Cats typically hate travel, and they hate cat carriers. Nobody enjoys a car ride with a yowling cat in the back seat. It’s even less fun if Fluffy gets so upset that she throws up or wets herself.
Simply avoiding the problem isn’t a realistic solution. At the very least, you will have to take your cat to the vet at least once a year.
Dr. Ruth MacPete, a veterinarian who writes for the Health Pet Network website, warns that is not safe to let the cat run loose in a moving car.
Most cats won’t sit quietly in the car; depending on whether they are scared or curious, they will seek refuge or decide to explore.
Either way, they could end up under the brake pedal or some other place where they don’t belong. In the process, they will distract their owner and possibly cause an accident.
Should I cover the cat carrier when traveling?
Yes. According to the staff writer for The Cat Hospital Website, covering the cat carrier with a blanket, towel, or the like will make them feel safer.
The vet or other destination will be full of unfamiliar scents, sights, and smells – and your cat will find it unnerving. Covering the carrier with something will make Fluffy feel like she is safely hidden from any potential threats.
Are there other ways to keep a cat calm when traveling?
It is possible to get a cat acclimated to traveling. First off, you need to get Fluffy used to the carrier itself. Before taking her on a car ride, leave the carrier out for a few days with the door open so she can investigate it.
Put some of her favorite treats or toys inside it so she will associate the carrier with good things. Also, put a comfortable blanket inside it to make it more welcoming.
After Fluffy has gotten used to the carrier, you need to get her used to car rides. Simply take her on short trips and then give her a treat so she will start to consider car rides pleasant experiences.
Andee Bingham, a writer for Catster, describes some of her methods for keeping a cat calm during travel. In addition to getting the cat accustomed to its carrier, she also recommends that you make yourself very available to Fluffy.
Schedule some extra play and/or cuddling time before and after the trip. Position the carrier so the cat can see you during the car ride.
If somebody else is driving, sit in the back seat with her. Talk to your cat during your journey. Bingham writes that she even meows at her cat.
Touching a cat can also help soothe her. While a carrier doesn’t always make this easy, you can still stick your fingers through the grate at the front and let her rub her head against them.
You can also use synthetic pheromones like Feliway to reduce the cat’s stress. Bingham also uses and recommends a Rescue Remedy.
What is Rescue Remedy?
Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic medication used to calm aggressive, fearful, or anxious cats. According to Susan Paretts, a writer for The Nest’s pet section, Rescue Remedy was first developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s.
Rescue Remedy is a tincture or liquid that consists of water in which plant parts like flower petals have been boiled or steeped in sunlight.
Five different flowers are used to make Rescue Remedy: Star of Bethlehem, rock rose, impatiens, clematis, and cherry plum.
In the old days, Rescue Remedy was also made with alcohol; that is no longer the case. Vegetable glycerin has replaced the alcohol in modern Rescue Remedy, making it safe for pets.
You can get Rescue Remedy as an over-the-counter treatment from health food stores or pet supply stores. Add four drops to Fluffy’s wet food or water.
It is not, however, a good idea to squirt the medication directly in her mouth, for that can make her even more upset.
You can use Rescue Remedy to relax your cat before a stressful event like a vet visit, a car trip, or a move to a new house.
You can also use it to treat chronic problems. In the latter case, you should discuss the problem with your veterinarian, since abnormal behavior can sometimes indicate illness or injury in a cat, especially if it suddenly appears.
Rescue Remedy can be safely given to kittens or senior cats.
What’s a good cat carrier like?
Kathryn Walsh, a writer for the travel section of the USA Today website, advises readers to make certain that the cat carrier is comfortable.
She adds that dog carriers are not always suitable for cats. Similarly, carriers that work for short trips aren’t always comfortable for longer journeys.
According to Walsh, a good cat carrier will make the cat feel more secure, and cats feel safe when they believe they are hidden. The carrier should thus have a dark interior.
Since cats like to be able to see their surroundings, the carrier should also have a view. Carriers for long trips should have built-in litterboxes, so Fluffy can answer any calls to nature without any mess or hassle.
Taking a cat out of the car for a potty break isn’t nearly as straightforward or easy as taking a dog out for a potty break.
How do you pick a good carrier?
These days, there is a vast selection of cat carriers. When picking a cat carrier, you have to consider the cat’s needs and yours. For instance, do you travel a lot by air? You will then want a cat carrier that is airline-approved.
Airlines have rules regarding transporting animals, and cat carriers have to meet certain standards. For example, you have to be able to fit it easily under the seat.
If you’re going on a long trip of any sort, you should consider a cat carrier with a built-in litterbox.
Cat carriers come in different sizes, and some can accommodate cats that weigh over 20 pounds. That’s good news if you plan to take Miles the Maine Coon on your next trip. You want to buy a carrier large enough to let Miles comfortably move around and lie down.
