Moving across the country to Portland, Oregon, from Chicago, IL was an experience of a lifetime. I talk in detail about our adventure here.
Moving our cat, Myron Fuzzypants, across the country, by car, brought me the most anxiety, BY FAR, on the road trip. I mean for crying out loud, look at that cute little FACE!!!!! GAH!!! He’s killing me with his adorableness right now! I was stressed our journey across the country would take a toll on him.
Neither Kieran nor I have ever traveled with Myron in the car for more than a 20-minute ride to the vet. He made those 20 minutes a living hell by crying the entire time. Of course, who could blame him, I would be crying in protest too if I knew I was about to have a thermometer rammed up my butt. So, we were worried he would howl and be impossible to deal with during our trip. I did ample amounts of research to ensure I was making the trip as comfortable for Myron as I could.
Much to our surprised, Myron was an angel, an absolute joy to travel with.
Anyway, here are some tips to keep cats as happy and healthy on the road. Obviously, every cat is different, so some of these tips won’t apply to yours, but we found they worked well for us, and especially Myron. Kieran and I were proud of our fuzzy little baby, he was a trouper.
Before our trip, Kieran and I made sure to take Myron on small errands around Chicago. Once we reached our location, I stayed in the backseat of the car with Myron, while Kieran went inside the store. Once Kieran left the vehicle, I opened Myron’s cat carrier and let him roam around. I made sure to have his harness securely fastened with his leash attached. The purpose of this exercise is to get your cat acquainted with the car and let him or her get their scent on the interior of the vehicle. I recommend keeping the harness and leash on, otherwise, you may not be able to prevent kitty from crawling under the car seat, where you’re unable to reach him/her. Another reason for practicing is to show your cat the car doesn’t always mean a trip to the vet.
2. Bring water from your town:
I think keeping your cat’s water source the same throughout the trip helps prevent your cat from getting an upset stomach. I know when I’m traveling, the local water sometimes does a number on my inside’s, so I imagine it’s the same with animals. Kieran and I filled up 2 gallons of water from our sink, for Myron to drink, on the road. Luckily for us, Myron did not get sick during our trip.
3. Pull all water and food 1 hour before you depart from your hotel:
Kieran and I spent 8-9 hours on the road, per day, when we drove to Portland. During that time, Myron did not use his litter box. Note, we DID have a smaller, travel size litter box on the floor behind the driver’s seat filled with litter, just in case, but Myron never used it. I suspect he was too scared. So, to make Myron as comfortable as we could, we packed his water and food an hour before we hit the road. We made sure to pack up his litter box last, to give him the opportunity to “empty his tank” up until the last possible minute.
Kieran and I knew poor little Myron would be scared in the car. To help alleviate stress, we made sure to have familiar items in the car. For example, we brought some blankets from our bed that Myron frequently slept on. We put one of the blankets on the back seat during travel and brought in both blankets at the hotel. Sure enough, Myron recognized the scent of the blankets and napped on them, both in the car and in the hotel rooms. During our stay at the hotel, we made sure to bring in his favorite toys, a scratcher, his “tunnel”, ect. Having items Myron was familiar with helped him settle down in the car and in the hotel room.
5. If you can, have someone sit in the backseat with your cat:
Admittedly, having Kieran in the back seat while I drove, and vice versa, sucked. However, it let us control Myron’s situation better. For example, Myron hated his carrier and would howl every time we put him in it. For our sanity, we would let Myron out of his carrier while driving. Note, every time we stopped for gas or at a hotel, we would return him to his carrier for safekeeping. Basically, anytime a car door needed to be opened, Myron was “put away” in his carrier for his safety. Once we started driving, we locked all the car doors, and let Myron out of his carrier. He immediately calmed down. During this time his harness and leash remained on. The harness and leash helped Kieran and I control where Myron could go in the car. For example, we did NOT want him to wedge himself under the car seat, it would have been impossible for us to get him back out. Myron didn’t mind the harness and leash as long as he remained out of his carrier. He would either sleep on the blanket next to us or curl up at our feet.
This may not be needed with your cat though. I have heard stories of other cats who actually prefer their carriers, so they are perfectly content being in the backseat, chilling in their carrier. If you have time to practice driving your cat on short errands, you’ll hopefully figure out what kitty likes best before your long drive.
