Pet Educate is sponsored by its readers. Please assume that all links are affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, we earn a commission - at no additional cost to you. This includes links to Amazon. This helps us to keep the lights on 💡

How To Transport A Cat By Car On Long Distance Journeys

It’s common knowledge that most cats despise traveling; unfamiliar scents, loud noises, and restrictive carriers can all cause additional stress on your cat. Furthermore, they can be pretty vocal about their distress which puts owners under intense pressure to get to the destination quickly! So does this mean that long journeys are out of the question? Surprisingly it doesn’t. Read on to find out how!

So, how do you transport a cat by car for long distances? To successfully travel long distances with your cat in the car, you will need to invest in a sturdy, large carrier or crate that is well-ventilated and can be securely fastened by a seatbelt. Ensure your cat can access a litter tray, as well as food and water. You should schedule regular stops on your journey to prevent your cat from becoming too stressed.

Many owners have successfully taken their feline companions on long-haul trips across the country; you just have to be organized!

And I’ll help you get there throughout the following sections.

How Long Can A Cat Travel In A Car?

Generally, you can drive for as long as you need to with a cat, as long as you schedule regular stops and ensure your cat has access to food, water, and a litter tray. You should try to plan your breaks about two hours apart but no longer than four hours, especially if your cats’ carrier is small. 

Large travel crates for cats are available to purchase from most pet stores and are much more suitable for long journeys than standard carriers. 

They also carry the additional benefit of being able to fit in a litter tray and allow your cat much more room to maneuver. 

Saying that, don’t be tempted to go for the largest crate available, as this will make your cat feel less secure and ‘slide’ around during the journey. 

Any crate or carrier you purchase must be well-ventilated to reduce the risk of overheating.

With all this in mind, this is the kind of crate you will want to buy from Amazon. It even comes with a travel litter tray included!

Cats can generally be kept in crates for longer periods than standard carriers if there is enough room for food, water, and a little tray; up to eight hours if needed. 

However, it is important to remember that all cats are individuals, so it is up to you as the owner to determine how long you think your cat can travel. 

You should regularly monitor your cat throughout the journey for any signs of distress, which include panting and excessive purring.  

Always remember that car journeys can be incredibly scary experiences for cats, so you should do everything you can to help them feel comfortable. 

This includes reducing noise levels by turning the radio down and keeping windows closed (unless it is a particularly warm day), adding blankets and familiar items to the carrier, driving carefully to avoid sharp turns or sudden stops, and talking softly to your cat to reassure him that everything is ok.

Special consideration needs to be taken for those cats that suffer from motion sickness or those with long-term health issues. 

For this reason, it is essential that you book an appointment with your local vet prior to any long journey, so you can ensure you have the appropriate type and amount of medication. 

Your vet will also check that your cat is fit for travel and that all vaccines are up-to-date. 

Additionally, you must have your cat microchipped before a long-distance trip, just in case the worst happens and your feline happens to escape!   

Sometimes, you may not have the luxury of taking regular breaks on a long trip. If this is the case, you will need to plan in advance to ensure you have everything your cat needs.

How Do You Travel Long Distances With A Cat In The Car?

The key to successful long-distance trips with a cat is preparation and ensuring that your cat remains calm at all times.

Carrier Familiarity

Cats will generally feel much calmer if they are already used to the carrier, which is why it is so important to train your cat to accept a carrier prior to any journey. 

Ensure you purchase your carrier or crate several weeks before the journey, and place it in a room of your house that your cat regularly frequents, so he can explore it in his own time. 

Treats and Toys

Consider adding favorite toys or blankets to the carrier to help your cat begin to associate it with positive experiences rather than negative ones. 

You can also give your cat treats when he approaches the carrier to reinforce the positive association. 

It can also be helpful to drive around the block a few times with your cat prior to the trip, especially if your kitty is not used to being in a carrier or crate for an extended period of time. 

Practice Drives

Different cats will react to carriers in different ways, depending on their personalities and prior experiences with carriers, so it is important to move at your cats’ pace when training. 

It can take several weeks for cats to fully accept the carrier, but the work you put in now will make journeys so much easier for you and your cat in the future. 

Safety First

NEVER allow your cat to free roam in the car when traveling. 

Most cats will become extremely distressed in this situation and may look for ways to escape. 

This can lead to the driver becoming distracted, which can easily result in an accident.

So, you MUST strap your cats’ crate or carrier securely with the use of a seatbelt. 

And wondering where to put the crate? On the passenger’s seat – that is generally best.

The best way to do this is to wrap the seatbelt around the carrier, then thread it through the handle before clipping it into the buckle. 

If the carrier is too large for the seatbelt to go around fully, you can use an elastic bungee rope to secure it. 

Pack Well

Aside from the crate, you will also need to consider what else your pet may need during a long journey. 

It’s a good idea to pack all these things well in advance to ensure that nothing is forgotten. 

