How to Safely Transport a Cat in Your Vehicle

In cat behavior, cat cpr, cat first aid, Cats, Kitties, pet care professional, Pet First Aid, pet sitter by Cara ArmourLeave a Comment

Written By our master pet first aid & CPR instructor, Arden Moore

Transporting Your Cat

Some cats react with hisses and resistance when facing the Three Horrible C’s: The carrier, the car and the clinic. With their flexible spines and stubborn determination, some felines will do everything in their power to disappear at the sight of a pet carrier because they associate the carrier with unpleasant experiences from veterinary exams. Others will put up such a wiggle fight in their attempt to avoid being placed inside the carrier.

The reality is that cats will need to be in carriers and taken to veterinary clinics due to injuries, illnesses or annual wellness visits. They may also be inside carriers for other reasons, including joining the family on a vacation, relocating to a new home or being taken to a reputable pet boarding facility while you are traveling.

Freedom Could Be Your Cat’s Foe

cat loose in car

When it comes to feline freedom, it is important to distinguish the two key types. It is important for a cat to have freedom to prowl around the inside of his home to explore, to find comfy napping places and high sturdy perches out of reach from the family’s dog. However, cats should not have free reign inside a moving vehicle. Face it, there are too many distractions impacting drivers on the road these days, from texting or talking on the cell phone to eating to yikes – even attempting to put on makeup in a moving vehicle. Allowing a cat to have free reign inside your vehicle can result in a catastrophe. You risk getting into an accident resulting in injury to you,
the cat and other motorists. And your insurance rates will escalate.

That’s why a cat should never be on your lap or even allowed to roost in the passenger seat next to you. Here are three big reasons why:

  1. A curious cat can easily slither down under your feet and even get stuck under the gas or brake pedals.
  2. A frightened cat can fly across the windshield and block your view.
  3. A sweet cat may tempt you to take your eyes off the road to pet. Remember, taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can put you in peril while driving. A cat wearing a harness can wiggle out of it or worse, get tangled in it and choke while you are driving. Sadly, unrestrained cats in vehicles can become projectiles and may injure you or crash through the windshield. Even small pets like cats can generate more than 1,000 pounds of force upon impact in a collision when the car is at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour.

Feline-Friendly Vehicle

To keep your sanity and to keep cats safe during transport, heed these tips:

  1. Make the vehicle more feline-friendly. Consider spritzing the interior with popular feline pheromone sprays available online and in pet supply stores. These scents mimic feline odors and are designed to calm down cats. They seem to work on some cats, so give them a try. A lot of veterinary clinics are now getting into the habit of spraying these pheromone products in their exam rooms for their feline clients.
  2. Pack with a purpose. Consider using pet carriers or zippered totes that allow you to store pet essentials that include a spare harness, spare collar with ID tag, copy of the cat’s medical records, collapsible water and food bowls, treats, a thick bath towel and cat restraint muzzle (in case the cat is injured and you need to safely restrain him) as well as cleaning products in case the cat gets sick or has an accident. Also, include disposable litter boxes. Local supermarkets carry inexpensive lightweight, 100-percent recyclable plastic boxes with peel-off lids that contain fresh litter. Or, look into the foldable canvas litter boxes online that can be easily cleaned with mild dishwashing soap.
  3. Park the cat while you drive. Place the cat inside a durable pet carrier that has openings in front and on top. It also must be designed so that you can easily tether its handle to the back seat’s seat belt. Listen for that snap to confirm the seat belt is secure and test it by giving it a tug.
  4. Pick the safest spot in the car for the cat. If you are driving solo, you can move the passenger seat up to create more space on the floor in the back seat. Positioning the pet carrier on the floor behind the passenger seat is actually the safest spot, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners – veterinarians who specialist in feline medicine and care. The second safest spot is placing the carrier in the backseat with it held in place with the seat belt. Make sure the front of the carrier is facing the front of the car so the cat can see you and get adequate ventilation.
  5. Pay attention to the weather. Extreme hot or cold can impact the level of risk for the cat in transport. Never leave a cat under your care alone in your vehicle during warm weather. Not even for just a few minutes. Even if you crack the windows a bit, the temperature inside your car soars quickly and a cat can develop heatstroke and die. While traveling, make sure the air conditioning is on and can reach the cat in the carrier. Consider attaching a small battery-operated fan to the crate for added ventilation. Bring extra water and look for the key sign of dehydration.

dog and cat travel

For more information about cat safety and our master instructor Arden Moore, click here.

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