How to Stop a Cat From Freaking out During a Car Ride

As most cat owners know, taking your feline friend on a car ride is a challenging endeavor. Car rides are a stressful experience for many cats. Cats typically prefer environments that are familiar to them. Also, the noisiness, unfamiliar smells, and fast-moving pace of cars create anxiety for cats. However, there are some things that you can do to help your cat relax, calm down, and stop freaking out during a car ride. 

How can I help my cat calm down during a car ride?

Four cats sitting on a car engine
Cats on a Car Engine | Inna Borodayeva/Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Whether you’re going to the veterinarian or driving on a cross-country trip, riding with your cat doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, as described by Pet Health Network. Follow these tips to help your cat calm down during a car ride:

  • Familiarize your cat with the travel carrier and car
  • Safely secure the travel carrier in the car
  • Play with your cat before a car ride to tire it out
  • Take short car rides with your cat
  • Minimize food intake before a car ride
  • Talk to your cat or play relaxing music

Familiarize your cat with the travel carrier and car

Cat going for a car ride in a travel carrier
Cat in a Travel Carrier | Inna Borodayeva/Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

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Buy a high-quality travel carrier that can comfortably fit your cat. Before placing it in the car, allow your cat to get familiar with it. Put some food in the carrier. Throw your cat’s toys in it. Create a positive association for your cat. 

Also, before you take your cat on a car ride, allow it to get familiar with your car. Place your cat and the carrier in the car, and take its toys, a blanket, and other familiar things along. Cats fear the unknown, so the more you can familiarize them with new things, the less anxiety they will experience. Cats have an especially strong sense of smell, so if they have familiar smells in the carrier and car, it will make things easier.

Safely secure the travel carrier in the car

As tempting as it might be, don’t allow your cat to roam freely in your car. This is dangerous for both you and your cat. If your cat gets down by the brake pedal or accelerator, it could cause an accident. Also, it’s helpful to place the cat carrier in a location where you can have visual contact with your cat. 

Play with your cat before a car ride to tire it out

Play and run around the house with your cat to tire it out before a trip. If your cat is tired out, it’s more likely to relax and sleep during the car ride.

Take short car rides with your cat

Before embarking on a long car ride with your cat, start small with short trips around the block. It won’t be as overwhelming for your cat, and it can gradually get acclimated to the experience.

Minimize food intake before a car ride

Like humans, cats can be susceptible to motion sickness during a car ride. Help reduce the chance of this by minimizing food intake before the ride. Minimizing food intake also means that your cat will be less likely to need to use the litter box.

Talk to your cat and play relaxing music

Your cat loves the soothing sound of your voice, so make full use of it during the car ride to calm it down. Also, lower the stress level of your cat even further by playing relaxing music. Some music, like the selection above, is specifically created for cats with the use of frequencies that are calming to them.

Follow these tips so that your cat won’t freak out during a car ride. While it may be impossible for your cat to get completely comfortable for your trips, you can at least make it a less stressful and overwhelming experience.

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