How To Calm A Cat In A Car?

How to Calm a Cat in a Car

Most cat owners have a hard time traveling by car with their cats. Unlike many other pets, most cats simply do not like traveling. In this article, we look at reasons why cats dislike traveling in a car and what to do to make the feat less stressful.

How to Calm a Cat in a Car?

Most cats get anxious on car rides and here are eight tips to help to keep your cat calm in the car:

1. Pick a good cat carrier

Everything starts with having a good cat carrier. The most common are hard or soft carriers. Choose a carrier that would fit your pet’s personality. An anxious cat is better off with a hard carrier since it has the tendency to scratch the carrier. Soft carriers are good for relaxed cats since they will find them more comfortable.

Whatever carrier you choose, make sure it can give your cat comfort, security, and familiarity. Make sure that you get a carrier that is big enough for your pet to stand and turn around easily. Your cat should be able to move easily inside. Ensure also that the closure is secure to keep your pet from escaping during the ride.

Before traveling, make sure that your cat is also familiar with the carrier. This will be elaborated on in the next tip. It is possible for a cat to ride in a car without a carrier but in most cases, this is not recommended.

2. Introduce the carrier to your cat

Instead of storing the carrier in a closet, keeping it in the area near the cat is a good way to introduce it to your feline. Don’t just bring it out when it’s time to get in the car as cats get anxious with unfamiliar places or things. 

Leave the carrier open and let your cat’s curiosity lead it to explore the inside of the carrier. Placing a towel or blanket with its scent and toys is also recommended. You can also give treats to your pet while inside the carrier to receive positive reinforcement and to create a level of comfort. 

Introduce the carrier to your cat
Image: / Nils Jacobi

3. Take your cat on short trips

Get your cat accustomed to the car by allowing it to wander in the car with the engine off. Later on, you can let it stay in the car for short periods with the engine on. When it tolerates that well, try taking your cat on short trips and give it a reward after. 

4. Tire your cat before the ride

Before a car ride, you can tire your pet through play and exercise. Later it will get tired and sleepy. A cat that sleeps through a car ride will not have a hard time being stressed or anxious.

5. Don’t feed your cat before a trip

It’s important to reduce your cat’s food intake before getting into the car. Keep their meals small and light on the day of the trip to reduce any motion sickness and use of the litter box. 

6. Keep the car at a comfortable temperature

Be mindful of the temperature in the car. In cold weather, keep the heater on and bring a blanket for your cat. In hot climates, make sure that the temperature does not get too hot for comfort for your cat. Never leave your cat alone in a hot car as they can overheat. 

Make sure that drinking water is available for your cat. Keep bathroom breaks as short as possible and always check your cat’s condition and signs of stress or motion sickness.

7. Talk to your cat.

Your soft and gentle voice can help calm your cat. Whenever you get a break from driving, touch your cat and talk to it to assure safety.

You can also place the carrier at an angle that it can see you throughout the trip beforehand.

8. Use pheromones or medicines.

There are pheromones and medicines such as Feliway and Comfort Zone you can use to keep your cat calm during the ride. There are also natural ways to sedate a cat. Before using anything on your cat, it’s essential that you consult a vet first.

Why cats do not like cars?

Why cats do not like cars
Image: / Veera Tsobo

Cats are not exactly known for their love of travel. With a dog, they’ll be the first ones to get into the car. But with a pet cat, you might start with a “cat fight” first. To calm your cat, it helps to first understand why they tend to react anxiously on car rides.

Cats are creatures of habit.

Cats thrive on routine. Most of them have a set pattern they follow every day – they eat at a certain time and sleep in the same place. Their love of routine is part of their ancestry. While this kind of life may seem boring to humans, it helps cats feel safe and confident. This makes a car ride stressful to them as it is new and brings a change to their daily rituals.

Cats are territorial.

Cats do not like leaving their territory. Their territory consists of a network of paths that they patrol regularly. So when they are put inside a carrier and inside the car, it can make them uncomfortable. New places can also make them anxious.

Cats have a better memory than dogs do.

They associate the car and the carrier with something unpleasant. Cats can remember past experiences such as scary vet visits and believe the same thing will happen again.

Signs a cat is stressed

Felines can display a variety of physical and verbal cues to indicate stress and anxiety. As such, car rides may trigger the following behaviors: 

1. Excessive Licking

Grooming is normal for cats. But when they get stressed, they often lick excessively, scratch, and bite at their bodies. Overgrooming can lead to skin irritation or infection, so it is important to monitor this behavior.

2. Excessive Vocalization

Cats that are experiencing stress often become more vocal-like meowing loudly. It can also be their way of seeking your attention to soothing from anxiety.

3. Aggression

Some cats react to anxious or stressful situations by being aggressive toward other animals or humans in the household. They will use their claws and teeth when they feel threatened. It may be especially difficult to get an aggressive cat into the carrier for travel.

Final Thoughts

Although most cats hate car trips, the good news is that they can be conditioned and trained to do it without too much fuss. What’s important is that you now know how to keep them calm before and during the ride.