How To Travel With Cats In A Car Long Distance

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So you are going to be traveling with your cat but you’re not just taking a short ride to the vet you are going even further than that like for instance across the country in a plane or even a train.

If you’re going to be traveling with a cat for long distances like this there are a lot of things you really need to know otherwise the trip is not going to go smooth for not only you but your kitty as well. This is especially true if you aren’t just going in your car. Here is how to travel really long distances with your cat.

Before The Trip…

What You’ll Need

Depending on how you’re going to do this you are going to need some things on your trip. Some things aren’t necessary but they are nice to have.

• Cat Carrier
You can definitely get around buying one of these if you want to travel with them I would recommend using one of these if your cat does not do well with travel.

If they are more aggressive you will want to get a crate style carrier. If you get a soft sided one they will rip through the material. If you want more info on carriers you can read my article about that here “Best Cat Carriers For Long Distance Travel“.

• Toys
If they have any favorite toys I would recommend bringing them along because it can make the trip not only as boring for them but something familiar to them will help your cat relax a bit more while on the trip. Not to mention if you are going on a really long trip they really need something to do.

• Harness
You are going to need one of these especially if you don’t have a carrier. If you don’t use one of these they could get under your feet while driving and cause an accident or just distract you all together. If you want a list of some of the one that I recommend you can go to my article “Best Lead And Vest Cat Harnesses You Can Buy” where I get more detailed into this.

• Litter Box
You’re cat is eventually going to have to use the litter box. If you have a carrier put it inside of it. If you don’t just leave it in the backseat then take them out every so often so they can use it if they need to.

You could either go with a disposable one like this one here “Kitty’s WonderBox Disposable Litter Box (click here for the amazon link)” or you could get a collapsible litter box like this one “Necoichi Portable Cat Litter Box (click here for the link)“.

these are better than something you would have at your home because they are typically easier to travel with.

• Sedative
I would only get one of these if your cat will not calm down no matter what you do for them to get used to the car or carrier. This will calm them down and make the ride much easier on them. If you want more information on this read my article on that here “How To Sedate Your Cat For Travel: The Ultimate Guide“.

• Cat Window Perch
These can be really useful if they are not in a carrier and you want them to stay out of trouble. It will also help them relax a lot more during the car ride. Best of all they are very cheap and add some flare to your car as well. Check out my article on cat window perches here “6 Best Cat Window Perches For Your Car“.

• Blankets
If you are traveling around the year where it is very cold or you are going to somewhere that cold you will want to bring these so your cat is warm while on the trip. Cat’s can’t really handle the cold any better than we can so it’s a good idea to bring some.

• Id Tags
Anytime you are traveling with your cat its always a good idea to have an ID tag so if someone finds them if they lost they can return them to you.

• Micro Chip
If for some reason your cat gets stolen micro chips can make it easier to prove that you own them. I really recommend getting this done if you travel with your pet a lot.

• Anxiety Jacket
If your cat gets really anxious on car rides an anxiety jacket can help wonders with this. In fact they are so good with this they have an 80% success rate. One of the best ones you can get is “ThunderShirt For Cats (click here for the link)“.

You can also go to my article here where I suggest some other ones that I like “Best Anxiety Jackets For Cats: Some Of My Favorites“.

Visit A Vet First

Your cat might not be suited for traveling because of medical reasons so you should go to a vet to get that checked out. Make sure their medical records and vaccinations are up to date. You can also get a certificate that says your cat is suited for travel.

Keep In Mind That Cats Don’t Like Travel

Some cats don’t really mind car rides or traveling in general and might even enjoy them if you’re lucky and they might even give you no problems with getting in their carrier without doing much of anything.

A lot of the time however they will not like getting in a car or carrier with you especially if they are a certain breed. It will stress them out and they will start meowing or yowling. You really don’t want to deal with this for really long trips especially if you are taking some type of public transportation.

Play With Your Cat Before The Trip

Get them to do anything that burns energy so that they are tired. If they don’t have any energy they will most likely sleep the entire trip and it will lower your chance of your cat causing problems for you.

Get Them Used To The Carrier

If you have a carrier and traveling requires one this is one of the first things you need to do. Leave it open in your house and let them get into to it on their own accord.  You want to do this because they will get used to it being in the room and will make it easier to get them inside of it.

Not only that it will also make the carrier smell like your home. If the carrier smells like your home then it will make them feel more relaxed as cats like familiar smells.

After a while you’ll want to close the carrier while there in it and leave them in there for a while. Gradually leave them in there for longer and longer until they are completely used to being in there for long periods of time.

Let Them Get Used To The Traveling

Once your cat is used to its carrier then you want to move on to actual traveling. You don’t want to go on a huge trip without them getting used to the car plane, train or any other form of transportation first.

They best way to do this is start with a car. Bring them in the car and drive short distances to see how they react. When they start getting used to the short rides take them on bigger trips. Eventually they won’t mind the car and you can try other forms of traveling.

