Do cats like riding in cars?
Most don’t—there’s just something about car rides that makes our feline friends go crazy. Maybe it’s the movement, and maybe it’s the confinement—either way, it can be tough to keep your kitty calm when the wheels start turning.
But if you must make that trip, you might be concerned about how to calm the cat in the car. After all, the last thing you want is your little friend to spend the whole ride stressing out or distracting you from the road.
How to Calm Your Cat in the Car
Since we can’t exactly ask our cats what would make them feel better on a car ride, we have to get creative. Of course, every feline is different, so you’ll want to experiment to see what works for you. But even so, a handful of potential solutions are worth a try—let’s find one for you!
Take a Short Test Drive
This is a crucial step if you’re taking a longer ride with your feline for the first time. If it’s never been in a vehicle before, the experience can be pretty overwhelming—and even more so if you’re going to be driving for hours on end.
So, before you hit the open road, take your cat for a short spin around the block. This will help ease them into the experience and get them used to the sensation of being in a moving car. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to assess how they react to being driven around. If they seem stressed, consider one of the other options on this list.
Play with Them Before Leaving
As much as the average cat hates car rides, they can’t do much damage if they feel tired from playing. So, before you get behind the wheel, try to wear your pet out a bit with some of their favorite toys. This will help them relax and maybe even fall asleep during the drive.
Of course, you don’t want to overdo it—if they’re too tired, they might end up grumpy for the whole ride anyway. But a little playtime can go a long way in making your cat feel more comfortable and open to being in a car.
Play Some Music
This one might seem a little out there, but some cat owners swear by it. Felines are known for being incredibly responsive to music, which often has a calming effect on them. Think of it like a low-key lullaby for your little friend.
If you try this method, it’s important to pick the correct type of music. Something with a slow, steady beat is usually best—think classical or jazz. And, of course, you’ll want to ensure the volume is turned down low enough so it won’t hurt their sensitive ears.
Be Mindful of the Temperature in the Car
Cats are notoriously finicky about temperature, especially when confined to a small space. They might start shivering and curling up into a ball to stay warm if it’s too cold. But if you crank it up too high, you might notice your cat panting in the car to regulate its body temperature.
Either way, finding a happy medium that will keep your pet in a reasonable temperature range is essential. If you’re unsure, go for something on the cooler side—it’s always easier to warm a cat up than to cool it down.
Anything above 75°F is generally considered too warm for a cat while going below 50°F is usually too cold. Whatever setting you choose in this temperature range should be enough for a pleasant car ride.
Pet and Talk to Your Cat
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re unsure how to calm your cat on the car ride, simply petting and talking to it is a great way to soothe it. In general, cats love attention—especially in the form of pets and reassurance.
So, while on a car ride, try to pet your cat every so often. And if it seems particularly stressed out, have a conversation with it in a soothing voice. This will help it feel more connected to you and remind it that it’s not alone in this strange situation.
How to Calm a Cat in a Carrier
Aside from being in the car, one thing that stresses cats out the most is being confined to a carrier. Imagine being in two of perhaps the least desirable situations for a cat—it’s no wonder they get so worked up!
But there’s hope. With some preparation, you can help your cat feel more relaxed in their carrier and ensure a safe and pleasant journey to your destination.
Introduce the Carrier Beforehand
Being stuck in an unfamiliar enclosed space is scary for anyone—it’s only natural that your cat would feel the same way. Getting them used to the carrier ahead of time can significantly affect how they react when the time to travel comes.
Set the carrier up in a room where your cat spends a lot of their time and leave the door open so they can explore it at their leisure. You can put some of their favorite toys or treats inside to make it more inviting.
Use Familiar Smells
In addition to the visual and spacial aspects of the carrier, the smells can also be very off-putting for kittens of any age. But there’s a simple solution to this problem—just put the carrier inside your home for a few days before leaving to let your cat’s scent rub off.
Another way to make the carrier more comfortable for your cat is to put a piece of their bedding or a used article of your clothing inside. This will help them feel more at ease, knowing they’re surrounded by everyday items that smell like home.
Try Soothing Pheromones
Pheromones are a specific type of scent that animals produce to communicate with each other. And while we might not be able to pick up on them the same way our pets can, they can have a very calming effect—especially for anxious cats.
Since they’re used to natural pheromones from their mother and littermates, it can be helpful to use a synthetic version to help them feel more relaxed in unfamiliar situations. You can find these products in most pet stores or online.
If you’re looking for the easiest way to calm a cat down, spraying some pheromones in the carrier before putting it inside is certainly worth a try.
