Long Road Home: Traveling With Your Pets!

Patapsco Valley View

Volume 18                             December 2013

            Does the thought of taking your cat to the vet fill you with a sense of dread, despair, and a stomach churning nausea? Are you worried about your cat’s condition, or is the thought of a thirty minute drive to the sounds of “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”, sung by a ten pound cat, in a contralto rivaling an opera star, and just as loud?
            For those of you who have shared this ‘wonderful’ experience we ask you to consider the following: Does anyone take their cat to a ‘cat park’ for a fun romp with friends? How many cats make weekly trips to Pet Smart to pick out their own food or socialize with people?
            Exactly! Cats are collected into a tiny plastic container, put in a very large, very noisy THING that vibrates, and then travel with a very uptight and nervous ‘human’ to a place that has strange noises and scents of other animals.
            Why wouldn’t a cat enjoy traveling?!
            So, a few tiny tidbits to help make this a more relaxed experience for both of you.
           Make sure that your cat doesn’t see the carrier as a Folsum Prison cell. Leave it out where your cat can see it on other days instead of just when it’s time to see the veterinarian.
           Put a soft, comfy blanket inside and even some toys or catnip to draw the cat inside to play and feel comfortable. LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN! If your cat still won’t go in, take the lid off and try again. Tossing some cat treats inside sometimes helps to win over your cat.
          There are some pheromone sprays (Feliway) that can help make your cat feel less nervous and you can spray some into the carrier about a half hour before your trip so that the spray is dry but still effective.
          So, now your cat isn’t terrified of the ‘carrier’ anymore, but you still have to get her into the car. Once your cat is comfortable in the carrier, you can attempt to move her around the house, releasing her and playing with a favorite toy at the destination, (like the laser toy, voted best toy by many cats).     Then comes the car trip.
          First, for a few sessions, take your cat out to the car, turn it on, and just let it run for a few minutes, return to the house for a play session. Then make very short trips followed by coming home to the comfort and fun of playtime, or treat time, or grooming time… do something that your pet truly enjoys.
         Each time you do this, increase the duration of the trip until you are traveling the same amount of time as the average vet trip.
         We can’t promise that this will lead to a cat co-pilot for a cross country car trip but it should help to reduce some of the stress for many cats and their humans. (Some cats will still need medications to make the experience possible, but many cats can be acclimated to travel safely and comfortably.)
         Most dogs usually have more pleasant experiences related to that CAR!!!! Yeah Road trip! However, getting your dog used to the car can take a little work too, and may require some clean up until they get acclimated to the experience.
         Starting your dog out with a crate to travel in can make for a safe trip for everyone. Nervous dogs bouncing around in the car can be a distraction for the driver. In the event of an accident a safely contained or restrained pet can avoid damaging and even deadly injuries or even the experience of becoming lost after escaping from a damaged car.
         Many dogs like to hang their head out of windows or ride in the bed of a pick up truck. This looks cute but road debris can be tossed up at your car quickly and a sudden bump can cause your dog to loose his balance and even fall out of the truck.
         Dogs that get sick in the car from anxiety need to be taught that riding in the car is not a bad thing, so read those cat tricks above as they can work for your pup too.