Q: We want to take our cat with us on vacation and we are driving. Any tips?
A: This is a question I am asked often during the summer, as people plan their vacations. Although it is tempting to want to drive all family members, including our cats, I feel it is often best to keep them in the safety and comfort of their home, providing there is a trusted person to care for them.
If you are planning a road trip that includes your cat, however, please plan ahead but know the unexpected can always happen. I remember the story of Max, a cute tabby cat whose owner took every precaution but did not foresee road work with long traffic delays. Max was in his carrier much longer than expected and unfortunately had to improvise a bathroom break. Max was very embarrassed but none the worse for wear after a good cleanup. He happily stayed home from then on.
The night before you take your cat on a car trip, feed your cat only before midnight, then stop. It is easier on the digestive system.
Before a road trip, try to get your kitty used to the cat carrier. Leave it out and put some toys and catnip in it. Make a list of everything you will need to bring in advance such as food, preferably dry food, bottled water from home, favorite treats and a litter box. You can buy disposable litter boxes in pet stores.
I suggest using shredded newspapers as travel litter. It is easier to clean up and dispose of while you and your cat are on a car trip. Try mixing some shredded newspaper in with her regular litter a few days before to get her used to it. Bring plastic bags and paper towels. Make sure all her vaccinations are up to date and bring her medical records along with your vet’s phone number. Also check for local vets on your route in case of an emergency.
Your cat must wear a collar with an ID tag at all times, even if she has a microchip. If she gets loose, this will alert people she belongs to someone and is not a stray. When the car is moving, make sure her carrier is secured with a seat belt or placed on the floor. Never leave her in the car unattended. If your drive takes longer than a day, research pet-friendly motels on the Internet and call ahead to confirm their policies. When you arrive at the motel, put her in the bathroom with all her necessities until you have examined the room and know it is safe for her to roam. Check when housekeeping comes and be there when they clean.
A little prevention goes a long way. Wishing you and your kitty a happy and safe trip. As always I welcome your stories and comments.