How To Get An Aggressive Cat Into A Carrier

Some cats are really stubborn and despise carriers. They may even act aggressive if you try to get them in one which can leave you in a really difficult situation. But Fortunately there are ways to get them in there. Here’s how to get around this.

• Towel Method
This is the first method you can try and is really easy to do. Here is how to do it. First you want to get a towel and when you get one you want to get a towel that is big enough so that will wrap around your cat. The next thing you want to do is bring your cat and the carrier in the bathroom.

Once you get your cat in there wrap your cat in the towel with their head sticking out. Once you have done this just put them in the carrier and they will unravel themselves from the towel. It might be hard to do and you might fail on the first try but it can be done.

• Pillow Case Method
Another way you could do this is put them inside of a pillow case and then put them inside that way. Don’t tie the end however as they need a way to get out when you put them inside of the carrier.

• Treat Method
If you have any treats you could put them inside of the carrier and see if you can lure them into the carrier that way. Then when they get inside to get the treats just quickly close it on them.

You will also want to have a non fabric/mesh carrier since aggressive cats can rip through these with their claws. If you want a good carrier for this type of situation I would suggest getting the “MidWest Homes for Pets Crate (click here for the link)

If you want a better guide on aggressive cats here is an article I wrote on that here “How to Get An Aggressive Cat Into a Carrier: Easy Methods

Pet Friendly Hotels

Eventually you are going to have to stay at a hotel and its a really good idea to know which ones allow pets and don’t allow them at all. Fortunately there are a lot that allow your cat to stay the night.

If you need to sneak them into the hotel here is an article I wrote about that and how you can get them in there without getting caught “How To Sneak A Cat Into A Hotel – The Right Way!“.

List Of Pet Friendly Hotels

These are just some that you could consider while you are on your trip but there are a lot more.

• Kimpton Hotels
• Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
• Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
• Candlewood Suites
• La Quinta
• Loews Hotels and Resorts
• Holiday Inn
• Red Roof Inn
• Best Western
• Motel 6
• Ace Hotel
• Hotel Indigo

A good website to check which hotels are cat friendly I use a site called It will tell you all sorts of information including if there is an extra cost for your pet to join you.

While On The Trip…

Traveling by Car

When you’re in the car make sure your cat is in its harness or carrier and has taken a sedative if needed. Don’t let them wander around the car without being on the harness or this could cause an accident if they get under your feet.

• Motion Sickness
If your cat is the type to get motion sickness you will want to get some type of medication from your vet so you can prevent this from happening. Dramamine is probably the best choice to go with.

• Don’t Over Feed Them
Unless your vet says otherwise, feed your cat as little as you can while on your trip. Your cat will be just fine if you feed them once a day and don’t give them food in the morning or while driving.

If you feed them too much you are raising their risk of vomiting and you’ll have to pull over to clean it up. This is especially true if they get motion sickness.

• Wait To Give Them Water
Wait to give your cat water until you have pulled over otherwise you will get water all over your cat and that’s not fun to deal with. You could however get a non spill dish so you don’t have to deal with this. If you have to wait you will want to fill them on water every two hours.

• The Direction Of The Carrier
When you put your cat in the car the best place to put the carrier is in the back behind the passenger on the floor. This is ideally the safest place to put them. You can also put them on the back seat but its slightly unsafer.

If you do this make sure that the carrier door is facing the driver. This makes some cats feel more secure.

• Don’t Open The Doors
If you are going to open the doors do not do it until your cat is in their harness or on a leash. If you open the door and don’t do these things they can bolt out of the car and you might not ever see them again.

• Make Occasional Stops
If you are on a particularly long trip such as a cross country drive you really don’t want your cat cramped in a carrier the whole time. Taking stops at times will not only give you some stretching time but your cat as well.

You want to ideally do this every 2 or even 3 hours. Anything longer than this can be exhausting for your cat.

• Don’t Let Them Roam Free Around The Car
You really don’t want your cat to roaming around the car while you are driving because it can be potentially dangerous. They can get under your feet and cause you to crash your vehicle.

• Keep The Car As Quiet As Possible
Cats have very sensitive ears and hate loud noises. The car can be scary for them and the noise can make it worse for them. Keep the stereo off (or play very soft mellow music) and try keeping your windows up to minimize traffic as this can also scare them.

• Keep Them Cool/Warm: Don’t let the car get too hot because this can be dangerous for them and can possibly kill them. Just leave your air conditioner on and they should be fine.

If you are traveling in colder weather always keep it at a comfortable temperature by keeping the heat on since cats can die if it is too cold as well.

• Never Leave Your Cat Alone In The Car: Unless you are with someone else so that they can watch them it’s never really a good idea to do this since there are a lot of risks in doing so. They could get stolen, die from a heat stroke or freeze to death.

If you are in a position where you absolutely have to do this just make sure your cat is completely out of sight from anyone outside of your car, lock all of your doors and make sure that the air conditioner or heating is on so they are comfortable.

