How to road trip with dogs or cats
Traveling with a dog or cat? Here are tips to consider when driving with pets.
Whether you're moving across the country or going on vacation, you may end up taking a road trip with your cat or dog at some point. With careful planning, you can help your pet have a comfortable experience in the car. Here are our top tips.
Tip #1: Talk to your veterinarian
You know your pet better than anyone, but it helps to get an experienced medical opinion before you hit the road.
We recommend asking your veterinarian questions like:
- Is my pet healthy enough to travel? If not, how can they get in tip-top traveling shape?
- Is medication (dog or cat sedation for travel) appropriate? This is especially important if your pet gets anxious, carsick or isn't used to traveling in the car.
- Does my pet have a microchip and updated tags? If you have an indoor cat who doesn't wear a collar, ensure they have a collar and tag for the trip.
- Can you print or email me a copy of my pet's vaccination records and health history? Take these with you on your trip just in case you need to see a veterinarian. This is also a good opportunity to make sure your pet's vaccines are up to date.
Tip #2: Bring the dog or cat essentials
Traveling with dogs and cats requires a surprising amount of, well...stuff. Luckily, you can find travel-specific pet items that collapse or fold up to take up less space.
- A collapsible food and water bowl
- Extra pet food and bottled water
- Extra cat litter for cats
- Extra poop bags for dogs
- Their favorite toys
- Treats to reward them for good behavior
- Cold-weather and rain gear for dog walks in less-than-ideal weather,
- An extra leash for your dog
- A travel pet carrier. If you have a cat, for example, you can find travel cat carriers that have a litter box or enough room for a litter box
- Towels to dry them off (quick-drying towels are even better)
- Pet-specific cleaning spray, just in case
- Paper towels and plastic bags to clean up messes
- A printed copy of your pet's health history and vaccination records
Bonus tip: Make sure your pet always wears a collar with updated tags — and never let them off their leash when outside.
Tip #3: Acclimate your pet to being in the car
The more time your pet has to get comfortable with being in a moving car, the better. If your pet isn't used to car travel, take a few weeks (or as much time as you have) to get their paws wet with this new experience.
- Take a "mini road trip." Take your cat or dog in the car for a couple of hours at a time and reward them with treats afterwards.
- When you're at home, put out their travel carrier for them to smell, and include treats inside so they build a positive association with their carrier.
Bonus tip: This step is especially important for cats. You'll want to acclimate them to wearing a collar with tags, using a different litter box (while the car is moving) and maybe even using a harness to go to the bathroom and get exercise. While you may not be able to replicate the in's and out's of a full-on road trip ahead of time, you can take steps to ensure your cat is familiar with what they'll wear, how they'll do their business and where they'll hang out.
Tip #4: Be mindful of pet safety in cars
We put together tips on how to drive safely with pets, including how to secure a dog in the car with a leash. Also make sure you plan ahead so you never leave your pet alone in the car.
- Call ahead to make sure your stops are pet friendly.
- If you need to leave the car, leave your pet with another adult in the car with A/C running — and make sure they have access to plenty of water.
- The AVMA recommends never leaving your pet alone in the car, as temperatures can climb 20 degrees in 10 minutes.
Tip #5: Plan your pit stops
Figure out ahead of time where you can stop to take your dog for walks and potty breaks (or give your cat's litter box a nice cleaning). Most rest stops have pet-friendly areas and allow humans a great place to take a bathroom break, too.
Tip #6: Find pet-friendly hotels or other accommodations
Where will you stay? A campground? Vacation rental? Hotel? No matter where you catch your zzz's, you'll want to check their pet policies before you book. More specifically, look through their website or call the property to check:
- Do you allow cats and dogs?
- Do you charge an extra fee for pets? How about for two or more pets?
- Do you have breed restrictions?
- Anything else I should know about your pet policy?
Bonus tip: If you're planning on staying at a friend or family member's place, make sure their home is pet-friendly: For example, if your cat likes to nibble on houseplants, ask your friend or family member to place plants in an area your cat can't reach. If they have other pets or kids, make sure your pet has a closed-off area of their own.
Tip #7: Give yourself (and your pets) extra time and grace
Our recommendation for traveling with pets: Build flexibility into your travel plans as much as possible. You may not know how your pet will react to a road trip, so if you can, plan for extra pit stops, book hotels with no cancellation fees and pack extra pet food and water just in case.
Bonus tip: Expect the unexpected. Pets are experts at the unpredictable, and new and unexpected illnesses and injuries happen. Before you start your travels, talk to your State Farm® agent about how Trupanion can help protect your pets, or start your free, no-obligation quote online.
Have a safe (and fun!) trip
Your pet is your best friend, your sidekick and now your road-trip buddy. With careful planning, you'll help them enjoy — or at least tolerate — life on the road.
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