If your journeys to the vets with your cat in tow bear close resemblance to the soundtrack from a slasher film, this is the guide for you. Cats are notoriously bad at car travel, with yowling, shrieking, hissing, and occasionally vomiting, all the way to the location - it’s just one of their odd little nuances. Without resorting to heavy sedation, it can be tricky to see how you can make this easier on your furry friend, but it is totally possible.
Get them used to their travel environment
First things first, they need to feel comfortable in their travel environment. If you take them in a crate, it needs to be cozy and familiar. Rather than keeping it tucked away in storage, try keeping it in an area she uses frequently. While she’s unlikely to climb in for a nap, she’s less likely to react with utter repulsion the next time you get it out for vet time. It’s also a great idea to use soft furnishings that she is used to inside the crate. Before you set off, put some of her personal bedding in, and even one of your own, worn t-shirts to act as a reassuring scent.
Keep them cool
When a cat gets too hot, they can start to get very stressed and upset. In a crate in a hot car, perhaps in direct sunlight, they could be getting hotter than you realize. Ensure their crate is in the shade, even if it means hanging a towel over the window, and try to keep the air conditioning on for the duration of the journey - it’s better that they’re on the cool side.
Bring out the stress remedies
Just like humans with a phobia of flying, there are remedies which work for cats too. A Feliway diffuser in your car before you set off can really help - it’s filled with pheromones which cats find reassuring. Putting a couple of drops of Rescue Remedy for pets in her water bowl for a few hours on the lead up to the journey can also help her to feel relaxed as you set off.
Your furry friend will be reassured by your presence when they’re in a situation that they feel is stressful. In the few hours before the journey spend some extra time cuddling and playing together so they go into the crate feeling extra love, and then stay nearby, preferably within eye line, for most of the journey. They’ll associate the sight of your with love and safety, and that feeling should help them to get through the stress of the scary situation.
Let them hear your voice
Not only is the sight of you reassuring, but the sound of your voice and the odd stroke through the bars of the cage can be really helpful for keeping them calm. Rather than putting the radio on, chat or even sing to them while you drive. Use soft, reassuring tones - you can even meow back at them occasionally if you like. It isn’t recommended that you allow your cat to roam within the car as they can cause all sorts of potential hazards, but your voice and occasional touch should help them to feel comforted.
Remember, the more you do it, the easier it will get for them. If you have long car journeys ahead, try a few trial runs on the lead up so they can get used to the feeling of being in transit.