Top Tips For Travelling With Pets In Your Car

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What you need to know to ensure pet safety when on the road

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For many of us, a cat or dog in the car makes for a stressful situation, as a pet doesn't always make the most natural traveling companion. Yes, they're fun and amusing, smart and intuitive, and most of all, unconditionally loving, but oftentimes, uncontrollably so.

Of course, we want to have them around us all the time, but unless you've gone out of your way to make them comfortable with commuting, it could be a little bit of a struggle having your furry friend with you in the car. And, not all pets are accustomed to traveling around on the back of your truck. Unfortunately, traveling with a pet can be quite the chore, even just getting them in the car can be difficult. On top of that, it can be rather dangerous, too. Fortunately, there are many ways one can prepare for traveling with a pet safely. Using the travel safety tips below, you, and your furry friends can explore the world with peace of mind.

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How to Prepare for Transporting Cats/Dogs in Cars

Before anything else, it is important that you familiarize your pet with what it is like traveling in your car by regularly getting them into the vehicle and starting with shorter journeys. This will help get them used to the space, the movement, and vibrations of driving around. Here are some other things one can do to make traveling with cats or dogs in a car more pleasant for them and yourself:

  • Feed them beforehand: You should feed your pet three to four hours before the commute so that the food they've eaten is properly digested by the time you start the commute. If you feed them right before or during transit, it's likely that they'll throw up everything they've eaten - unpleasant for you, and for them!
  • Take their favorite item: If your pet is very excitable or is just a nervous traveler, take their favorite toy or blanket along to distract or comfort them during the journey.
  • Bring their favorite food: If you're going on vacation, be sure to take a bag of your pet's favorite food with you if you're not sure whether or not the destination stocks the brand, or on longer journeys where a pit-stop for lunch/dinner is likely.
  • Pack some tasty treats: To keep your pet satisfied throughout the journey, pack their favorite treats which you can give them when you stop to stretch your legs, or as a reward. This will help them behave on trips and have them feel like a 'good boy/girl'.
  • Schedule regular stops: Like you, your pet will also want to stretch its legs after a long journey. It's good to take regular stops on your journey and even go for short walks and spend some time in the sun. This also helps them to expend some pent up energy and answer the call of nature, which will help them settle back in once you're ready to get back on the road.
  • Medicines: If you have a particularly anxious pet, or previous experience has shown that they just don't travel well, you may consider medication to make it less stressful for them. Never use medications meant for humans, though, and seek professional advice if this is required. Sedatives and tranquilizers need to be prescribed by a veterinarian because there are many risks and side effects.

Various Ways to Secure Your Pet

There are several ways one can safely and comfortably secure their animal in a car, but you should always research the cat and dog restraint laws in your country or state before simply unleashing your pet into the back of the family minivan. You will have to try a few methods to see what best suits your pet. That said, here are five different restraint methods you could try:

  • Pet crate: When it comes to choosing a pet crate, you will want to make sure that the size of the crate is appropriate for your pet. They should be able to stand, sit, and turn around within the crate. You can choose a pet carrier for your car depending on the size of your pet, but generally, it's advised to go for large over small, unless your pet is tiny.
  • Harness/seat belt: Designed for transporting high-energy dogs in cars, zipline harnesses restrain your pets but also give them some freedom to move about - something that's ideal for a young puppy. A zipline cat or dog car harness attaches to the seat belt and should be used in conjunction with a cat/dog harness designed for car travel.
  • Trunk guard: A trunk guard gives your pet the freedom to move around in the trunk area and will prevent them from being thrown forward in the event of a collision. You will need to find one that fits in your car's trunk, as it will need to be secured on all sides to essentially create a cage for your car. These are especially useful in wagons with spacious cargo hatches.
  • Backseat barrier: If your pet wants to be closer to you than all the way in the trunk, consider getting a barrier that separates the front and back seats. These are ideal for larger dogs as it gives them space to move about while still restricting them from the front seats.
  • Backseat hammock: If you have an old dog that would prefer to lie down during the commute, consider getting a dog hammock for your car. This will allow your pet to rest easy as they won't fall off the seats during acceleration and breaking.
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Other Necessary Precautions

