My Cat Hates Car Rides – What Can I Do?

My cat hates car rides and this is stressful my cat and stressful for me. Watching the cat suffer from anxiety in the car and coping with coaxing an anxious cat into the cat carrier, all adds up to a stressful event.

You are not alone, and yet many people take their cats on long car trips. There is a solution. Not all cats hate car rides.

man with two cats both in cat carriers
Two cats ready for a journey!

Why Do Cats Hate Car Rides?

If your cat hates car rides and the cat’s only car journey is usually to visit the vet, the cat will quite likely be anxious. He has to cope with the car ride and visiting the vet, both stressful events in his mind.

Cats become anxious easily and any change in routine or an unfamiliar situation can unsettle a cat, even a cat who normally is quite placid.

It is also possible that the cat doesn’t like the noise of being inside the car, and for some cats, it may also be the movement.

The cat may also be reacting to any stress that you might be showing. The saying – Keep Calm and Carry On – really is appropriate in this situation.

Some cats can suffer from motion sickness. Observe your cat to see if he displays any of the indicators, which are further explained in the article from VCA.

excessive vocalization (loud meowing or howling), pacing and restlessness, excessive licking of lips, excessive drooling, lethargy or inactivity, vomiting, diarrhoea


How To Help Your Cat Get Used To Car Rides

What can we do to help the cat get used to car rides?

Let’s make any journey in the car with the cat as stress-free as possible. It might even become enjoyable.

My cat hates car rides may soon become, drum roll – my cat loves car rides.

Some or all of the following points may apply to your situation.

1. Emotional Issues – Is That You Or The Cat?

Cats can become anxious in seconds and it can take a long, long time to calm them again, so a calm demeanour is essential.

Thinking along the lines of the poor cat is not helpful. We can almost reinforce the idea of my cat hates car rides, without actually meaning to do that.

Use a soft, calm voice when talking to the cat.

Some people prefer to go to a veterinary clinic that only treats cats, so no dogs will be there.

There is one located near us called – The Cat Hospital.

You may be surprised to find a cat only clinic near you.

2. Is The Cat Carrier Up To The Job?

Ensure the carrier is sturdy, stable, and easy to carry.

Is your carrier old and heavy or has it become hard to open the latches? Get a new carrier. It will be well worth it. The door and any latches, should be easy to open and won’t give the cat a fright when opening and closing.

A front opening plus a top opening is preferable.

A removable top is ideal because the top can be removed while at the vet. The cat can stay in the lower half of the cat carrier, while the vet begins the examination.

This is particularly helpful for sick cats, or elderly cats or cats that are fearful.

Make sure that you’re familiar with the way the carrier is put together, so that you are not struggling on the day of using the carrier for the first time, with unfamiliar latches.

Some cats prefer to be covered with a blanket while others prefer to see out.

A standard sized carrier will be appropriate for most cats. You should be able to carry the carrier easily with the cat inside without it being too cumbersome.

Consider a larger carrier if your cat is a large cat breed.

standard two tone cat carrier
This is a standard cat carrier. Become familiar with using the clips so that there is no fumbling about when the cat is anxious.

3. Encouraging The Cat Into The Cat Carrier

This is a step-by-step process. Start at the beginning and keep on going until the cat is okay with the carrier.

Don’t rush the process.

To begin, leave the carrier with the door open for the cat to explore on his own, just as he might explore a cardboard box.

Place a blanket or towel or something similar that is familiar to the cat inside the carrier.

Make sure that the carrier is in a safe location out of the way of traffic and young children but somewhere that the cat frequently accesses.

If possible the carrier should be in a quiet place where the cat feels safe and secure.

Put the carrier in a warm place as cats gravitate to warm places.

The carrier needs to be stable, any unexpected movement may scare the cat.

Have a look around your home and find a good location.

Leave the door open to tempt the cat inside. Leave the top off completely.

Place treats or cat grass inside the carrier. When the cat first enters the carrier immediately offer another treat.

You can even offer some meals inside the carrier.

Use a feather toy to entice the cat into the carrier. Let the cat catch its prey every so often.

Once the cat has some familiarity with the carrier, the door can be closed and the carrier covered with a blanket.

Cats like this security and it may calm an anxious cat to have the carrier covered with a blanket.

It may take several weeks of training for your cat to feel safe and secure with entering and exiting the carrier.

Now onto the next step which is putting the cat and the carrier into the car.

