Before embarking on a long road trop between Northern and Southern California with my two cats, I did a lot of research. You can find a lot of advice over the internet so I don’t want to write down every possible bit of information. I’ll just write about what I’ve learned and what I do.
I don’t know for sure if it’s possible to “train” a cat to handle long car rides. It was one of the factors I took into consideration when I decided to adopt a cat. I knew I would make frequent trips visiting my family in Southern California so I needed a cat that could handle it. I figured I should get a kitten so I could take it on long trips when it was young. I ended up getting two kittens.
Since my cats are indoor only cats, I don’t have both of them wearing collars all the time. However, before I take them outside for any reason, for a car ride or even just a walk, I put on their collars with identifying information. I’ve written a blog post about Boomerang Collar Tags.
I think just about anyone who has ever transported a cat has a cat carrier. I have one each for my cats. They’re fine for taking them to the vet, but too confining for long road trips. So I got a kennel that would fit in the back seat of my car. Actually, when I first bought it, I intended to put it in the front seat next to me. But it turned out to block my view so for safety sake, I put it in the back seat behind the front passenger seat. That way, I could look to the right to see how my cats are doing. Fortunately the kennel is collapsible since I have a coupe.
This part might be optional depending on your car. I have leather seating in a 3-year old car so I try to protect it from the kennel and my cats claws. I use a blankie/throw that is small enough for using on a couch but big enough to fit the back seat. I have another throw that I put on the bottom below the cage.
I then bring in the kennel and assemble it. The blankie is set up so that not only does it protect the backseat, it will hang on top of the cage and protect the cats from sunlight throughout the day.
About four hours before the scheduled trip, I put away the food and water, and pack the bowls. Hopefully, they’ll go to the bathroom in the intervening time without the need to go during the trip. I have tried to get my cats to use the litter box on command right before the trip, but they won’t have any of that.
I pack everything into my car and leave my cats for last. When it’s time to go, I put them into their individual carriers to take them to the car. I open one carrier and put one cat in the kennel in the car. Then I put in the other cat and secure the kennel. It’s not that simple because the first cat will get out of the kennel and so I have to do some maneuvering to get that cat back in while holding the second cat.
Before my first trip, I read about a tip to put ice cubes in a bowl so they could have water. That didn’t work out. Forty minutes into the ride, I looked back and the bowl had tipped over, making the fuzzy lining wet in one spot. I had to pull over to rectify the situation. So I’ve learned not to do that anymore and the cats can handle no water for the long trip (5-7 hours).
If I have to stop to eat, I get food from the drive-thru and then park in a shaded spot with the sunroof open and eat in the car. If I have to go to the restroom, I’ll park in the shade with the sunroof open. I wish I could be like my cats and not have to use the restroom during the trip.
Whenever I make a rest stop, I look back at them and try to pet/touch them through the openings in the kennel. I also give them some treats.