Here are some important things to consider before traveling with your pet:

  • A nylon collar is recommended for use during transit rather than a choke-chain as this could easily get snagged on something and result in your pet choking.
  • When you travel with your cat, be sure to use a safety stretch collar to prevent your cat from getting caught on hooks, branches, or other protruding objects.
  • If there are health concerns or your pet is elderly, it's advisable to get a vet to check them out before, and perhaps even after, the journey. They could prescribe medications as and when needed.

What to Do in Case of an Accident

Another important consideration when traveling with your pets is their fate in the unfortunate event of an accident. Here is what you should ensure is present in the case of an accident:

  • Identification: Your pet should always have some form of identification on it such as an ID collar or chip - preferably both.
  • Have your pets medical papers at hand along with records of vaccinations, a photo, and a written description, for just in case it gets lost.
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Nifty Pet Travel Accessories

Now that you and your pet are ready to explore the world in safety and comfort, here are some nifty travel accessories to make the journey even more pleasant:

  • Seat covers: If you travel with pets in your car often, it's definitely worth investing in some seat covers to keep them protected from pet hair, nail scratches, saliva, and the potential for being messed on.
  • Cooling pad: It's important to regulate your pets' temperature; you can do this by slightly opening a window to provide fresh air. You can also use the air conditioning, or you use a cooling pad. An open window could jeopardize the safety of your pet and having the AC on affects everyone in the cabin, so a cooling pad seems optimal.
  • Portable water bottle: A regular bowl won't work whilst traveling as the water is most certainly going to spill out into your car. A non-spill water bowl could also work, but either way, ensure you have water on hand.
  • Pet activity tracker: You wouldn't want to lose your pet while on vacation or at a rest stop, so having an activity monitor on your pet is a must. Of course, if you have your pet chipped, all you have to do is ensure you have the app on your phone.
  • Animal first aid kit: There are many kits designed specifically for animals. Having one in your car could be handy in the event that your dog or cat gets a minor injury on a walk.
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FAQs

Should I feed my pet while we are driving?

It's generally not a good idea to feed your pet in the car, especially on long journeys. A lot of pets tend to get motion sick in cars and will end up vomiting out everything they've recently eaten, which is the last thing you'd want in your brand new Hyundai Tucson. This is why we suggest feeding them three to four hours beforehand and give them small treats during your regular stops.

Why do dogs whine and cry in the car?

Dogs whining in the car is natural and there are several reasons why they could be doing it, ranging from excitement all the way to fear. All you need to do to quell their whining is give them some good attention to calm them down. Don't try to play with them or get them more worked up. Soft pats and a soothing tone should do the trick. And remember, the more often they travel comfortably without fuss, the more they will be accustomed to it. If you're a regular traveler, take your puppy or kitten along while they are small so they become used to the car.

What should I do if my pet doesn’t enjoy being in a car?

Consider leaving your dog at home with a caretaker, be it a family member or house sitter. There are also boarding facilities for both cats and dogs, though they can be rather pricey - and remember that pets also experience separation anxiety. If travel is unavoidable, ask your veterinarian for some safe medications to keep your babies safe and calm.

Is putting on a dog harness difficult?

If you can get your animal to sit still in the vehicle, it shouldn't be any trouble at all. Car restraints for dogs are generally easy to figure out and adjust; if it's your dog that's making it difficult, try to familiarize your pet with the harness outside the car. Rewarding them with treats when they accept the harness is also a good way to get them to accept the process. If your pet just does not want to be restrained by a harness, try a transport cage or box, they will provide just as much safety for your dog. A dog car seat could work just fine for a small breed, too, though it may not be as safe.

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