6. Have a routine at the hotel:
Kieran and I made sure to keep a routine, as best we could when arriving and departing the hotels. Everything we didn’t need in our hotel room for Myron, or ourselves, was kept in the trunk. Everything we needed for the hotel was packed in the passenger seat. When we first arrived at the hotel, we would secure Myron in his carrier, despite his vocal protests. Whoever was driving usually checked in, while the other person would stay in the backseat with Myron. Once we had our hotel key I would take Myron to our room while Kieran guarded our bicycles which were fastened to a bike rack on our truck. Once I brought Myron to the hotel room, I would let him out of his carrier behind a chair, or inside the closet, with the door open, so he could quickly find a safe place to hide. Next, I would grab his food, water bowl, and litter box and set them up in the room. Once Myron was completely taken care for, I helped Kieran offload the bikes, and we took turns bringing our belongings to the room.
Once the car was unpacked Kieran drove off to find us some dinner. I made sure to stay with Myron in the room, instead of exploring whatever town we landed in, to ensure Myron was as comfortable as possible. I assumed he was more comfortable having me around, then being left alone in a strange place. I’m sure other cats don’t require treatment like that but Myron is easily spooked, so I did anything I thought would make our trip less stressful for him.
The noises of the moving vehicle alone can frighten your cat, let alone blasting your favorite music in the car. If you are not the one driving and you insist on loud music, use your headphones. Unless your cat is the most docile creature on the planet, really loud music will add unnecessary, extra stress on your cat.
8. Don’t spill coffee on your cat while he/she is still in their carrier.
Dude, I spilled coffee all over Myron. Luckily, the coffee was lukewarm and not scalding hot. I was carrying Myron in his carrier in one hand, and coffee in the other. When I approached the hotel door, I tried to balance the coffee on top of his carrier so I could open it. Bad move on my part. Within seconds of me opening the door, the coffee tipped over, and all of its contents spilled on Myron’s back. Holy fuck was he PISSED. Can’t say I blame him. I bought him extra toys and catnip as my penance, so sorry little buddy. 🙁
If you DO spill liquid all over your cat, make sure you pack a towel and paper towels. I rushed Myron to the car and immediately lifted him out of his carrier. I used the towel to dry Myron off and the paper towels to mop up the coffee in his carrier. The towel and paper towels are really handy to have on a road trip anyway. We had no idea I would be a dunce and spill coffee on our cat, but we did bring paper towels with us, just in case Myron got sick or had an accident.
9. Research the web for pet-friendly hotels:
This site was great. You can pick a state, then a town, to look for a pet-friendly hotel in the area. Kieran and I knew Myron would only last 8-9 hours in the car per day, so we did our best to map out which town we would spend the night in. The majority of the towns we stayed in had several pet-friendly hotels to choose from, so we didn’t need to book any hotels in advance. However, if you know you are traveling through a desolate/remote area, you may want to check the website first to ensure the town your crashing in can accommodate your cat too.
10. To tranquilize or not tranquilize your cat:
If your cat is really ornery, and you’re thinking about a tranquilizer, talk to your vet before your trip. I heard/read even a small amount of tranquilizer can harm your cat, so Kieran and I opted not to drug Myron.
Our vet supplied us with Feliway wipes, which we only used on the interior of Myron’s carrier. Since Myron wasn’t in his carrier for the majority of the car ride, I’m unable to say if they were helpful or not, however, I’ve heard good things. I also bought calming treats which Myron LOVED and gobbled down. I can’t honestly say if they worked or not either since Myron’s demeanor didn’t change enough for me to notice, however, he was relaxed enough to sleep in the car the majority of the day. Click here to see the treats I bought.
I LOVE cat nail caps. You can buy them online or most pet stores. Myron is pretty good about using his cat scratcher, but he can be a little bastard and get all “scratchy” with it when it comes to rugs and furniture. Especially when neither Kieran or I am there to stop him. I didn’t want Myron to scratch up our hotel or temporary Airbnb when we arrived in Portland, so we invested in some soft nail caps.
Myron isn’t so pleased the moment we put them on, but once they are on, he leaves them alone. He can scratch like normal and I’m relieved knowing he isn’t doing any damage.
12. Flea treatment
I think it’s a good idea to give your cat a flea treatment before you hit the road. You have no idea if other animals in the hotel have fleas, so you may have peace of mind knowing your cat won’t pick up any unwanted critters along your journey.
So those are the tips I have for moving your cat across the county by car. Obviously, every cat is different, so some of these tips won’t apply to yours, but we found they worked well for us, and especially Myron. Kieran and I were proud of our fuzzy little baby, he was a trouper.