Any pet owner will appreciate how stressful it can be to travel with your pets; however there are various ways in which this can be made a pleasanter journey for all.
Travelling with your cat
- The first thing to consider is a suitable carrier – ensuring that it is secure and big enough for your cat.
- Secondly, ensure your cat has some identification should they manage to escape their carrier. The best option would be to ensure your cat is microchipped as this is a permanent way of identifying them. If it’s your cat’s first journey then a collar and tag will be fine until a microchip is placed.
- Once these things have been organised, the next most stressful thing is getting your cat into its travel carrier – easier said than done! One of the best methods for this is to put your cat in backwards if it is a front loading carrier so they can’t see where they’re going.
- Familiarise your cat with the carrier and perhaps leave it in the house for a few days before they have to travel to get them used to it.
- Once your cat is in the car, please ensure they are secure and that the carrier doesn’t move around as this can be distressing for your cat. It may be worth putting the seatbelt through the handle of the carrier and covering it with a blanket.
Travelling with your dog
- Ensure you have an appropriate seat belt harness or crate for your dog to travel in, as some dogs feel less anxious if they feel more secure in the car. These restraint methods will also keep other occupants in the car safe during travel.
- It’s important to be aware of the laws involved in wearing collars and tags and also the compulsory microchipping which came in to force in April 2016. This is relevant when travelling in case your dog panics and tries to escape before or after the journey.
- For many dogs, the main reason they go in a car is a trip to the vets, hence it can be a stressful time for your dog. It is therefore recommended that you familiarise your dog and change the association that they have with the car. To start this process you can allow your dog to sit in the car whilst it is parked and sit with your dog throughout, providing praise and/ or treats. Once they’re happy to be in the car, you could also try taking them to the beach or the local park, so they will learn a trip in the car isn’t always a trip to the vets.
- Ensure the whole experience is positive for your dog.
Calming your pet
There are specific products available that mimic the pheromone a female dog releases to sooth her puppies after giving birth. The main one is called Adaptil. This comes in a spray form so that you can spray your car prior to a journey to help reduce your pet’s anxiety. For cats, there is a product that replicates the feline facial pheromone called Feliway, which provides reassurance to cats. Again this comes in a spray form so you can spray their carrier and your car prior to journeys to help reduce stress. Please speak to your practice for further information.
Conditions in the car
Some pets may travel better if there is fresh air or soothing music/ sounds in the car. If you’re travelling with a dog, ensure the windows are not open too much as you don’t want your dog sticking its head out of the window as this can cause risk of injuries to your dog’s head. Some dogs also feel safer in a crate and sometimes they’re better if the crate is covered.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to calm your pet they still may require medication. If this is the case, you will need to contact your veterinary surgery to arrange a consultation with a vet to discuss this.
Anyone can get travel sick, even cats and dogs. Most of the time this can be overcome with repeated short desensitisation journeys, ensuring that the trip is not just to take them to the vets, kennel or cattery. It may be worth initially ensuring your pet doesn’t eat a huge amount for at least 3 hours prior to the journey to reduce the risk of vomiting during travel. If your pet still vomits when travelling then there are anti sickness medications available from your vets.
Is your pet bonkers in the car? Are they showing signs of panting, whining and salivating? Then they are displaying signs of hyperactivity. If all of the above calming methods have failed then please contact your vets for advice.
Eyes on the road
Your attention should be on the road at all times, not on what your pet is doing. If possible, it is best to have a second person with you to help keep your pet calm.
Remember, you are not on your own. There’s advice at your local veterinary practice on ensuring a safe and calm journey for your pet, wherever your travels may take you.