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There’s nothing like hitting the open road. Windows down, coffee in a to-go cup, radio on, and your favorite shotgun rider: Fluffy the cat. That’s right! More and more cat parents are braving the roads with cats in tow, and lucky for us, there are lots of products out there to help make these road trips easier. Whether you are on vacation, heading to grandma’s, or taking a leisurely trip, we’ve got some great cat road trip tips and product recommendations.
Road warriors Ryan K. and Brooke B. share some of their cat road trip tips, which have two common themes: safety and comfort. With these ideas in mind, here’s what they have to say about hitting the open road with a cat at your side.
Cat Road Trip Tip #1: Safety First
According to cat road-tripping aficionado Ryan, the number one thing to keep in mind when taking a cat on the road is safety. Cats love to wander and curl up in inconvenient places (driver’s lap, near the pedals), which is great for stops but can be dangerous while travel is underway.
Cats also have that marvelous unpredictable streak—like making a run for it at the worst time possible, which can make road trips a little stressful.
Lastly, cats can be sensitive to temperatures, so you’ll want to be sure that the interior of your car is kept cool and comfortable at all times, and that you have a plan if you need to leave the cat in the car alone for any period of time.
Cat Road Trip Tip #2: A “Tail” of Two Cat Carriers
Ryan has a few harrowing tales with beloved sidekick Trini (short for Trinity), who road shotgun on several long-haul trips. “Cat carriers are a must-have accessory for road trips,” says Ryan, “but they only work if you remember to close the door!”
Carriers with an open door are a great solution while underway, but cats have minds of their owns, so they should be safely stowed before any doors are open. “Trini decided to make her run for it at a gas station in Ohio, and after a failed hitch-hiking attempt, was safely repatriated to the Honda Civic.”
When thinking of the right carrier for your trip, consider a few design details. Many pet parents opt for soft-cover carriers, as they are smaller to stow. (I used a soft case for my girl, Lucille, when she went on vacation from North Carolina to Vermont, and this is now Ryan’s go-to model for longer trips.) These can provide comfy caves for your cat and help to reduce any stress.
If you anticipate your cat might be in a carrier for longer times, or if you need a cave for multiple cats, you may consider a larger, more spacious plastic carrier (which, by the way, were preferred by road-trip warriors Gus and Rocky for their annual trips to grandma’s house). Some carriers come with solutions for feeding and watering, which are always appreciated while on the road.
Ryan and Trini’s Soft-Sided Cat Carrier: The Morpilot
This soft-sided cat carrier is designed to be portable. It comes with a couple of straps for easy carrying and even includes that plush bed. Like many cat travel accessories, it also comes with a foldable dish for water or food. You can leave the door open or closed for whatever situations the road presents!
Gus and Rocky’s Plastic Cat Carrier: The Petmate Two-Door
This traditional plastic carrier offers a bit more stability than the soft carriers, but it does take up a little more space, making it a good choice for road trips with two cats. It doesn’t fold quite as small as the soft carriers, but it can be broken down to half its full size for easy storage.
If your road trip includes a plane ticket home, this crate is approved for airline use. And if your cat does have an accident while en route, the design includes a well for urine or spilled water that will help to keep your cat dry.
Cat Road Trip Tip #3: Leashes and Harnesses
Some cats take well to leashes, and if yours is one of these, a leash with a harness is not a bad option for stops. My grandma regularly took her cat, Sam, for walks, whether on the road or around the yard. So cats can be socialized to leashes, even if they don’t adhere to the rules of the road the same way a dog might.
However, remember that cats love to roam with or without a leash, so a leashed cat while in the car may not be a great idea, as they can get tangled or stuck in odd locations. While on the road, we don’t need that stress!
Best Cat Leash: Rabbitgoo Cat Harness and Leash
This harness and leash combo is a good solution for any time you will be taking your cat outside for a pitstop. The harness is designed to be escape-free and easy to put on. It comes in a few sizes and colors.Shop on Amazon
Best for Big Cats: Cat Harness and Leash Set
This cat harness and leash set is an option for larger cats. It has an escape-proof design with reflective tape, Velcro, and a wicking material to help keep your cat cool. (I know… all cats are cool, but you know what we mean.)Shop on Amazon
Cat Road Trip Tip #4: Beds for Cat Road Warriors
As kitty road warrior Brooke B. will testify, if you don’t make your cat a bed that meets their standards, they will find one. While on a campaign trip to Pennsylvania, Brooke knocked on the door of one eager voter who had a litter of barn kittens looking for a new place to call home. Brooke traded some red, white, and blue stickers for one such kitten, now named “Frankie,” who was a hit on the campaign trail and also a great cat road tripper.
Frankie’s preferred sleeping arrangement was in the hood of a sweatshirt, which made for some awkward photo ops, but worked in a pinch. But for future trips, an adequate sleeping space is a must. “Beds help to put cats at ease,” says Brooke, “and a happy cat is a much better road partner.”