Make Custom Cardboard Enclosures
One particularly interesting way to make the carrier more comfortable for cats is by adding tailor-made cardboard enclosures. This involves cutting up pieces of thick cardboard and taping them together to create sides and a roof, which you can then attach to the inside of the carrier.
This adjustable design offers a unique way of making the carrier feel more secure without confining them too much. Plus, it’s an inexpensive and easy solution that can be made in minutes and dismantled as necessary when you’re done.
Add Blankets to the Surrounding Areas
On top of making the carrier itself more comfortable, you can also make sure your cat is as relaxed as possible when they’re in it by adding some extra padding around them. Putting a blanket or two on the sides and surface of the seats where the carrier is placed can help reduce the chances of motion sickness.
Keep It Near You
Being in your cat’s eye line can help them feel more secure and less alone. We often underestimate how important this is since we’re used to being around other people all the time and don’t realize how much it comforts us.
So, try to keep the carrier close to you when you’re driving. This way, your cat will be able to see you and feel reassured that you’re there with them.
What Should I Bring on a Long Road Trip With My Cat
When you’ve taken all the precautionary measures before heading out, you might be curious about the travel accessories and items you should bring to make the journey a more pleasant experience for your kitten.
Food and Treats
Ever been hangry? It’s not a fun feeling. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of the journey is going—if you’re feeling famished, it will color your entire experience.
The same goes for your cat. It will be cranky if it’s hungry, no matter how much you try to calm it down. So, make sure to pack enough food and snacks for the duration of the car trip and some of its favorite treats. This way, you can reward them for good behavior or help them forget about their anxiety with a tasty snack.
Cats are notoriously curious creatures and love to explore their surroundings. And since they can’t exactly do that when trapped in a small carrier, you should bring some travel toys to help keep them entertained.
A classic catnip mouse is one of the best toy options for this purpose. These little toys are lightweight and easy to pack, and most cats can’t resist the allure of this potent herb. Just be warned that a little goes a long way with catnip, so it’s best to give them the toy in small doses.
While spraying pheromones before car journeys can be helpful, it’s not always enough if the anxiety levels are high. If that’s the case, you can also use pheromone wipes on your cat while in the carrier.
These wipes are impregnated with synthetic pheromones that take effect quickly and can help your cat feel calmer in just a few minutes. They’re also easy to use—simply wipe them on the inside of the carrier, being careful not to get any on your cat.
Scratch Control Spray
It’s not uncommon for felines to get fussy or anxious when they’re being transported and may start to scratch at the carrier in an attempt to escape. If you’re worried about your cat damaging their carrier or car upholstery, it’s worth using a scratch control spray.
These products are easy to find and work by making the surface of the carrier unpalatable for your cat. Just follow the instructions on the bottle carefully, as some sprays can be harmful if used incorrectly.
If all else fails and you’re left with no alternative but to give your cat medication, there are a couple of possibilities. If you’re unsure of what to give cats to calm them down, your vet might be able to prescribe a specific product based on your pet’s history, which can help to take the edge off their anxiety and make the journey more bearable.
Some over-the-counter options are also available, such as pheromone collars or diffusers, or even high-quality CBD oil for felines. These products work by releasing small amounts of calming pheromones into the air, which can help soothe your feline and reduce its stress levels.
Should I Leave My Cat With A Sitter at Home
If you’re planning a longer vacation or have other passengers in your vehicle, leaving your pet with a cat sitter at home might be a better option. This way, you can focus on driving, and your cat will be in a familiar environment where they can go about their routine.
Pet parents are often concerned about whether their cat will be able to manage without them, seeing as separation anxiety among pets is so common. And while it’s normal to feel a little anxious about leaving your furry friend behind, cats do just fine on their own in most cases.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t cats like car rides?
There may be multiple reasons your cat doesn’t enjoy car rides—from breaking their daily routine and leaving their home to sensory overload from all the new sights, sounds, and smells. It’s also worth noting that some cats simply don’t do well in small spaces, which can make being confined to a carrier quite stressful.
What can I give my cat to calm him down?
Medication is certainly an option, but there are also some natural calming aids that you can try, such as pheromone diffusers or collars. Consider using a scratch control spray or some sort of toy that dispenses treats to help keep your cat occupied during the journey.
While it’s not always possible to avoid car journeys with your cat, there are things that you can do to make the experience more bearable for both of you. Looking into how to calm a cat in the car before your next trip helps reduce their stress levels and makes the journey a lot smoother