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Feline Friday: Ask Amy-Why Cats Hate Cars

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"Nice long as it doesn't move, Mom..."

I’ve blogged about traveling with pets before. Chances are, you won’t have to worry about cat plane travel with your kitty-kids, but every pet must at least visit the veterinarian for well pet exams.  My Seren-kitty is due a vet visit this month, too, and she’ll be wearing her brand-new cat-designed Thundershirt to see if that helps calm her down (stay tuned for a review!).


A halter and leash gives you something to grasp, other than slinky-kitty.

Kitty crate training goes a long way toward helping cats feel more comfortable about the car ride. But to date, I’ve found a number of things help keep my cat calm for the ride. I sit in the back seat with her while my husband drives to the clinic. Should we have a fender bender, the airbag from the front could crush a pet, so the fur-kids always ALWAYS stay in the back.

Meanwhile, Seren wears a halter and leash. The snug fit of the halter uses the same principle as the TTouch body wraps, which I suspect are what prompted products like Anxiety Wrap for dogs and the Thundershirt. I like having her secured with a halter, though, for something to grasp if she gets wiggly, even though she stays in her carrier.

By scheduling appointments so dogs (spit!) aren’t around when we enter the clinic, and so she’s seen immediately, Seren has less time to angst. I’ll also admit that part of choosing this clinic was they’re less than a 10 minute drive away–again, less time for the kitty to get wound up on the ride. It’s awesome, though, that our veterinarian not only takes great care of the Magical-Dawg but also has managed to get a hands-on full exam of my 7-pound devil-kitty without blood-letting.

Do your cats tolerate, love or hate the car? How do you manage the trip? Please share your tips! The Ask Amy video answers the question, but what else would you add? For those of you with kittens, now is a GREAT time to teach car-etiquette to prepare for the adult feline life (kittens tend to be clueless about such things!). You’ll find crate training tips in Complete Kitten Care.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

17 responses »

  1. Nice job, Amy! It’s soooo important to get cats conditioned to their carrier (“I’m used to traveling on my own four feet, thank you very much…”). After all, would a horse owner expect their equine companion to trot right into it’s trailer and say “giddyup?”

    Making the carrier a nice place to hang out and be well, serene….is how you do it.

    Here’s a great video from CATalyst Council that shows you how to make your carrier cat-friendly: Cats and Carriers: Friends, not Foes -

  2. Our cat is actually pretty good in the car and at the vet. It’s being near the Jack Russell she doesn’t like. I can’t blame her, though. The dog loves to snap at her in a ‘playful’ way. Ugh. Other than the vet, our cat doesn’t travel in the car, but when she does she’s in the back in her crate and that seems to keep her calm. I like the harness idea and think I’ll get one for her since she like to hide in the very back of the crate. Thanks!

    • Tameri, I love the harness for Seren–the figure-8 works well and is hard to wiggle out of. Premier pet products also has some good cat harness products.

  3. Simba’s cat carrier is ALWAYS out in the house, so it has become her “safe spot” any time she’s nervous. That makes it WAY easier when the weather gets bad. Anubis we have to fight with, but Simba, all you have to do is set her at the entrance and she goes right in. Easy to just pack her up and go. She doesn’t much like the ride itself, but she seems to like seeing new places. We have no basement so I used to go sleep at my parents’ place when there were tornado warnings at night, and she thought the “sleepovers” were great. One of her old litterboxes is still at their place just in case. Of course, she also thinks I drive her all the way to the vet’s office just to get petted (except that last time when I enlisted their help in trimming her claws – took 2 vet techs, me, and James to hold down the paws, and a 3rd vet tech to actually do the trimming. LOL You’d think we were killing her)

    • Karyl, the nail trims can be pretty traumatic for the fur-kids! Magic HATES his on the front paws, but doesn’t mind the back paws. Seren doesn’t really care at all. It helps to “pay” ’em for each nail with a treat, LOL!

  4. Our dear kitty doesn’t mind traveling to the vet as much once I figured out he likes to be able to look out the window. (The discovery came en route to the emergency vet one night when he was fascinated with the sights while I was holding him.) I suspect that it is too dangerous to hold him (just as you don’t hold a baby while traveling in a car) so I adjust the pet carrier on my lap so he can peer out the window if he wishes. (His uncle used to yowl just about from the time we switched county lines and he did almost as much until I figured out the window viewing.)

    Thanks for the tips on halters as we need one.

    Last week someone was concerned about a kitty (Henry?) that was attacking another kitty. Seems like Henry wants to be alpha cat and is maybe scared himself. Was he a feral kitty before being in his new house? I hope the owner will stick with him and comfort him even though for awhile it means that one human will have to hold him while the other one comforts the one(s) he may attack. He can probably IMHO be a good kitty for them but it takes time and attention I think. Seemed like a good idea to keep him in a separate room for a period of adjustment too. Maybe use those techniques you mentioned one time to get them acclimated but very, very carefully? And even if he has to live in a separate room like if it took too long that would be better than what might happen if they let him go. So many kitties that could with time and work be great, great pets get put to sleep when given up as kitties that require only houses. I am so glad we stuck with ours who had the psychotic breaks. He was a wonderful, wonderful boy and we still miss him but he lived a happy life with us. We also learned from him more on how to deal with future ferals including our current dear (who is most probably his ggg+nephew).

  5. The Siamese with the blue collar looks like its from royalty. Beautiful post.

  6. What a pretty Siamese girl! I have two 20-lb Maine Coon mix brothers. Getting them to the vet together takes me and my hubby an afternoon off work, but they don’t like to be apart (so far, they’ve only needed to go for shots and checkups).

    They are very good with the vet, since they were weaned by humans and don’t mind being handled. But the yowls in the car. It’s pitiful, even when I sit in the back with them. Thank goodness our vet is only two blocks away!

  7. Like Karyl, I leave my carriers out at all times but I also feed some of my cats in their carriers which means ALL of the cats want to go in them. I haven’t been quite so good with my present group of cats but in the past I would take my cats with me everywhere (no, not shopping) so they were used to traveling without seeing the vet. They also started car trips as kittens but even the adults can get used to it.

    My problem is my dog – he gets car sick. Actually my last dog was the same way. Blizzard still likes to get in the car but I think that’s just because he wants to go where I go. Maya was the same way even though she was arthritic and it was painful for her to get in the car……………but enough about the dogs 🙂

    • Car sick dogs…one of the “natural” vets in my book recommends ginger snaps. Ginger helps soothe upset tummies. Just beware it makes a mess of white dog fur if they drool.

  8. We cant wait to hear your results, please keep us posted after you give it a try:)

    -Thundershirt Team

    • Thanks for sending! Seren’s appointment is next week. At 14+ she’s an old-lady kitty, very healthy up to now, but (I fear, based on signs) she may be in early renal failure. So this will be a stressful exam for her AND for me. Hey, do you make Thundershirt for humans? 🙂

      • Oooh that’s a good question. They have those hugging machines for autistic people… and I know *I* like to wrap up tight in a blanket when I’m stressed, so I’d TOTALLY go for a human Thundershirt. LOL

        • So far, Seren wears the Thundershirt without doing the flop-over-kitty, and instead walks plantigrade (slinking, rear heels down) as if she can’t stand up. She gets over that immediately when I scratch her tail, though. A week away, she should be fine and I’ll get a good read on how it helps or not.


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