Brooke’s Favorite Cat Bed for Road Trips: Love’s Cabin Round Donut Cat Bed
Brooke and Frankie give these donut beds all the stars. For cats that like to curl up and snuggle, these offer that comfort without taking over your favorite hoodie. This bed is easy to pack and store, is washable, and can hold a cat up to about 15 pounds (Frankie approves).Shop on Amazon
Our Favorite Seat Protectors for Cat Road Trips: PetAmi Waterproof Pet Blanket
If you are anything like my husband, these combination cat snuggly/seat protector are necessary for car trips. These blankets serve the dual purpose of giving your cat a respectable sleeping space while also keeping cat hair off the seats. (If you have a serial kneader, these things are worth their weight in gold.) Best of all, they are washable and easy to pack and stow.
Cat Road Trip Tip #5: Cleaning
It’s always best to be prepared while on the road. Even when we do our best to give enough bathroom breaks, take the corners carefully, and feed the best quality food, our cats may make a mess while underway. I’ve found that being prepared helps to alleviate any unnecessary stress that comes with potty or carsick messes, and being a little bit organized makes clean-up quick and easy.
In addition to having a few plastic bags available for trash, here are a few good products. Cats have a mind of their own, and sometimes they don’t want to adhere to your bathroom schedule.
If you cat is prone to getting road sick, they may benefit from anti-nausea medication. If you are concerned about how your cat will handle the car, talk to your vet before you get on the road.
Best Car Cleaner for Cats: Resolve Ultra Pet Stain and Odor Remover
This pet stain and odor remover might be our best cat road trip tip. If you have any upholstery in your car or just need to freshen up your cat’s bedding, this is a great product. It can be used to spot clean carpeting, or to pre-treat before throwing bedding into the wash.
Best Portable Litter Liner: Fresh Step Drawstring Litter Box Liners
These litter pan liners are a must-have for road trips. They are a quick and easy way to dispose of litter while on the go. Best of all, they help to keep your travel litter box as clean as possible.
Cat Road Trip Tip #6: Travel Litter Boxes
I asked both Brooke and Ryan their number one stress with cat road-tripping, and they had the same response: Litter boxes. If there’s one reason why pet parents balk at road trips, it might be wondering how to manage the litter box. Similar to cleaning products, this is one of those areas that takes a little forethought and organization, but once you have a plan, it turns out that the litter box problem is surmountable. Luckily, there are several portable litter box options.
Ryan recommends a regular schedule for your cat, and offering a litter box or potty break more often than she may need it. “Sometimes it can be annoying to get the box out, but it’s far less annoying than the alternative.” Luckily, cats will often give you a few signs that they are ready for a pit stop, such as a tendency to roam around the vehicle or becoming more vocal than usual. “Some cats acclimate to using the great outdoors, but others, even when nature abounds, want their litter box.”
Best Portable Litter Box: Petisfam Travel Litter Box
Some litter boxes are designed specifically for travel, such as this portable litter box. I tested this box with my cat, Ms. Pickles, who feigned nonchalance, but when push came to shove, was more than happy to use.
For the pet parent, this is a convenient little box. It folds very small for travel but has very sturdy sides and is leak-proof. It works well for smaller cats and has a zip top to keep any mess contained. While it is washable, I would recommend using with disposable litter box bags for maximum cleanliness. It also comes with a small scoop and water dish.Shop on Amazon
Best Covered Travel Litter Box: Collapsible Portable Cat Litter Box
Shop on Amazon
If your cat needs privacy while on the road (here’s looking at you, Trini), this portable box is a great option. Your cat can either climb in the top (or “sunroof”) or enter the usual way. It provides a bit of privacy while keeping the litter very contained. It comes with a portable scoop, has sturdy sides, and is leak-resistant.
Cat Road Trip Tip #7: Climate Control
When it comes to maintaining a cool temperature, have a plan! Some newer cars have pet climate control, which allows you to keep the cabin at a safe temperature while making a quick trip into the store. If your car doesn’t have this feature, have a plan for making sure your cat is cool if in the car alone. Many states have engine idling laws, which may limit your ability to leave the car running.
One good option is a cat backpack, which will let you take your cat with you when you need to leave the car. We’ve found very few stores object to a covert kitty pack—and it can save you a lot of anxiety about leaving your friend behind.
Best Cat Backpack: Fat Cat Bubble Pack
The Fat Cat bubble backpack is one of the most popular on the market—we’ve tested it ourselves and can confirm that it’s a surprisingly comfortable way to get around with your kitty in tow.Shop on Amazon
Wherever your adventures take you and your feline friend, we wish you safe, happy travels on the road!
- How to Travel With a Cat (as Painlessly as Possible)
- The 7 Best Travel Litter Boxes For Cats To Go While on the Go
- Adventure Cat and Travel-Loving Dad Are Home Together Anywhere in the World