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Question DetailsAsked on 5/31/2011

Anyone have experience with keeping cats happy on the road?

We are moving 500 miles and will have 2 cats in the car. The cats have never been farther than the vet's office.

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15 Answers


Major cat person here. We drove from SC to Ohio with four cats in the car and although I thought it might be a disaster it wasn't.

Here's how we did it. First, investigate cat tranquilizers and talk to your vet about them. We decided against them because there is no way of telling how a tranquilizer will affect a cat. Some cats get frantic, and that's the last thing you want. I also don't think it's necessary.

Do not withhold water before the trip. We had water available during the trip, but no one wanted it. Feed the cats the night before and have everything else packed and ready to go bright and early. We bought several wire "kennels" which worked much better for transporting because we could regulate air flow and see how the cats were doing. We put one cat in each kennel, because even though they get along normally, who knows in a time of stress? The last thing we wanted was a cat fight while we were hurtling down the highway. The reason we left early in the morning is the cats are normally quiet at that time, so we took advantage of their natural rhythm. Your cats may be on a different schedule.

We drove straight through (7 hours). We took turns driving and making quick pit stops. This might not be an option for you, and if it isn't and there is a direct flight from your departure point to your destination, I urge you to check out flying the cats and being there at the other end to get them. I don't think much of putting cats into planes, but it's a question of which would be less traumatic. Any time you take them out of their cages and/or the trip lasts overnight you are taking risks I would find unacceptable. Cats do not feel comfortable in motel rooms, even if the rooms will take them - and there are just too many opportunities for escape and tragedy.

Once you get to your destination have a room ready to put the cats in with water and places to hide. Leave them there for several hours, undisturbed. Then go in to see how they are doing. It took ours varying times to regard the new place as home, but they were pretty much settled in after a week.

I think you'll find that if you make the trip a smooth, seamless event for the cats they will go into a kind of trance for the journey. One of our cats yowled for about a half hour once the trip started, and we though "oh, this is going to be pleasant!" but then he stopped and all was quiet. When I checked on them in the car they were just sitting there, looking dazed. Maybe they were hypnotized by the road noise or something.

Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to send a private message if you want.

Answered 9 years ago by Commonsense


Hi & Welcome!

I admit to not being a cat person but many things are common sense. I borrowed the following from a web site called (as in cat fanciers):

Cats generally don't like travelling in cars. For short trips, put them in carriers to prevent accidents such as getting in the driver's way, or escaping when the door is opened. Some cats are more calm if kept in a pillowcase or a soft gym-bag type of carrier. For long trips (all day or more), use cat carriers, minimize food intake beforehand, and give water every time you stop. Consider getting harnesses and leashes for when you stop. Most motels allow cats. Sometimes you can use temporary fencing to block off the back of your car to give them a roomier "cage"; you can usually then put litterboxes down instead of keeping them for pit stops. Tranquilizers can be obtained from the vet, but not all cats react well to them, and they may make a trip worse than it would have been otherwise (test the cat's reaction to them beforehand). Many cats will sack out after a few hours on the road.

For long-distance trips, make sure the motels take cats beforehand. Some do not, and are very nasty about it if you try to beg a room. AAA lists motels that accept pets.

You might want to carry along water from your home, especially if you are traveling between states. Ice cubes in the water dish allow your cats to have water without it spilling while you're driving (and helps if its hot, too).

If you're traveling in the summer, make sure the cats get lots of air or air conditioning in the car. carry an umbrella or other shade-making device in case you have a breakdown. Keep alert to where the sun is shining in your car (i.e., is it beating down on the back seat where the cats are?)

You mentioned the cats visiting the vet. I vote you take any suggestions to the vet for agreement before you leave and I would put the tranquilizers high on the list. But, try them before you start out to avoid surprises in the confines of your car.

Might help others who want to offer suggestions if you tell us a bit more about the car (big or little) and how many humans going at the same time. If it's a crowd, you might be well off to board the cats and make a special trip just for their transport.

Good luck and stop back to let us know how your move goes.

Answered 9 years ago by Old Grouch


In addition to everyone else's advice, I would also make sure you have a roll of paper towels and some sealable plastic bags. For instance, you may want to scoop litter boxes immediately upon use to keep the car atmosphere breathable. [:D] Personally, we always travel with them as we have a cat that gets *extremely* car sick (think discharge from *both* ends) which requires a quick clean up.

If you have a cat that gets car sick, cats can be given dramamine. I can't remember the exact dosage (I seem to recall a 1/2 tablet for my 7 lb. cat) but you can probably do a search for the info or simply ask your vet. I've also used stress ease pills (got mine from Petsmart) to help them acclimate. Those have helped various members of our group to various degrees. Most importantly, none were effected adversely.

