Why Do Cats Hate Car Rides?

Why Do Cats Hate Car Rides?

Cats hate car rides because they do not like leaving their territory. They do not like going somewhere new against their will, and they do not like traveling inside a car where there are unfamiliar sounds, noises, and smells.

If your cat hates car rides and you want to know how to make it love them, then keep reading.

Why do cats hate car rides?

Cats are creatures of habit who hate change. All cats love a routine and following a schedule. They like to eat at a certain time, sleep in the same place, and be around the same people. When these daily habits are disturbed, they start to panic and can suffer from feline anxiety.

These are the reasons why your cat hates car rides:

1. Noise

Cats do not like loud noises. Running away from them is part of their survival instinct.

Humans and cats have the same range of hearing on a lower scale, but cats can hear high-pitched noises that are 1.6 octaves higher than what humans can hear.

They have sensitive ears, so honking horns, other vehicles, and other loud noises can be scary for them.

2. Terrain

Experiencing uneven terrain while inside a car, like going over potholes and bumps, can scare your cat.

3. Inability to see outside

Cats like to perch on top of furniture because they like to be able to see all of their surroundings. But when they are inside a carrier in a car, they are usually in the backseat or the hatchback. Their position makes it impossible for them to see around them.

This inability to see their surroundings can make them cry due to anxiety.

4. Movement of the car

Cats do not travel often, so they are not accustomed to being inside a moving vehicle. The sudden starts and stops, coupled with sharp turns can be enough to freak them out. So, it is important that their carrier is stable so it does not move around so much.

5. New people

It is possible that when your cat is traveling, they are in vehicles next to strange people they have never met. That alone can make them anxious.

6. Strange smells

Your car has smells that your cat is not used to. Cats have a sense of smell that is 14 times stronger than a human’s. Because of this, your cat is triggered easily by subtle smells.

7. Cat carrier

Most cats’ first experience with a carrier is when they have to go to the vet. It is best to start positive reinforcement with a carrier at a young age, especially if you plan on taking your cat on trips frequently.

Do all cats hate car rides?

Not all cats get anxious when you put them in an automobile. Some breeds actually enjoy traveling. Sometimes it depends on how you train your cat. With proper training, cats can learn to ride in cars even without a carrier.

How to keep a cat calm in the car

Cats are not built to love traveling. Training them to be calm and even likebeing in cars can take some time, but here are some tips for getting your cat used to travel:

1. Anxiety jackets

These work well for cats that deal with anxiety. It is a vest that wraps around your cat’s body that applies enough pressure to result in a calming effect for it. Most veterinarians approve anxiety jackets over drugs or medication.

They can be used for cats who struggle with separation anxiety, loud noises, fireworks, and thunder.

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2. Sedatives

Sedatives should only be used if you’ve exhausted all other methods. There are various sedatives available for cats, like melatonin, catnip, Benadryl, and L-Theanine (to name a few). It is still advisable to first consult your vet about which kind of sedative is best for your cat.

3.  Get your cat familiar with the carrier.

Since your cat will be spending a lot of time in a carrier while traveling, take time to get your cat used to it before a trip.

Start by leaving the carrier in their favorite room with the door open. Allow them to go in and out of the carrier as they please. Put treats and toys inside the carrier to encourage them to spend time inside it. This also allows the cat to leave their scent inside the carrier. This will calm them down when they have to be put inside it and taken somewhere.

After a few weeks, they should be more comfortable with it. At that point, put the carrier in the car and get them used to the vehicle. Take several short rides with them before taking them on a long-distance car ride.

4. Let them see outside.

If possible, try positioning the carrier where the cat can see outside. Some cats do better in a car if they can see their surroundings.

Make sure the carrier is secured tightly with a seat belt so it does not move around as much.

5. Cover the carrier.

Use a thin blanket to cover the carrier. This helps to calm a cat that is scared. Giving a cat privacy can help reduce its anxiety.


Cats hate car rides because they do not like leaving their territory and being brought into a place they do not recognize. Cats do not like loud unfamiliar noise that hurts their ears. Being in a vehicle that is going down a bumpy road can be traumatizing for your cat. In a carrier inside a car, your cat may be next to people they have never met, with smells that they cannot distinguish. All of these are drastic changes to your cat’s routine and may cause your cat to suffer feline anxiety.

Try making your cat wear an anxiety jacket, making them comfortable with their carrier, letting them see the outside while the car is running, or covering the carrier with a blanket to calm the cat down. If none of these ideas work, you can ask your vet about which sedative will work best for your cat.

Image: istockphoto.com / Bilanol