by JaneA Kelley
Are you planning a road trip vacation this summer? Why not bring your cat!
A few years ago, I drove across the country with my cats. You may think this experience was something like the Ninth Circle of Hell, but the truth is, it was pretty easy. That was because I prepared well and stayed calm.
As with all successful endeavors, preparation is key. If you’re undertaking a cross-country move, as I was, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind. I know I did! But I also knew that as stressed and preoccupied as I was, I had to do a few things to make sure all would go well:
Get your cats vetted and microchipped. You want to make sure they’re in good health, and if your cats get lost, a microchip can be a lifesaver—literally. Also, make sure you get copies of your cats’ veterinary records so that your vet in your new home will have them. Having your cats’ records will help if somebody gets sick during your trip because the vet you see will have information about your cats’ health history.
Get your car checked out and tuned up. Not only could this save you from a breakdown, it will help you save gas and ease any stress you might have about your car.
Plan your route. Figure out how long you can drive before fatigue sets in and search for pet-friendly hotels near those stopping places. I stayed at La Quinta hotels along the way because of their reputation for pet-friendliness. Red Roof Inns are also pet-friendly, as are more Sheratons and Super 8 Motels. Call ahead to confirm that pets are allowed before making your reservation.
Have some cash on hand. There will be tolls along the way, and you don’t want to have to pull off the highway and stop at ATMs to get cash.
Bring food and water they’re used to. Before I left, I bought a case of canned food with pull-tab tops and a couple of gallons of bottled water from my home state. The last thing I wanted was gastrointestinal upsets during the trip!
BYOLB—Bring Your Own Litter Box. Even pet-friendly hotels don’t have litter boxes for you, so bring one of your boxes with some lightly used litter of your cats’ favorite brand.
Once your car is packed and the cats are buckled in, it’s time to hit the road! Here are some tips to help you along the way.
Be ready for some complaining. My cats cried and grumped through the twists and turns in cities, but once we got on the highway, they curled up in their carriers and went to sleep.
Keep the volume down. I love to listen to music when I drive, and although I like to listen to it loud when I’m alone, I kept it down while the cats were in the car. Kitties have very sensitive hearing, and if it’s loud for you, it’s positively painful for them.
Keep the smells at a decent level, too. Some car air fresheners can clobber you with their scent. If it does that to you, think about how your cats’ sensitive noses react. And it should go without saying that if you smoke, you shouldn’t do so in the car with your cats inside. Secondhand smoke is bad for your cats’ health.
Be ready for your cats to hide. My cat, Siouxsie, was perfectly happy to spend her time out in the open, but Thomas and Bella always headed for a hidey hole as I was packing up. I almost tore a hotel room apart trying to find them during one stop. (Of course, I put the room back together once I found them and put them in their carriers.)
Be courteous. Leave the hotel staff with a good impression of pet owners. Don’t leave your hotel room filled with grungy cans and cat waste. Use a trash bag to contain litter box deposits so the hotel’s cleaning staff doesn’t have to deal with them.
Once you reach your destination, let your cats get used to your new home. If you’re moving furniture into your home, keep the cats in a bathroom so they don’t escape from your house while you’re otherwise occupied. Then, relax and tell your cats you’re home now and there won’t be any more long road trips.
Have you done a road trip with cats? What tips do you have from your experiences? Please share them in the comments!
JaneA Kelley is the webmaster and chief cat slave of the award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect. She is a contributing author for Catster.com and Catster Magazine, and Board Secretary and Social Media Manager for Diabetic Cats In Need. When she’s not writing about cats, she enjoys fantasy role-play games and other nerdy pursuits.