4. Now Get The Cat And The Cat carrier In The car

Let us assume that the cat is now used to being in the carrier with the door closed and a blanket or towel over the top.

Take the carrier to the car with the cat inside and secure the cat carrier with a seatbelt.

Close the car door. Leave the cat in the car for one or two minutes, and then remove the carrier and go back inside.

Increase the time the cat is left in the car. Eventually, go for a short ride.

Use a pheromone if you think it is needed.

TIP Check that the handle of the cat carrier is in good condition and not cracked. Don’t necessarily rely on the handle to pick up the carrier. A safer way may be to carry the box from underneath. The handles have been known to break, and if this happens, it will certainly cause distress for everyone.

Cats actually do like a secure, closed container. We know what they are like with boxes, so being in the cat carrier is not going to feel cramped for them.

From an early age, take your cat in the car, properly secured in a carrier so that the cat becomes used to the sensation of car travel. It will then be associated with a normal thing to do and not necessarily just when a trip to the vet is needed.

No Carrier? How About This One?

The Petco Cardboard Cat Carrier is a ventilated and economical way to take your kitty to the vet and anywhere else where the cat may need to be transported.

This convenient cardboard box cat carrier is easy to assemble and disassemble and has a comfortable built in handle.

We may need a temporary cat carrier for all sorts of reasons, and this cardboard cat carrier is a good solution. To make the handle last longer, try wrapping it with duct tape for extra strength.

As explained, use a pet blanket or towel folded inside the carrier and have some kitty treats at hand, to persuade kitty to enter the box.

Synthetic Pheromone To Calm An Anxious Cat

A synthetic pheromone can be used to calm the cat. A pheromone is used when a cat is stressed, fearful, or generally anxious.

It is used to spray onto surfaces, e.g. bedding, to relieve symptoms of stress and send calming messages.

Some veterinarians use a pheromone in the clinic to coax an anxious cat back into the cat carrier.

Spray the pheromone inside the cat carrier and specifically onto the folded towel or blanket 15 to 30 minutes before using the carrier for travel.

Feliway is a synthetic product that mimics natural pheromones.

 Calming Pheromone
cat in a cat carrier in a car

Choose The Best Kind Of Carrier For Your Cat

Both hard sided and soft sided cat carriers can be used with seatbelts.

The main difference between the two cat carriers is a rigid construction, as opposed to the soft construction.

Rigid offers more protection from unseen circumstances such as heavy objects or being squeezed into a space that is too small.

Rigid Construction Cat Carrier

Soft Sided Construction Cat Carrier

Some cats do not like the instability of being carried in a soft sided carrier, particularly if they shift their weight.

In this case, a rigid floor structure like that found in a hard-sided carrier would be preferable.

my cat hates car rides- pinterest image

Emergency Trip In The Car For a Scared Cat

A situation may arise where you have to take the cat to the vet but you have never used the carrier and the cat does not want to get into the carrier.

How are you going to get the cat into the cat carrier in a timely fashion? Follow the steps outlined below:

1.First, get a bath towel. This will avoid the situation where you are likely to get scratched by the cat.

2. From behind the cat, use the towel to totally cover the cat.

3. In one fluid motion, scoop up the cat with your hands under the shoulders and your arms extended firmly along the body of the cat.

The towel will naturally fold underneath and the cat will be enveloped.

4. Immediately place the cat and the towel into the carrier.

Before you start this procedure, ensure that the carrier is placed with the door open or the roof off.

Any delays with messing around trying to undo latches and the cat will in all likelihood escape, possibly disappearing and out of reach.

This video shows the technique perfectly. It is all about the timing with no hesitation.

Many people have to take their cats across the country or elect to go on road trips with their cats, so there is a way to make it okay.

Watch the video for the perfect technique. See below.

I love this story about this guy and his trip around Australia with his cat. It shows that cats can travel, whether that is a short journey or a long one.

I know, two videos, but all together they are just over 3 minutes and both are well worth watching.

It does take time for the cat to adjust and for you to feel comfortable with the procedure.

The instructions and tips for success may seem lengthy but they are not really when tackled bit by bit.

Randomly choose a time to practise putting the cat into the carrier. Even if you just go for a short car ride the cat will become accustomed to this happening. When you do need to go to the vet, it won’t be a major drama.

Give it time to work.

vector - two cats reading
If it makes you happy, I’ll get into the carrier. A few treats and my blankie, please.

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