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Car Travel With Cats: Your Complete Guide [2024]

car traveling with cats

Car Travel With Cats: Your Complete Guide [2024]

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06/15/2024 02:46 am GMT

I’ve had three cats; moved with them several times, slept in hotels with them and carted them around to and from Veternerian appointments (especially 2 who were FIV positive!) 

Not to mention, I drove my cat Finnegan cross country! I drove him from Philadelphia to Chicago and I am going to share my tips.

I’m here to demystify it all fur you!

Traveling with your cat doesn’t have to be something to dread. Road tripping together can strengthen the bond between you. This post is all about car travel with cats.

By the end of the article, you’re going to feel comfortable taking your cat on an adventure; or at least safely transport him when needed.

This post was edited by Lisa Illman on April 13th, 2024

Road Tripping Fun with Your Cat By Holly Anne Dustin


So, you’re thinking about hitting the road 🚗 with your furry friend 🐱 and wondering, can I bring my cat along for this long car journey too? 🤔

Your Cat-Friendly Travel Guide

Do you need a car travel cat guide? Great mews, that’s what I have just fur you!

Buckle up (literally and figuratively) because we’re about to navigate the twists and turns of this whisker-filled adventure!

Sometimes, circumstances throw us into situations we might not actively choose, but we find ourselves having to navigate them nonetheless.

Similarly, while one might not ideally opt to take their cat on a long car ride, there are moments where it becomes a necessity—whether it’s a relocation, a family emergency, or any other unforeseen circumstance. Understanding the essentials of car travel with a cat becomes crucial in such scenarios. Learning these tips isn’t just about convenience; it’s about ensuring the safety, comfort, and well-being of our feline companions during what might otherwise be a stressful experience for them.

These insights can be invaluable in making the journey as smooth and comfortable as possible for your kitty cat.

Pros of Taking Your Cat on a Road Trip

Let’s start with the positives! Cats can be quite adaptable creatures. Some of them might even relish the idea of exploring new territories—provided they have their cozy bed, favorite toys, and, of course, you! It could be a bonding experience, like a buddy cop movie, but with a human and a cat.

Cons of Taking Your Cat on a Road Trip

However, not all felines are fans of moving vehicles. Some might view car rides as a trip to the underworld, complete with fiery pits and shrieking demons (or at least that’s what their panicked expressions might convey). Plus, cars can be noisy, and the unfamiliar sights and sounds can stress out even the most chillaxed of cats.


Before you embark on this grand adventure, it’s crucial to prepare. Bring along familiar items like their favorite blanket or toy to provide a sense of comfort. Make sure your cat’s microchip and collar information are up-to-date in case of unexpected detours.

When it’s time to hit the road, make sure you give your cat plenty of time to get used to the car before you leave. Allow your cat to explore the carrier, and offer treats and toys to make them feel more at ease. If your cat is feeling especially anxious, you can also use a calming pheromone spray to help reduce their stress levels.


Safety measures are non-negotiable. Invest in a sturdy cat carrier or harness designed for car travel to keep your kitty secure. Cats might have nine lives, but let’s not test that theory on a highway.

Safety is a top priority, so it’s important to use a secure pet carrier. This will help keep your cat safe and secure during the trip and will also help reduce distractions while you’re driving. Make sure the carrier is large enough for your cat to move around comfortably, and line it with a soft blanket or towel to provide comfort.


Plan for pit stops along the way. Cats, like us mere humans, need bathroom breaks and sustenance. But remember, not all rest areas are cat-friendly, so scout ahead! 

If you are bringing a travel cat litter box (that is why I did) make sure your cat has access to it in the car if you are not going to stop for a break. I opted for stopping at hotel a few hours in and left the travel litter box (not used by Finn) when driving.


Motion sickness isn’t just for humans. Cats can experience it too. Talk to your vet about anti-nausea options or simply keep car snacks light before the journey.

My cat Abigail used to get awful motion sickness 🙁 I limited her time in a car as soon I saw she was not a good passenger. 

It’s also important to make sure your cat has access to food and water during the trip. Once your cat is used to the car, you can allow them to roam freely as long as they’re supervised. This will help keep them from getting too anxious.

Finally, make sure to take regular breaks during your journey. This will give your cat a chance to stretch their legs, use the litter box and get some fresh air. This can help reduce their stress levels and make the trip more enjoyable for everyone.

With a bit of preparation and planning, car travel with cats can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these tips, you can help ensure a safe and comfortable journey for both you and your feline friend.

Teach Leash Skills First

Any cat that is going traveling needs to learn to wear a harness and walk on a leash. Teach leash skills before you hit the road.

Some cats will adapt easier to their harness and leash than others. There are many options for cat harnesses on the market. If one doesn’t work for your cat, try a different style. It’s normal for a cat to just flop over or refuse to move when your first put the cat harness on. She will get over it.

Car traveling with cats can be stressful. If you take a few steps first, car traveling with cats can actually be fun!

It helps if you have a food-motivated cat. Get her used to wearing it at dinnertime when her hunger will distract her. Encourage her to walk to you using her favorite treats. Train Kitty inside to make sure she can’t wiggle out of her harness before you head out on the road.

Train Kitty to Love Her Carrier

Sometimes a large cat carrier is best so your cat has space to move around. Car traveling with cats can be much easier when your cats have their own cat playpen to hang out in.

It is important for a traveling cat to see her carrier as a safe place and not a trap. Get a carrier that is large enough for your cat to sit up, lie down, and turn around.

