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Car travel with a cat - advice?
Old 08-31-2007, 08:16 AM   #1
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Car travel with a cat - advice?

Well it looks like I have finally convinced DW to spend part of the winter in Florida. We have a rental lined up in Boynton Beach for Jan. thru mid-February. Now I am starting to worry about the logistics of taking our 15 year old cat, Pyewacket, with us. In the past he has only ridden in the car to go to the Vet's (about 10 minutes) and was never happy about it. This will be two fairly long days of driving from Virginia or one VERY long day. Anybody have any experience with this or any tips to offer? Litter box arrangement in the car? Hotels that accept pets? Food and water for cat in car? Let him roam in car or keep in carrier? Ways to ease adjustment to new surroundings? Any advice will be appreciated.


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Old 08-31-2007, 08:26 AM   #2
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If you have room, a larger wire crate (like for dogs, the folding kind is good) will give him a secure place that can also hold a small litter box easily. This offers good visibility and room to stretch that might prove better than a airline-type mostly plastic carrier. I don't like having them loose in the car--too many horror stories of escapes!
Some mild tranquilizers might be good, ask your vet for suggestions. Mostly go really light on food and water before and during the travel days, as stomachs can be easily upset on long trips. Don't change foods, etc.
Red Roof Inns are usually good for allowing pets. You can ask when you make reservations to be sure.
In the new place, give him a room of his "own" to investigate for a while, then gradually phase in the rest of the house. Be sure to carry a spare collar and a tag that has your local phone number in case of escape.
Good luck--this reminds me of the great mystery writer John D. MacDonald, who used to carry his cats from upstate NY to FL every year, sometimes by train, and the cat stories are hilarious.

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.”
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:28 AM   #3
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I second Sarah's recommendation for tranquilizers...not for the cat, for you.
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:30 AM   #4
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No easy answer for every cat.

I used to travel up and down the east coast with my cat without any trouble. She prefered to be out of her carrier and sit in the back window. She meowed and carried on during in town driving, but was calm and quiet with the steady flow of highway miles. She never tried to go under my feet, which is really the biggest risk of having a cat loose in the car.

Vets sometimes recommend tranquilizers. I tried that the first time (since she seemed so distressed in town) and my poor cat howled the whole day. She must have felt "funny" and didn't like staying in the carrier. So, this was not a good approach for her.

I suggest you take the cat for a few trial rides, including highway miles, since the feel is so different. That way you can guage her reaction.

If the cat is free in the car, have a carrier handy for when you stop for gas, so she doesn't run. Also, make sure you take water (and food) and a small litter box, so that when you stop, especially if you do the marathon drive, the cat can get a drink and go (and eat if it is mealtime).
I would not have anyone adopt my mode of living...but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead. Thoreau, Walden
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Old 08-31-2007, 10:36 AM   #5
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On our six hour trips from CT to ME, we put each of our two cats in their own travel cage in the back seat. We don't worry about the litter box, because cats have an amazing ability to "hold it" and won't go until we get to our destination. We have tried putting a little dish of food in the cage with them, but they never ate it so we stopped. One of them usually complains loudly for the first 15 minutes and whenever we slow for the toll booths. Otherwise she sleeps. The other one sleeps straight through.

One other thing -- if you can, use parkways or other routes where there are not a lot of trucks. Large semis next to the car tend to disturb our cats.
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Old 08-31-2007, 04:26 PM   #6
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Our vet recommended Hyland's Calms Forte homeopathic sleep aid tablets to relax them during the drive from Florida to Ohio. One tablet per day was adequate. One cat (12 years old at the time) stayed in his soft-side carrier on his own to feel secure and the other one (16 years old at the time) sat on the seat outside her carrier. The tablets work well on humans also.
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Old 08-31-2007, 09:53 PM   #7
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I think everyone gave great advice.

