how to travel with a cat in a van

The Challenges and Rewards of Traveling With a Cat in a Van

Traveling with a cat in a van can be challenging, but if you plan well and take a few steps to get your cat and your van ready for the trip, it can be a rewarding experience for all.

Whether you are planning a short trip, an extended road trip, or even considering converting your van into a makeshift home on wheels, having your cat join you for the ride will make your van feel more like home.

This article will tell you what you should do in order to prepare your van for your cat and how to get your cat ready for the ride.

Preparing your van for the trip 

The extent of the preparations for your van will depend on the length of the trip. For a short trip, a cat should be confined in a cat carrier. If you take your cat on quick rides in your van periodically, she will adjust and experience less stress when traveling.

Even for longer trips, travel crates are the safest way to travel with a cat, as they prevent your cat from roaming around and distracting the driver or from getting hurt.

According to PedMD, you should be sure that your cat is accustomed to the crate before the trip.

For a longer trip, you will want to be sure that your cat has access to food, water, and a litter box. Bringing along a scratching post or pad, some favorite toys, cushions, beads, and blankets will help keep your kitty entertained, happy and comfortable.

If you are going for an extended road trip or considering making your van into a home on wheels, you might want to consider more extensive renovations. First of all, you will want to find a way to attach the litter box to the floor of the van. Velcro can work well for this.

Be sure the litter box is in a quiet corner and that your cat has access to it at all times. Getting a litter box with a top and a small opening will help to prevent messes.

Next, you will want to provide plenty of places for scratching so that your cat doesn’t scratch and destroy the upholstery on the seats. Food and water bowls with covers are handy so they won’t spill.

Be sure to bring along your cat’s regular food, in case you can’t find it on the road. Changing a cat’s diet can cause stomach upset and stress, so you won’t want to introduce new food while traveling.

Finally, making the van into a comfortable space for your cat will make your cat feel more comfortable. According to Tammy Dray in a USA Today article, you should set up hiding places for your cat.

Putting a cat carrier in the corner or under the table of a van will give your cat a secure place to hide, and having the carrier comes in handy when you need to confine the cat. You can also bring along some cardboard boxes and put them in secure spots so they don’t slide around.

It is also important to protect your cat from heat in the summer and from cold in the winter. It is best not to leave your cat alone in your van, but if you need to for a short time, be sure that she won’t get too hot or too cold.

In the summer, be sure to park in the shade and consider getting fans to increase airflow. Keep doors and windows closed at all times unless your cat is secure. Opt for underground parking when available and provide a cooling pad.

You can also get an app that alerts you if it gets too hot in the van. Check on your cat often. In the winter, you should be sure to provide insulation, blankets, and a self-heating bed to keep your cat warm and cozy.

Getting your cat ready for travel 

The first step to take before traveling with a cat in a van is to get your cat a microchip and an ID tag with a phone number if she doesn’t already have them. This is important in case your cat does escape and gets lost.

Cats are notorious for slipping out of vans when you open and close the doors or windows. Make you’re your cat is up-to-date with all vaccines and bring proof of vaccination and paperwork from your veterinarian on the road in case your cat gets sick.

Harness and leash train your cat 

Next, it is essential to harness and leash train your cat before you go on an extended trip. This can take several weeks, so be sure to get an early start, writes Lianna Bowers.

Most cats initially won’t move when they are in a harness the first few times. Rewarding your cat with treats while in the harness is a good way to make it have a positive association.

Although it takes a lot of patience, cats can be trained to go for walks on a harness and a leash. You will want to find a harness that is comfortable and secure, and that gives your cat a full range of movement. You also might want to consider getting your a tracking collar for your cat as a backup plan.

Getting your cat used to the van 

All cats are different and each has a distinct personality, but most cats don’t like change. Before traveling with your cat in a van, give your cat plenty of time to get used to being in the van.

According to Coleman, an avid traveler, let your cat have plenty of time to walk around and explore the van and get used to spending time in it before you try traveling. Most cats will look for a place to hide at first, but slowly they will come around and explore the new surroundings.

Go on test runs 

Before your trip, take your cat on short rides in the van. Start with just a few minutes and work your way up to longer rides. Once your cat is used to short rides, try an overnight camping trip near home to see how your cat handles it.