Hard side carriers are safer in a crash, and best if you have a cat that tries to tear her way out of a soft carrier. Soft carriers are easier for you. Some cats feel less trapped in a mesh carrier because they can see more. Others are over stimulated by that. If you plan to fly with your cat, get a hard side carrier.

Leave the carrier open in the house so it becomes part of the cat furniture. Put her favorite cat bed, cat cave or blanket inside. Put treats and toys inside for her to find. Feed her dinner in there.

When she is comfortable with that, try shutting the door for a minute or two. Give her good cat treats when you’re done. Work up to walking around the house, and then short drives around town. Always reward her. If she panics, back up and go slower til she is calm.

On the Road We Go

Buckle in Kitty’s carrier and head out on your adventures. Kitty will be fine in her carrier if you aren’t traveling over 5-6 hours. Your cat probably won‘t use her litter box on the road but a pee pad in the bottom of the carrier will prevent any accidents. You can reduce the likelihood by not feeding her for 4-5 hours before the trip.

Offer her a litter box break when you stop for your own comfort. Save the water for those breaks as well or you’ll have a wet, angry and uncomfortable cat the first time you go over a bump. That won’t endear the road trip experience to her. Don’t let her out of her carrier without her leash and harness on.

If you’re planning on a longer day, set up Kitty in a large dog crate or pop-up shelter big enough to give her access to a litter box. I put my cat’s carrier with the door off right in the shelter. He feels secure in his carrier, but can come out if he needs the box, or gets too hot.

Keep the weather in mind. You can help keep her comfortable with hot hands packs wrapped up in her carrier in the winter. Ice packs or frozen water bottles can help in the summer. Cars can become dangerously hot and brutally cold quickly. Stick to drive through restaurants and take turns on bathroom breaks if you have a traveling companion.

Where Shall We Stay?

Car traveling with cats can be tiresome, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. Plan ahead by identifying cat friendly hotels.

Pet friendly does not always mean feline friendly. Call ahead before you book a hotel room. Some chains allow the branch manager to decide if they allow cats or not. Be sure you understand the policies of the hotel, are there damage fees? Limits on pets? Can you leave your pet alone when you go to dinner?

Car traveling can be fun with cats, but preparing makes all the difference!

When you get to your hotel check the room out before you let your cat out of her carrier. Make your inspection for two reasons: first, so you can document anything wrong with the room so you don’t get charged a damage fee; and second, so you discover any risk to your kitty.

Check for open windows, holes in walls or cabinets, anything broken, anything an active or curious cat might knock over or break. Check the bed. Platform beds are the worst! I’ve disassembled many beds to get a cat out. Try to stuff access points with pillows or your luggage. If you can’t find your cat, she’s probably in a box spring or under the bed.

Put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door and let Kitty out. Leave her carrier where she can access it. She is likely to see it as her safe space until she acclimates to the room.

Be a Good Ambassador for the Traveling Cat

Be nice to the staff. Bring pee pads or newspapers to put under the litter tray and keep it in the bathroom. Don’t expect them to deal with your cat’s litter mess. Bag the litter waste yourself and either take it out yourself or at least make it easy on the housekeeper.

Keep Kitty in the bathroom if you think she is likely to mark her territory or damage the space. My goal is for the staff to not know there was a pet in the room.

Have Fun

Car traveling with cats can be a great experience for you and your favorite feine if you take the steps to prepare him for it first.

Sharing the open road with your furbaby can deepen the bond you share and enrich his life. You will also open doors and creating a demand for more cat friendly accommodations, activities and events.

Cat Travel Supplies

Traveling in your car with your cat can be an exciting and rewarding experience for both you and your pet. However, it’s important to make sure you have the right supplies to keep your feline friend safe and comfortable during the journey. Here are five items to get on Amazon before you hit the road with your cat:

Pet Carrier

A sturdy and comfortable pet carrier is essential for traveling in your car with your cat, as it will keep your pet protected from the elements and any sudden stops. Look for a carrier with good ventilation and a secure latch to ensure your cat’s safety.

Cat Treats

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Cats love treats, and having some on hand during your car ride can help keep your pet calm and content. Look for treats that your cat enjoys, such as freeze-dried chicken or salmon, or even tuna-flavored treats.

Cat Leash

If you plan on stopping at a rest area or park during your road trip, it’s a good idea to bring along a cat leash. This will allow you to safely take your cat outside without worrying about them running away. A retractable leash with a comfortable handle is a great choice.

Cat Toys

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Cats can get bored on long car rides, so it’s a good idea to bring along some interactive toys to keep them entertained. Look for toys that can be attached to the back of the seat, such as laser pointers or feather toys.

Cat Bed

RELEVANTCat Beds That Will Modernize Your Home

If you’re traveling for an extended period of time, it’s important to make sure your cat is as comfortable as possible. A cozy cat bed can help keep your pet relaxed and provide them with a sense of security during the journey. Look for beds with a removable cover for easy cleaning.

Concluding Purrs

Traveling with your cat can be a great adventure. With the right supplies, your pet can enjoy a safe and comfortable journey. To ensure a successful road trip, stock up on the five items mentioned above from Amazon. Your cat will thank you for the extra effort!

🐾 Lisa Illman is the Founder of Kritter Kommunity, LLC! 🏡 She’s got a dapper tuxedo cat who’s been her sidekick since he was a tiny furball. 🐱 Before Finnegan came along, Lisa cared for two FIV-positive cats for over ten years! 🌟 Their love inspired her to create a cat enclosure and a portable catio, giving kitties the purrfect spot to bask in the sun and feel the breeze. ☀️🌿

As a kid, Lisa shared her home with a Poodle and a chirpy parakeet! 🐩🐦

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