Getting Cats Used to Traveling

 
 
Paper Trained
by
Scott Sandeman, D.V.M.
 
Q.)  We plan on spending winters in Arizona from now on and would like to get a pet that can travel well.  We used to have a Schnauzer that loved to ride but my wife thinks a cat would be less work.  Do most cats like car rides?  We will be traveling in a RV if that matters.
A.)  We see reactions to traveling in our pets that ranges from abject terror to those that find a car ride the most relaxing thing in the world.  Determining how a particular cat or kitten will react is difficult but certain steps can help raise the likelihood that your feline friend will enjoy a trip to The Grand Canyon State!
Kittens should be handled daily for as little as 5 minutes a day starting at 3 weeks of age to socialize and expose them to people.  This gentle handling should be done more than just one person –adding a little cat nip or feline pheromone spray to the activity can help as well.  With acceptance of people as their friend, the transition to traveling is easier.
All cats should be restrained when traveling even in an RV.  To make the trip safe for everyone, teaching your kitten to accept a carrier is paramount.  Start by leaving the carrier out for inspection and then encouraging your friend to enter by leaving treats or special toys inside.  Coating the the inside with the pheromone spray can also ease the anxiety of that confined space.
Once your kitten accepts the carrier, short trips with plenty of treats and positive reinforcement can make for a pleasant journey.   Gradually increase the trips but keep up the rewards to make sure it’s always a fun time for kitty.
Adopting an adult cat is rewarding but there are certainly some unknowns about how that cat will handle car rides.  For some, they will already have had the experience and little or no training will be necessary. For cats that are more anxious, training to accept the carrier and short rides like a kitten will be necessary. 
In some situations, no amount of training or acclimation will calm jittery nerves and some type of anti-anxiety medication may be the humane way to travel.  For many cats, therapy with a drug like gabapentin can be effective and make for a more enjoyable ride for all.  
 

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