I've never had to take my felines on a 2 day trip, but they have gone on long one day trips with me. I fold the backseat down and put my cats in their own carrier (with a towel so that it would be more comfortable and they could hide if they got nervous) on top of the folded seats. This opened up the trunk for the litter box. I kept a jar of water and food and would stop about every 3 or 4 hours in a quiet place for them to walk in the car a bit and use the litter box. They usually ate very little.

I would never travel with my cats roaming free in my car. Did it once, won't do it again...I've got the scars to prove it.

By the way, you may want to take kitty's shot record with you.
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Old 09-01-2007, 04:41 PM   #8
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Most La Quinta hotels allow one pet and they rated highly in Consumer Reports. Definitely take Pyewacket for a few short rides in the area to get used to riding in the car. I don't know about safety but cats love to be out of the carrier, just don't let them get under the driver's feet.

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Old 09-01-2007, 05:40 PM   #9
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I would be concerned about escapement. At some point in a road trip you need to get gas or go the to bathroom. If kitty is loose in the car I fear that she would dash out the door or through a window. Try to find a screen that fits behind the front seats.

Yes, take kitty for car rides other than trips to the vet. It will take time to de-condition fear.

Also, 'chip' kitty. Vets and animal shelters check for chips.
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Old 09-08-2007, 08:58 PM   #10
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MY old cat Piwacket would howl for hours, finally falling asleep on the turnpike, only to awaken at every toll booth. FastLane or EZPass would be worth it just for the peace and quiet. With various cats, I've had good luck with tranquilizers. It's not good to let them out of the cages, unless they are really excellent travelers. Picture the cat crawling under the brake pedal as traffic suddenly screeches to a halt in front of you . . .

Years ago I found a website listing pet-friendly hotels all over the country.

Good luck!

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Old 09-11-2007, 01:05 PM   #11
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I tip i heard was to butter the cat's paws when you get where you're going. That way el gato leaves a scent trail back to new home and licking it's paws fixes new home's scent in it's memory. Plus it's fun to do.
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Old 09-11-2007, 03:13 PM   #12
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I've made a number of 1400 mile trips with my cats. Neither are alive now, and I've decided not to get another cat until I stop making these drives next year, but I generally didn't have any problems.

I used the plastic airline carrier cage for each, but I agree that a more open cage would've been better. I put them in the middle of the back seat, wedged or somehow buckled in for safety, and so that they could see me, and made sure the sun wasn't beating down on them. Absolutely, positively, would not drive with a cat on the loose in the car, for the already given reasons of it not getting underfoot, and the chance of it escaping when I got out. I put a towel in there for comfort, and to soak up any "accidents". There was one time one cat pooped as we were going through Beaumont, TX. It only changed the smell, didn't really make it any worse!

At rest stops I'd let them out inside the car, with doors shut, to see if they'd use a litter box I'd bring along. They rarely did. I might've offered them a bit of water. I always broke the drive into two days so they wouldn't stay cooped up too long, and researched motels that allowed pets. Always parked in the shade for any stops. If I couldn't for gas, I'd move it as soon as I was done. One cat would howl for about the first hour, and that was it. If it had been non-stop, I'd have considered tranquilizers for the next time.

At a new home, my only concern was that they be able to find the litter box. A few times the first day or two I'd "fly" them just above ground level to where the box was, trying to give them the same view and scents to find the box again. Never a problem.

Butterred cat paws? There's a new one! Sounds so crazy it just might work!
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Old 09-12-2007, 07:04 PM   #13
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We travelled quite a bit with our cat and would always keep her inside a pet carrier (with plenty of soft padding) on the back seat of our car. If we took her out of the carrier during the trip, she would actually freak out and ask to go back in. That's where she felt safe and comfortable. She also was a very clean cat, so she never ever used the small litter box we placed in the carrier with her. She would just hold it until we arrived (up to 9 hours). She was usually quite agitated during the first few miles (she probably thought we were taking her to the vet), but then she would settle down and sleep during the remainder of the trip. We never used tranquilizers.

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