But most of us live with indoor cats who would sooner pass on a fresh trout dinner than step one paw into a car.
Looking at the possibility of a future cross-country move ourselves, I have been researching and weighing the options. I’ve collected quite a few real-world stories, tips and resources and I want to share them with you, should you find yourself in a similar predicament.
While I’ve looked into the option of plane travel with cats, there are hesitations I have about it (another article for another time), so I’ve been focusing on road travel info and that’s what I’m sharing with you today!
Long-distance driving with cats: first-hand reports
Cat lover Melissa Anthimides-Hellon has gone on many road trips with her husband, kids, and cats. Including three moves. She says:
“The more you travel with your cats the more they get accustomed to it and even like it! We also travel with small children so we sort of have a plan in place to make sure everyone is relaxed and happy during the trip. Everyone gets Rescue Remedy before leaving and during the trip we play mellow music in the back seat so the kids and kitties can snooze and relax, it drowns out the scary traffic noises too.”
Another woman drove her two indoor cats across country, staying in hotels for almost a week. She was quite apprehensive ahead of time, but did several things that worked out well, including:
- Transported her cats together in one large crate because they comfort each other (this may not always be the case with your cats). We are looking at the Pet Tube Car Kennel – a reader said this spacious tube, which takes up two seats, worked well for moving her two cats across country together. Apparently the handles and flat foam insert are sold separately, so keep that in mind.
- Put a small disposable Nature’s Miracle litter box (scent-neutralizing), a small hanging water cup, and a blanket (that smelled like home) in a large crate.
- Sprayed Feliway in the crate each morning before traveling.
- Put a towel over the crate so the cats felt cozy.
- Put a few drops of Rescue Remedy in their water each day.
She said, “My cats came through with flying colors! And to think I was so worried!
Several other cat lovers also mentioned Feliway helping with road travel and we plan to use it. The one caveat with Feliway is that, for some reason, it doesn’t work on every single cat, so one should try it at home first.
Also, it helps to get your cats used to carriers and drives in the car that don’t end in a vet visit. Take some short, sweet trips around a block or two in the months before your trip. Reward with treats and kindness. If you haven’t gotten into crate/carrier training yet, you’ll want to watch this short sweet SPCA video on it. The video is for kittens, but it applies to all cats. Also, keep the crate out and about for several days, making it a cozy and enjoyable place.
Cat-friendly hotels: they exist!
Melissa’s travelin’ cat family has had their best luck with La Quinta Inn and Days Inn, but especially La Quinta because you don’t have to stay in a smoking room and the rooms are clean. They require a pet deposit, but it’s reasonable. She says you’ll encounter other pet people there too, which can be fun.
Several other cat lovers recommended La Quinta Inn as well.
Motel 6 also was recommended, especially for the budget-minded. You’ll find them all over the U.S. and they were described by one cat-carrying family as “suprisingly clean.”
If you want to go a bit more upscale, you can enjoy a stay with your cat at pet-friendly Marriott Hotels.
Need even more options? I’ve got some good resources:
- Official Pet Hotels is a great resource locating all kinds of pet-friendly hotels in the US and they have a UK site as well.
- There is also a handy list of Pet Friendly Hotel Chains here.
[highlight]Hotel tip: Scent is a key source of information for cats. One cat caretaker shared the tip of bringing a blanket or comforter from home to put on the bed in the hotel before you bring the cats in. She said it helped her cats feel calmer in each new setting. When your cat emerges from his carrier timidly, the more smells of home he picks up, the better.[/highlight]
What about RV’s?
A couple cat parents said that RV travel with cats worked well for them. One woman who moved five cats from the midwest to California said the cats were content to roam around the large RV they rented. While this appeals to me, I’m sure some will say that any travel without a carrier is risky. Here’s an intriguing article by a couple with a lot of experience and advice to offer on RV’ing with cats.
And…more helpful Do’s & Don’t’s for long-distance cat travel
In addition to the tips listed above, there are several things we all need to know before taking a long road trip with our feline friends:
DON’T give a sedative! Veterinarians strongly caution against sedating your cat, as this can cause dehydration and could also hamper your cat’s breathing and increase risk of heart problems. (Do try a natural homeopathic aid like Rescue Remedy, as recommended by cat travelers above, instead.)
DON’T use essential oils. While we humans love aromatherapy, and dogs may be ok with it too, essential oils are toxic cats – possibly through breathing, not just through ingestion.
DON’T leave cats alone in parked vehicle. In the sun, cars are like greenhouses: within minutes, the temperature climbs to dangerously high levels.
DO use a cat-safe collar with ID that includes your name and cell number on it. Also smart: include your home address, back-up telephone number, and even a temporary travel tag with contact info about where you can be reached while traveling. Because I know from experience that a cat’s collar can get caught on something and trap them dangerously, I look for collars like Elasta Cat that stretch if your cat is caught on something so they can back out of the collar if it’s being pulled.
DO bring plenty of fresh water. You’ll want to refill the cat travel water bowl regularly as the water may spill or dry out quickly and hydration is essential to your cat’s health, especially during stressful transitions. Note that wet food helps them stay hydrated and dry food has the opposite effect.
DO bring healthy-ish treats your cat likes. Rewards bring happiness. We like Halo Liv a Little’s treats because they are grain-free and have very simple, natural ingredients.
DO take Cat Behaviorist Marilyn Krieger’s good advice on preparing your cat’s carrier: “Before transporting, prepare the cat carrier. Label it with your name and contact information. Additionally, tape to the carrier copies of your cat’s vaccination records along with information about medical issues and medications the cat might need. Place soft towels that have your scent on them along with your cat’s favorite toy inside to help comfort her during the trip.”
Keep the family together: moving with cats
When I say family, I don’t just mean you and your humans, I mean you and your feline family members too. It’s sad when people are not bonded enough to their animals to want to keep taking care of them even when they need to move. Ideally, adoption is forever, so I hope some of this cat transport info I’ve put together will make a move feel less daunting. It certainly has helped me.
Aside the from the road travel part of the puzzle, if you are moving with cats, I’ve got good stuff on that here: Tips for Moving with Cats: Timeline + Checklist .
If you have any of your own tips and stories, you know I want to hear them in the comments below!