Taking Kitty For a Sunday Drive

Getting most cats accustomed to car travel will take some time and patience. Here's how to do it.

How many of us simply dread the thought of taking a car trip with our cats? First, we must be clever enough to catch the wily feline. Then, after she is safely in her carrier, we must brace ourselves for


the wailing and thrashing that will begin either from the moment of capture or, at the very latest, once the car begins to roll.

And where are we heading? To the veterinary hospital, of course. At the end of the day we breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that we wont have to go through this until the next visit.

So why do our cats behave this way? Well, imagine if you were a child and were rather intimidated by your aunt Jean. Though you rarely traveled by bus, once each year, you and your family boarded a bus to aunt Jeans. Maybe you too kicked and screamed, struggling to avoid getting onto the bus. You more than likely cried or complained during the journey as well. As for bus trips? The mere suggestion might send you running.

And thus our cat, certain that she is heading for the clinic, enters kicking and screaming.

Must it be this way? Why dont we bring our cats when we run errands or take the kids to school? And why do we generally call a cat sitter rather than plan our trip with kitty in mind?

Actually, traveling need not be unpleasant at all. Granted, there are some cats whose personalities simply do not suit routine travel. Some cats are just very timid by nature. They would rather retreat under the bed than face any new people or sounds.

But many cats are bold and social. They follow family members through the house, supervising and participating in various activities. They enjoy meeting new people, and are always ready to investigate any new items brought into the home. These cats can learn to love car travel.

Make Confinement Pleasant

What do you need to do to travel safely and happily with your cat? To begin with, teach your cat to accept confinement. For short periods of time, put your cat into his carrier with a soft fleece, a special toy and a favorite food. She should be eager to enter, and understand that she might have to remain behind bars for a bit. You might put the carrier on the chair beside you as you eat or read. Be sure that your cat is relaxed before you open the door to release her.

The second part of training is bringing her into the car for some short trips. Never leave her alone in the car. If she likes people, bring her to visit a friend. Otherwise, just treat car time as quality time for you and your cat. If you dont have time for a trip, have a cup of tea while you and your cat enjoy the peace and quiet of the car.   

Finally, you will need to work with leash training. While restrained by her leash, your cat can leave her carrier and explore her new world. She will learn to accept having you follow along. It may be helpful for you to teach her to come when called and reward her with a treat, in case she crawls into an area which you would just as soon not enter.

What about extended trips? Of course, you will still need some sort of confinement while she is in the car. It is simply not safe to have a cat free in the car. Traveling in a small carrier is actually safest for the cat. Pack her travel fleece. If you have the space available, bring along a larger crate that can be used for exercise and potty time. And do plan to take potty breaks. Let your cat stretch, and give her a chance to use her litter box.

When you arrive at your destination lets say a motel room do not simply let your cat loose. First, check for obvious traps, ie. areas where your cat could become wedged and not be extracted without the use of power tools. Next, fasten the leash and explore with your cat. Learn whether she is particularly concerned about any aspect of the environment. Play with her, brush her, feed her. Her fleece and carrier should remain available at all times.

Should you need to leave the room, she should be confined in her carrier. It is too easy for a cat to escape in a strange location. Before long, you and your cat will be pros. The next step? Flying with felines. v