Susan in NC

Answered 9 years ago by shsimko



If you want to consider using dramamine, Google it first and consult your vet. Reports are mixed on its use for cats.

In regard to litter box issues, ours did not go at all for the trip. We did have some dampened paper towels in ziplocks just in case, as the previous poster recommended - but we didn't need them.

Answered 9 years ago by Commonsense


PLEASE consult your vet!. Not all OTC human meds. like dramamine. are ok for cats or other pets.... many are dangerous

Answered 9 years ago by tessa89


We recently made the same kind of move. What we did may not have been the most "responsible" thing - but, it worked in our case.

We have 3 cats and the "high strung" one rode in a cat carrier with my husband in the cab of the moving truck. After about an hour of her meowing and crying incessantly he put a towel over the carrier (like when you cover a bird cage) and for some reason this seemed to calm her.

I followed behind in the car with the other two cats and a dog. I put the back seat down to create a flat surface and put the dogs bed in the back along with a couple of empty boxes with towels in them. You know how cats like empty boxes? After a little meowing and some nervous panting from the dog everyone settled down, the dog on his bed and the cats tipped the boxes over on their sides and made little "nests" inside and stayed there for the remainder of the drive. We were real lucky. No one threw up, crapped or interfered with my driving.

Answered 9 years ago by Rebecca


So I know this is an older thread but I couldn't help but offer another idea: Feliway. It is a cat pheremone that induces feelings of calm and contentment. I have used this around my house to help my cat deal with stressful situations and it seems to work well.

Good luck!

Answered 9 years ago by TechnoSapien


Feliway works well for some cats but not others. It also works well one time for a specific cat but makes the same cat agitated the next time. So I'd recommend trying it in the home before using it on a car trip for the first time. Also, some humans (I'm one) smell Feliway and find it unpleasant.

Answered 9 years ago by Commonsense


Last year a friend drove across country (FL-CA) with multiple cats and 2 dogs. Cats were housed in individual crates. None were allowed out of the vehicle to potty until leashed.(cats wearing harness) . Granted I question her sanity [6]

When I travel with my dogs, they get no food the morning of our departure; they are offered a potty break when the gas guage reads 1/4 full or I need a break, at which time they are offered only water until we stop for the night when they are immediately provided time to sniff around, pottied and given water. IMHO traveling 500 miles shouldn't take more than a few hours, if you plan accordingly the cats should not need a potty break. Ask your vet for advice and be sure to plan for any eventuality, including how best to introducie your cats to their new home

Answered 9 years ago by tessa89


[quote user="tessa89"]

When I travel with my dogs, they get no food the morning of our departure; they are offered a potty break when the gas guage reads 1/4 full or I need a break, at which time they are offered only water until we stop for the night when they are immediately provided time to sniff around, pottied and given water.


tessa89 - - great plan! That same plan will work on wives too![Y]

Heck, since I started that, mine talks far less while we are on the road as well.

OK Michael....take your meds and get back in your room.

Answered 9 years ago by Old Grouch


for shame, Mike [:P] a move is one thing, a vacation should be liesurely, not rushing from point A to B [6]

Answered 9 years ago by tessa89


Mike, if you TAKE your meds, you can stay out of your room!!!! You are one funny guy...seriously...but I bet you don't let your wife read your e-mails!!! :>)

Answered 9 years ago by michelemabelle


Don't bet anything you would miss[D].

Answered 9 years ago by Old Grouch


We travelled for over two years, between Louisville and Indianapolis, a 2.5 hour drive, with two (unhappy mostly) felines. We found the following to be the best way to prepare them.

* Limit their food intake before leaving (ie like 6-7 hour BEFORE you leave do not let them have food to avoid making them sick)

* Buy a dog crate (cage); put their litter box inside and restrict their movement in the car.

* Stop occasionally -- like once every 2 hours. Let them take a break INSIDE the vehicle. Let them walk around. Give them water.

When we moved from NY to Indiana in 2003, we drove the cats also. After Day One (which was hell), Day two was easy. They were much calmer and knew what to expect. Shorter trips are sometimes harder. Cats just aren't good travelers -- pillow cases I've found are the worst thing you can do. Children's benedryl makes my cat foam at the mouth and ill. (Bubblegum flavor isn't big with cats anyway), limit the food and give them a break once in a while.

Answered 9 years ago by ejfandtsf


after several 500+ car trips with cats... hour number one is the toughest on everyone involved

after that, it was quiet and pleasant litterbox in rear floorboard was never used, as far as i recall

however, your mileage may vary

Answered 9 years ago by michael

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