Items include:

  • Cat food and treats. It is recommended that you try to stick to your cat’s usual feeding times as much as possible during long journeys. Cats are creatures of habit, so they will appreciate a predictable feeding pattern!
  • Small, sturdy bowls for food and water
  • Your cat’s favorite blanket or toy.
  • A litter box suitable for traveling, as well as spare litter and a scoop. You can also consider using litter pads as they are less messy than traditional litter but do make sure your cat knows what they are to avoid any toileting accidents. In addition, you may want to ensure you have a suitable container for any soiled litter or pads, just in case there is no bin available nearby.  
  • A non-slip mat can be placed in the carrier to prevent the litter tray from moving around too much during the journey.
  • A harness and lead can come in handy, as these offer your cat relief from the stuffy air in the car. However, you MUST ensure your cat is appropriately trained and be aware of any environmental factors such as loud noises or unfamiliar scents that may cause your cat to freak out when in the harness.   

When it comes to packing the car, make sure you allocate plenty of room for your cats’ crate so he doesn’t feel crowded amidst bags of luggage and numerous boxes! 

Your cat should take top priority. 

How Can I Calm My Cat Down On A Long Car Ride?

You can keep your cat calm by familiarising them with the crate, providing calming scents in and around the crate, and adding items for comfort.

All the preparation you will have done prior to the trip will go a long way towards keeping your cat calm on a long car journey. 

However, there are cats that will still struggle, especially if there are long periods between breaks. 

If you have a cat who suffers from a particularly prevalent medical condition that is aggravated by stress, or you have a cat with a very nervous disposition, it may be worth discussing the options of sedation with your vet. 

I need to stress that this isn’t the best option for all cats but can come in handy for more stress-prone cats. 

There are numerous options when it comes to sedatives for cats, so do ensure you speak to your vet to make sure you choose the best option for your cat.

For most cats, the best method for calming them (aside from training prior to the journey) is the addition of familiar scents. 

Cats have an extremely acute sense of smell, with 200 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, compared to only 5 million cells in a human nose! 

So, adding items with a familiar scent, such as your cat’s favorite blanket or a sweatshirt that smells of you, are great options for helping your cat to feel more secure in an unfamiliar environment. 

You can also purchase cat-specific scents like Feliway that mimic a cat’s natural pheromones to promote social confidence and reduce stress. 

Other options include:

  • Valerian is a potent herb that is very attractive to cats. It tends to cause cats to become more relaxed and playful.
  • Lavender is famed for its calming properties and works well at alleviating stress in cats.
  • Catnip is perhaps the most famous scent on this list, but do be aware that cats will react to this herb in different ways. Generally, it will invoke a sense of hyperactivity and enjoyment when inhaled, which progresses to a light sedative effect if ingested. 
  • Bach rescue remedy is a concoction of five different flower essences and can easily be bought from most pet stores. The essences work together to help lessen emotional extremes and can be administered orally to your cat or wiped over bedding items. 

Be aware that not all cats will react to these remedies in the same way, so it’s best to trial a couple of them over a longer period of time to work out which one is most beneficial for your cat. 

You can also consider covering your cat’s carrier with a blanket during the journey, as this will help your cat to feel more secure and ‘hidden’ from potential threats.

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Using The Bathroom?

Generally, you can expect your cat to need to poop at least once a day and urinate at least 2-3 times a day. However, this is only a guide, as each cat is different. 

During particularly stressful periods (such as being in a car), cats can hold their poop and urine for much longer, but it isn’t necessarily good for them! 

Constipation is a common problem in cats that have suffered long-term stress and can lead to further health issues if the problem isn’t resolved. 

So, if you find your cat hasn’t poop in 24 hours, it is important to get him to the vet as soon as possible.

The bathroom and how you handle toilet breaks are, nevertheless, the most challenging aspect of traveling with a cat.

If you have a large enough crate that allows room for a litter tray, then you shouldn’t need to worry too much. 

If, however, your cat is traveling in a smaller carrier, you will need to schedule regular breaks. 

It may also be worth carrying extra towels and cleaning items on the journey, just in case your cat poops out of fear along the way. 

Do not leave your cat in a soiled carrier for any length of time, as this can be extremely stressful on him.

Finally

Transporting your car by car on long distances can certainly be a challenge.

But thankfully there are ways to make the journey easier – for both you and your cat alike.

I cannot stress the importance of preparation ahead of time, though.

Getting a sufficiently large crate, ensuring your cat can become familiar with it, and making the car environment as calm and relaxing as possible are all essential here.

And the more your cat can be exposed to car journeys the better – so go for a few short drives here and there.

You may not want to, but by the time that long journey comes around – you’ll be much better prepared.

And you’ll better know how to behave and respond during such a journey.

Just never forget to take regular breaks!

While you may be able to go on for a bit longer, you need to think of your cat here.