to let them out the car. It’s not a foolproof method by any means. But, it will go some way towards avoiding distress for everyone, including your four-legged friend.
Know when to accept defeat
Despite all the above, there are some instances when cars and cats don’t mix. If your cat doesn’t improve no matter how often you practice, it’s crucial you keep their best interests in mind. Some cats can’t overcome the distress car trips cause. In this instance, you’ll notice that they yowl throughout car journeys or display symptoms of stress. Over extended periods, these symptoms can do real damage to your cat’s body. As such, it’s crucial you reach a stage where you hold your hands up.
At this point, it’s essential to keep your cat’s well being in mind. If you were hoping to take them on holiday, for instance, you might have to make alternative arrangements. Being away from home isn’t pleasant for cats, either, but it’s at least a lower-stress option. You may even find that a friend or family member will be willing to keep an eye on things at home. This is the ideal stress-free option.
Of course, if you’re moving long-distance, you don’t have much choice but to take your cat along. As such, this is a more complicated issue. In this instance, the best thing would be to speak with your vet. If you can, arrange a home visit to ensure minimal distress for your cat. It may be that your vet is willing to prescribe a sedative for the journey in question. While not ideal, there’s a good chance this will be the kindest option for keeping your cat calm and putting your mind at ease.
"A cat improves the garden wall in sunshine, and the hearth in foul weather." - Judith Merkle Riley
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