Some dogs and cats enjoy car rides. They look forward to the change in scenery, interesting smells, new destinations, and time spent with the people they love. If this describes your pet, that’s great! For the rest of us, traveling with dogs and cats can be a challenge. Preparation is the key to success when traveling with pets.
The two biggest hurdles to a tolerable road trip are pet anxiety and motion sickness. Thankfully, both can be dealt with.
Acclimation is the first step. Cats and many dogs typically do best in a travel crate. Get them used to spending time in their crates at home. Leave the crate out so they can explore it on their own terms. Line the bottom with comfortable (and absorbent) bedding. Feed treats or meals inside. Spray the interior daily with a dog appeasing pheromone spray or Feliway for cats to help with anxiety.
Once the dog or cat is comfortable spending time in the travel crate at home, move it into the vehicle. Place the pet inside for short periods of time (always staying with them to ensure that temperatures remain safe). Once the pet appears relaxed in the parked car, begin making short drives at slow speeds, gradually increasing the intensity of the experience as long as the pet does not become anxious.
If multiple attempts to familiarize the dog or cat with the crate and car travel are unsuccessful, speak to your vet about an over-the-counter anti-anxiety supplement like Anxitane. If all else fails, talk to your veterinarian about whether or not a prescription anxiety reliever might be appropriate for your pet.
In dogs, mild motion sickness can sometimes be prevented with nonprescription medications like diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine, but these medications do not work for motion sickness in cats. Before relying solely on these over-the-counter drugs to prevent motion sickness, make a few short practice runs on roads like the ones you’ll be traveling on. More severe motion sickness, speak to your vet about prescription medication options.
With some forethought and advanced preparation, the worst aspects of traveling with a dog or cat can be avoided.