Many cat carriers are now “top-loaded,” which means they can open from the top as well as the front. Many cats find being placed into the carrier from above far less objectionable than being shoved in the front door, and the top opening thus makes things easier for their owner.
The top opening is particularly useful for people who own large and/or stubborn cats. These carriers still come with a front door that gives the cat a good view of the outdoors.
Cat carriers can have either hard or soft sides. The hard-sided carriers are the older type, and they are typically made from plastic.
They have the advantage of being extremely durable. One amusing variation is the “astronaut backpack” that has a porthole covered with a plastic bubble.
The following video reviews this type of carrier:
Soft-sided carriers are made from polyester or nylon designed to withstand feline abuse. They typically have sturdy mesh “windows” that provide both ventilation and a view.
Carriers of both types can have washable fleece pads that provide your cat with a comfortable place to rest on. The pads can also absorb the results of accidents. A few soft-sided carriers are expandable and thus let Fluffy stretch out.
Which cat breeds are the best travelers?
Just as pedigreed cats have characteristic looks, they can also have predictable personality traits. Thus, some cat breeds make better travelers than do others.
The American Bobtail may top the list of cats that handle travel well. According to the breed description on the CatTime website, the American Bobtail is a favorite of both RV enthusiasts and long-haul truckers. While they can look like small bobcats, American Bobtails are adaptable and affectionate.
According to JaneA. Kelley, a writer for the Catster website, other breeds that travel well include the Scottish Fold, the Pixie-Bob, the Japanese Bobtail, the Chartreux, and the Chantilly/Tiffany.
What is the Thundershirt?
The Thundershirt is a body wrap that can relieve anxiety in many dogs and cats. Its inventor had a dog that greatly feared fireworks and thunderstorms, and he wanted a way to calm him down. The Thundershirt was thus originally developed for dogs, but there are now Thundershirts for cats.
In 2014, researchers, including the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin, conducted a study testing the effectiveness of Thundershirt as a treatment for anxiety in dogs. The study was eventually published in “Journal of Veterinary Behavior.”
The researchers worked with dogs diagnosed with anxiety disorders and divided them into three groups: dogs wearing Thundershirts according to the manufacturers’ instructions, dogs that were wearing the Thundershirts loosely, and dogs that weren’t wearing Thundershirts. The scientists measured the dogs’ heart rates and observed their behavior.
The researchers found that the dogs wearing Thundershirts according to the manufacturers’ instructions showed less elevation in their heart rates than the other two groups.
Curiously, the three groups showed little difference in their behavior. The researchers, however, did notice that the dogs with the snug Thundershirts were less likely to hover near the door waiting for their owner.
The researchers described the Thundershirt as a “pressure wrap,” and it takes advantage of the fact that many mammals, including humans, find moderate to deep pressure on soft tissues calming and relaxing. The Thundershirt has the same effect on pets that swaddling does on a baby.
In the following video, the veterinarian Dr. Jyl demonstrates how to put a Thundershirt on a cat:
The Thundershirt has Velcro straps that wrap around the cat’s torso and neck.
Like many cats, the cat in the video falls on its side after having the Thundershirt put on. According to the manufacturers, who call the behavior “Freeze and Flop,” the reaction is quite normal. It can take a cat a few minutes to realize that they can still freely move.
Should you sedate a cat?
Sedating a cat should generally be a last resort; you should try non-medical methods of calming a cat like the Thundershirt first. Dr. Pippa Elliott, a veterinarian writing for WikiHow.com, discusses how to sedate a cat, plus things to consider before doing so.
For example, she warns that you should never sedate a cat before taking a plane, for the combination of the sedative with elevation, stress, and air pressure can affect the cat’s respiratory system and possibly kill her.
Dr. Elliott also urges people to go to a veterinarian first. The vet can make sure that your cat is healthy enough to be sedated without ill effects, and they can recommend the type of sedative.
If you plan on using an over-the-counter sedative, you should run it by your veterinarian first. They might know of hazards that you don’t.
Similarly, the vet can advise you on which prescription medications could work for your cat, and which ones you should avoid.
A group of sedatives called benzodiazepines, for example, are quite effective and work quickly. They can also be dangerous to cats with kidney or liver problems.
The veterinarian can also tell you about the properties of a given sedative, like how long it takes to work and how long its effects last. For instance, some sedatives start to work almost immediately, while others take about an hour to start working.
After picking your sedative, you should perform a trial run to make certain the sedative will work as expected. After administering the sedative, you should watch the cat for about 12 hours.
The sedative should make the cat calm and relaxed. If it makes her groggy, disoriented, agitated, or leaves her unconscious, you should not use that sedative. You will need to go back to the vet and get something else.