General Question

gambitking's avatar

How do I tend to my cat on a 16+ hour drive?

Asked by gambitking (4171 points ) August 30th, 2011

Driving from Texas to Colorado will be taxing enough for me, but I have no idea how my cat is gonna handle it!

I’ve got a cat carrier, ‘training pads’, food, water, disposable litter boxes, calming spray, a harness and a leash, and i’m taking my kitty on a 16 hour drive (two 8-hour hauls with an overnight stay in the middle).

The overnight stay will be easy, but how do I handle the feeding, potty breaks and watering of my animal, much less everything else on such a long stretch of a car ride?

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17 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It sounds like you have everything you need but unless you have another person in the car,you will need to find a way to keep the cat from under your feet while you are driving or escaping from your car when you stop.
I have two cats that have gone for 12 hour trips in the car.They use the litter box and seem to enjoy looking out the window at the scenery.I am lucky they are calm:)

marinelife's avatar

Just make sure your cat can’t escape the car. If you stop for a meal break, stop in the shade and leave the cat in the car to use the littler box.

Carly's avatar

If you stop every 2–3 hours at a rest stop you might be fine. The only thing that I would worry about is how your cat will react to being in such a small space for a long time. When we moved from So-cal to Nor-cal (about an 8 hour drive) my cat whined for the first whole hour, which totally freaked out my mom. By he (the cat) finally calmed down.

syz's avatar

An 8 hour drive is manageable. If she hasn’t traveled with you before, be careful not to feed her a big breakfast in case of car sickness. You might consider stopping at mid-day and sitting in the back seat with her, giving her an opportunity to eat, drink, and use the litter box. But in general, I wouldn’t disturb her too much during the drive – hopefully, she’ll conk out and sleep during most of it (if she seems particularly stressed, covering her crate with a towel may help her feel more secure). Don’t leave her at large in the car! It’s dangerous for both of you, and she could crawl into the seat springs or even under the dashboard.

Be very, very careful to avoid giving her opportunities to escape. Make sure that she is safely secured any time that the door is open or when transporting her to and from the hotel room. Cats lost in strange surroundings are pretty much never recovered.

WestRiverrat's avatar

First make sure you have a leash and collar or halter that your cat cannot escape from. Then you can walk the cat at rest breaks, or even just let it lay in the grass outside the car.

Talk to your vet, they may give you a mild sedative that will help your cat sleep, this can be helpful if you discover the cat gets motion sickness.

Make sure the cat is leashed or securely crated before you open any doors or windows. Crate the cat while driving. If you have to make a sudden stop or swerve, your cat is safer in the carrier than loose in the cabin.

syz's avatar

@WestRiverrat I strongly disagree. Unless she is one of those rare cats that is trained and calm on a leash, taking her outside of the car puts her at risk for escape and will only increase her stress, especially if there is traffic and activity nearby. It’s much safer for her to stay in the crate.

If you do decide to use a sedative, test the dose at home first to see how it affects her. The most commonly used is acepromazine, and it has a huge therapeutic range, so you need to know how it will affect her. And in all honesty, the bad travelers that I’ve used it on are still bad travelers, they’re just drunk and unhappy (and puking and pooping and howling, all drunkenly. Which is kinda funny for the first 10 minutes, and then it sucks).

We see some truly tragic cases at the emergency clinic- believe me, she’s better off just staying in the crate and then spending some quality time with you in the hotel room.

Coloma's avatar

Most likely the cat will eat and drink at night when you are stopped and resting, or in a hotel or whatever your night time situation. I remember moving with my cats years ago on a 10 hour drive and it was very hot. They refused to drink and I was worried about them, but, they were fine. You can lead a cat to water but…. haha

Cats don’t drink like dogs, so maybe give them some of their favorite canned food for an extra dose of water and as a treat on the road.

They will be fine, not happy, but fine in the end.

Be VERY careful about not letting them escape or get out of their harnesses. I have read lots of lost pet ads where people have lost their animals while traveling. So sad.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’ve done two long road trips with a cat in the car, both about 12 hours straight. I put her litter box in the back on the floor, wedged between the bottom of the seat and the passenger seat. During breaks for food/gas, I’d put food and water in her dish on the other side of the back seat, and just took my time in stretching, etc. She never got in my way, and if she had, I would have put her in the carrier.

As for taking a cat into a hotel, please make sure that it is a pet-friendly one. As a former hotel manager, it’s disappointing when a guest sneaks their pet in, especially a cat, and then loses money due to the next guests’ complaints, as well as putting it on out-of-order to deep clean it.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@syz, we moved with our cats from southern Illinois to northern Wisconsin, then again from Wisconsin to N Dakota. I am just going by what worked for us. And both our cats suffered from severe motion sickness, so it was no fun.

john65pennington's avatar

Use duct tape to strap a Depends on him/her and hit the road. A baby bottle of water and a handful of Meow Mix to feed on the road by hand.

gambitking's avatar

@Ped, yeah I’ve already scoped out the pet-friendly hotels

@Coloma – Great idea on the canned food.

@john65 – you didn’t specify what size of depends….or duct tape.

Do any of you cat-lovers know how often a cat should drink water?

lillycoyote's avatar

Maybe I’m some kind of a monster but I transported my two cats from Austin to the Philadelphia area, 3 eight hour days, but I got two big carriers, one for each of them, put some comfy bedding in for them and then lightly tranquilized them. I honestly think it was what was best for them. And no chance of them running away. At the end of the day, the dose lasted about 8 hours, I brought them into the motel, let them out of their carriers and they stumbled around for a bit and were soon fine. They ate, got water, used the cat box. I just thought they would be better off tranquilized. I kept a good eye on them, during the course of the day and they weren’t scared or uncomfortable. Then I’d give them their little kitty valiums in the morning and off we’d go. It didn’t hurt them. Very low dose. Anyway, that’s the way I did it.

chyna's avatar

You might find some suggestions in this thread. :-)

mrrich724's avatar

When we had to take our cat across the country, the vet gave us a pill. We shoved it down his throat and he slept most of the way.

Granted we took a plane and it was only 6.5 hours. . . but in boarding, take off, flight, and landing, he literally meowed ONCE!

We couldn’t have done it without that little pill.

john65pennington's avatar

Gambitking….small in all the above.

JessicaRTBH's avatar

I’d get some type of medication from a vet. My cats were sedated and did just fine on a long drive. My vet told me that the stress would probably be more dangerous than a one time pill.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I found this ad for water dishes that has a chart explaining how much water cats and dogs should have.

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