Be prepared for a night of complaining, as most cats will take a while to get used to being confined in a small space.

Gradually extending the length of trips from days to weekends, to full weeks is a great way to get your cat used to traveling with you in your van.

While traveling with a cat, it is important to be flexible and to limit the amount of driving per day. Avoid traveling in extreme weather and be sure that there is always a veterinarian available within a reasonable distance.

Test runs are also a great way to help cats that get carsick. Repeat short rides help a cat to become desensitized to the motion. You also might want to feed your cat well in advance rather than right before you set out on the road. Motion sickness medications can help keep a cat with these tendencies more comfortable.

How well your cat will do will depend in part on your cat’s personality. Some cats are mellow and will adjust easily, while other cats that tend to be nervous or hyperactive will have a tougher time.

According to PetMD, a hyperactive cat might need to be sedated in order to travel. Your vet can recommend and prescribe safe medications to give to your cat before the trip.

Trying the medication out before the trip will prevent the last minute crisis in case your cat does not react well to the medication.

Challenges and rewards 

Traveling with a cat in a van has its challenges to be sure, but it can be very rewarding for you and for your kitty if you prepare well.

Some challenges you should consider are limitations on where pets are permitted, stinky litter boxes, lack of space, boredom due to long hours on the road, noisiness, and clinginess, dealing with fur and scratching, and making sure your cat gets enough exercise.

There are also limitations on where you can travel. You will want to avoid traveling to very cold or hot places, and you will need to devote time and energy to keep your cat safe.

You will need to make sure she doesn’t overheat, has enough room, keep track of where the nearest vet is, keep the litter box clean, and keep dangerous items and foods out of your kitty’s reach.

Nevertheless, many people find that the rewards of traveling with your cat outweigh the hassles. Many find traveling with a cat is easier than traveling with a dog.

While it usually takes cats longer to adjust to life on the road, cats are more independent and don’t require as much attention as dogs.

They are nocturnal, so they usually are happy to nap through much of the day’s drive. Also, fewer places have restrictions about bringing cats in comparison with dogs.

According to Lexi Grafe of Outward Bound, traveling with a pet can help keep you company while you are on the road.

You will have a shared adventure together and strengthen your bond. Although a cat may take time to adjust to travel, in many cases it will make your cat’s life richer and more interesting.

Many cats would rather accompany you on your trip than stay home alone. Again, it depends on your cat and her personality.

Traveling with more than one cat means giving up even more space in your van, but will provide companionship for your cats, provided that they get along with each other.

Living in a van with a cat 

In an effort to escape from the monotony of the corporate lifestyle, many people are making the decision to convert their vans into homes.

Living out of a van is an attractive option for people who want to save money, see the world, and have more free time. If you are able to work remotely, van-dwelling might be a viable option.

However, it does have its challenges. Being constantly on the move, keeping clean on the road, and living in a small space can be tough at times. One question that comes up for many people considering van life is what to do with their pets.

Many van dwellers bring their cats with them to join in their new home on wheels.

If you are considering living in a van with a cat, you should begin by following the same tips that are described above. You will also want to have an exit plan, such as an alternative home for your cat, in case things don’t work out.

According to Amy’s Guide to Living in a Van With a Cat, most cats will adapt to life in a van and it is well worth the effort.

At first, they will need time to get used to space, noise, and movement. It is similar to moving to a new home, but a home on wheels. Eventually, when the adjustment period is over, most cats will be comfortable in their new home.

Having a pet with you for van-dwelling is not unusual, although dogs are more common than cats. Bringing your pet companion will help make your van feel more like home.

There are many success stories about people who live in vans with their cats, but again, it takes a great deal of patience and time.

Once cats get used to their new space and lifestyle, most will enjoy going for walks, looking out the window, bird watching, and checking out the surroundings.

Final thoughts 

Whether you are planning a short trip, an extended road trip, or considering converting your van into a home on wheels, bringing along your cat can be done.

As long as you take the time to prepare well, by setting up the van for your cat’s safety and comfort, getting your cat ready for the trip, and taking the necessary safety precautions, the adventure that awaits you will be well worth the effort.

Your cat will provide you with someone to cuddle, companionship, and an endless source of entertainment.

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