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Road Trips with Cats: How to Stay Safe and Alive

Updated on December 31, 2012
Henry dreaming of the day he'll get out of this contraption.
Henry dreaming of the day he'll get out of this contraption. | Source

One of the worst decisions I ever made was when I took my cat on a road trip from the hot desert of New Mexico to the golf-cart infested world of an Atlanta suburb.

I had to quit my own stable line of work in order to take a risk on a sales job, which I felt compromised my ethics and security. It was very depressing to transition from regular, cash-in-hand income to unemployment once again. The economy has not been very kind to this English major.

So, I took a trip. I packed my car, changed my oil, and drove 1,400 miles. It wasn’t an option to leave my precious cat for that month, so of course, I brought him along.

The trip itself was wonderful. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated after spending so much meaningful time with my family. Honestly, I’m lucky I even made it that far.

*Update: Even more proof that calming treats kick butt!*

I just moved from Albuquerque, NM towards the D.C. area and of course, Henry came with. After the experience last October, I was ready!

Day One:

I drugged the heck out of that cat (nothing dangerous)! He slept all day, and was good enough to ride out of the crate int he evening.

Day Two:

I gave him half as many treats, and he was an absolute angel. For long trips, calming treats are essential!

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Henry looked dapper in his neon green harness.
Henry looked dapper in his neon green harness. | Source
Not a happy kitty
Not a happy kitty | Source
Finally by his mom, Henry was still very unhappy and stressed.
Finally by his mom, Henry was still very unhappy and stressed. | Source
A partial view of the set-up. There was a crate on the left, comfy yoga mat on the right, can of food, harness, and comforter.
A partial view of the set-up. There was a crate on the left, comfy yoga mat on the right, can of food, harness, and comforter. | Source
An unhappy cat perched upon a comfy pillow
An unhappy cat perched upon a comfy pillow | Source

To prepare

First, I ordered a cat harness, borrowed a huge, comfy dog crate, and set up my car as a cat paradise. I even arranged the harness in a way that allowed him to move around safely. I even brought our home comforter and ice cubes made from his normal water so the transition would be less trying. He had a can of his favorite food and his toys. I brought treats and everything I thought he could ever want.

Two Days of Hell

Everyone says cats cry on road trips, but I figured my easy-going fellow would be different.

He wasn’t.

After 6 hours to Amarillo, I finally stopped to get gas, go to the bathroom, and find some way to manage my miserable pet.

Henry meowed and howled the whole time to no end. He was miserable and nearly strangled himself several times by trying to climb on top of me or under my feet while I drove.

I stopped often to try to calm him down and suffered from deep scratches up and down my arms.

He became so insistent that the only way I was able to get him in a safe place was to spray him several times in the face with water. He sulked away and his in the comforter until we arrived. The trip over was far worse than I could have imagined and I don’t know how I didn’t crash from lack of sleep due to his insistent crying during the night at the hotel or from his attempts to climb onto my face.

There was no way I would let this happen ever again.

I felt terrible for the way I had to treat him and the misery through which he went. I researched and planned ahead for the two day venture back and I came prepared with calming treats.

Calming treats were my saving grace. They contain tryptophan, chamomile, ginger, and a few other cat-safe ingredients. Two tablets will calm a 15 lb. cat for around 12 hours.

On our way back, Henry slept like a baby each day and was an absolute gem. I would let him out of the crate on his harness and he slept either in the sun or in the blanket all day long. He was very comfortable and even purred!

It didn’t matter what else I packed. It didn’t matter how much I prepared. It didn’t matter how many drives I took around town trying to get Henry adjusted to being in the car.

My love for him didn’t make him feel any better once we got on the road.

Calming Treats: A Must Try for Road Trips

For anyone faced with the challenge of traveling with a cat, I highly recommend purchasing natural, calming cat treats. There are many brands and varieties, so look around for the best option for your animal.

This will make your animal happy and it will also make you much, much safer.

*The brand I used was Calming Aid with Ginger (the green and gold package; #2 on the list of Amazon products).*

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      What a sweet cat! I so enjoyed your story and you were brave in your attempts to train him for a cat ride.

    • rmcleve profile image
      Author

      Rachael Cleveland 5 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      Thanks, teaches12345! He's a very loving boy otherwise. We've since reconnected despite our differing opinions regarding car travel.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I am chuckling over your statement. Thanks for the fan mail and I am so glad that we have hooked up here as well. Enjoy your evening, my friend.

    • VoiceInUniverse profile image

      VoiceInUniverse 5 years ago from Johnson City, TN

      Bless his little heart! My cat and I drive all over the nation, and he is as good a traveller as you could want in a cat. PetPet has racked up over 8,000 miles so far! The only problem we've ever had was when I got stopped at one of those little traps, and a police officer looked through my well-packed car. PetPet thought he was going to jail. Bless him. He calmed down pretty quickly once we were rolling again. I have many photos of *PetPet Not Caring*... about the Grand Canyon, the Meteor Crater, Las Vegas at night... lol. He didn't care. Fun hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • rmcleve profile image
      Author

      Rachael Cleveland 5 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      Haha! I love the idea of the looks of utter boredom upon feline faces at these majestic sights. They're so good at showing how they feel!

      Thanks for posting! I'm going to go ahead and follow you, VoiceInUniverse.

    • Kallaikoi profile image

      Kallaikoi 5 years ago from Albuquerque

      Traveling with a cat presents a lot of issues that seem intractable but this breaks it down into doable steps that would calm the nerves of the traveler, and therefore the nerves of the outward bound cat.

      Also, lovely photos.

    • Perry the Cat profile image

      Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

      I travel with my mom as well. She works for FEMA and we go to disasters. Tornado season is ramping up and in June: Hurricane Season. we'll be posting when we go.

      Perry

    • mvaivata profile image

      mvaivata 5 years ago

      This was a really neat story. I see why you couldn't leave your kitty behind, but I can't imagine bringing my own on an extended trip -- he would lose his mind. The treats, however, seem pretty promising.

    • rmcleve profile image
      Author

      Rachael Cleveland 5 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

      I enjoy hearing about others' cat travel adventures! It sounds like there is still hope for Henry to become a car-lover!

    • profile image

      girltalksshop 5 years ago

      It is good to know they have travel aids for cats. : ) Thanks for the inspiring hub. Found it to be useful and interesting. Loved the video too!

    • RichieMogwai profile image

      Richie Mogwai 4 years ago from Vancouver

      This hub is so amazing, thanks for sharing. I'm sure your cat appreciates the experience as much as you do.

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