Here is a helpful article I wrote on this topic here “Is It Illegal To Leave Your Cat In The Car?“.

Cats Riding In The Car Without A Carrier

If you don’t want to use a carrier then you could just put them in a harness and buy something called a “pet seat-belt”. It works like a leash but it hooks into the seat belt slot in your car. This one is a good one that you could buy if you want to go into this route “Vastar Adjustable Pet Dog Cat Car Seat Belt Safety Leads Vehicle Seatbelt Harness (click here for the amazon link).”

You will also need a harness to go along with the seat-belt as it can be dangerous for your cats neck. You can go to my article here to find the best ones I’ve come across “Best Cat Harnesses You Can Buy“.

If you go with this method I would cover your seat with a towel or something similar just in case you cat accidentally goes to the bathroom on your seats and it wont stain everything. I would also have a disposable litter box and food/water to go along with it.

How Long Can You Drive With Cats?

Generally you can drive for as long as you need to with your cats just make sure that they have access to food, water, and a litter box. I would not drive for long periods of time if your cat isn’t used to traveling since it will be very scary for them.

In terms of how long they can stay in the carrier you should not leave them inside of the carrier for no more than 4-6 hours especially if the carrier is on the small side. If its larger I would not leave them in their for no more than 8-10 hours while on a car ride.

Traveling By Plane

Get an Airline Approved Carrier

When you board a plane your cat carrier needs to be airline approved or you won’t be able to board the plane with your cat. Some of the features that your carrier should have. If you want an idea of what cat carrier you should get to use on a plane I wrote a list of the best ones you can use here “Best Airline Approved Pet Carriers In Cabin“.

  • A water proof bottom: If your cat accidentally wets the carrier it could get all over the floor.
  • Security zippers: You can get zipper locks for your carrier if you don’t have one on yours.
  • It must encase your entire pet and cannot have there head sticking out.
  • Mesh sides so your cat has proper ventilation.

Different airlines have different rules so you should also check with your airline to see what they require in a pet carrier so you don’t run into problems.

If you want more information on how to fly with your cat and need a much thorough guide on this you can read my article about this here “How To Travel With A Cat On A Plane“.

Cover The Carrier

Its a really good idea to cover your carrier so your cat doesn’t see what is going on around them. This will make it so they don’t see anything and they will be less stressed as a result. Fortunately a lot of cat carriers have this feature built into them which will cover the windows for you.

If you want a list of good carriers that have this feature you can go to my article on that here “Best Cat Carriers For Long Distance Travel“.

Get There Early

Airlines can only carry so many pets on one flight so its a good idea to get there as early as possible so its less likely you don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of waiting for the next flight so you cat can come with you

Traveling By Train

Get An Amtrak Approved Carrier

Just like airlines Amtrak also has rules regarding pet carriers. This is a quote from there website on what is actually required in a pet carrier when boarding their trains.

Pet owners must provide a pet carrier. The maximum size for pet carriers is 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high. Maximum weight of pet with carrier is 20 pounds. The carrier may be hard or soft sided but must be leak proof and well ventilated. For your pet’s comfort and safety, it must be able to sit and lie down without touching the sides of the carrier. Your pet carrier counts as one piece of carry-on baggage.

You can read more information about this here

If you want a better guide on train travel with your cat you can read my article about this here “How To Travel With A Cat On A Train“.

Cats Aren’t Allowed On Busses

If you want to travel with pets on a bus then you are out of luck. Most bus companies including BoltBus, Greyhound, Jefferson Lines, Megabus, Peter Pan, RedCoach, Yo!Bus and a lot of other trailways will not allow you to do this unless it is a service animal.

How to Travel Long Distance With Multiple Cats

In most travel situations I would do the same as you would with one cat but you should consider how your cats get along.

If Your Cats Get Along

If your cats get along well you could just put them both in the same carrier as it will make things easier. A good carrier for this would be the “Pet Fit For Life Collapsible/Portable Cat Cage (click here for the amazon link)“.

If Your Cats Get Confrontational With Each Other

If your cats tend to get confrontational with each other I would suggest putting the two in separate carriers while you are on the road or on a plane. A good carrier for cats would be the “PetLuv “Happy Cat Premium Cat Carrier (click here for the amazon link)“.

If you don’t care about boarding a plane (as this one isn’t airline approved) this one would be a better choice as you can zip the two up together as one carrier “One for Pets Portable 2-in-1 Double Pet Kennel (click here for the amazon link)“.

As I said, just make sure that they are two cats that get along with each other because they will end up fighting with one another the entire way which would be a real headache.

When Arriving At Your Destination

Try to make everything as comfortable as possible for them. You’ll want it to be quiet and scattering some of their belongings like their toys can also be helpful. You should also try playing with them with also helps them adjust.

Final Thoughts

If you follow everything that I mentioned here the ride should go smoothly and you will reach your destination with no problems. Happy Traveling!