Advice for traveling with cats

chi83August 13, 2011

Hi all,

I'm moving from Boston to southern California in two weeks. I have to drive my car with my three cats and I will be alone. They have done the drive from Florida to Boston okay but this is longer.

I think they will be fine but my question is what to do when I need to take bathroom breaks. I will do it as quickly as possible, and I'm only talking the most urgent of human necessities and not a leisurely lunch. But obviously I don't want to leave my car running at a random rest stop but I also don't want to harm my cats.

Will they be ok in the shade/open windows for a few minutes? Just long enough to go to the bathroom? Has anyone dealt with this before? I don't really know what else to do. Flying isn't an option and I don't have anyone who can go with me. I hate to leave them alone in the car but I really can't think of any other options. This will be the end of August so it's still warm.


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I think you will be ok, but maybe do some 'cool car' timing experiments before the trip :) I know when I stop to get gas (takes about the same amount of time as your proposed bathroom trip), the car is still comfortable when I get back in. With cats in the car I'd open the sunroof instead of the windows though just for security from potential break ins at the rest stop. The cats will be crated?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 8:58AM
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Yep they will be in their carriers all day with a puppy pee pad in each in case they need to pee. I will let them out at night in the motels with litter and food/water. I worry about them not drinking during the day but I don't see how I could get them to drink as they will be really stressed. They do well though and usually just sleep the whole time after an hour of complaining. :)

It'll be mostly middle-America on this trip so I don't think there will be excessive lines to use the bathroom. I'll try to find shade and crack the windows. I don't have a sunroof unfortunately. And if I anticipate it'll take longer than a few minutes I'll readjust my plans and try somewhere else.

Thanks for the feedback!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 9:21AM
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I never did this but I'd try to get the car freezing cold before I stopped to keep it cooler if it's a hot day. I really don't think you're going to have a problem stopping for a few minutes. Find a rest stop that's not overly crowded so the ladies room doesn't take too long. If you're going to eat there too, you can do the ladies room, go back to check on the car, run the air conditioner for a few and then go back for food. You can also make plans to stop before the worst heat of the day. I liked Cynthia's suggestion on testing out the air conditioning before your trip. You're a brave sole! Getting mine to the vets is enough of a car trip for me - lol!

Do they like canned food? You could get a little water in them that way. They also have those rabbit water bottles that hook to cages. I don't know if a cat would lick them or not, though.

Good luck and let us know how it went when you land!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 10:32AM
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I've traveled with pets and if you're going to be driving 8+ hours every day I would suggest you get as large a crate as possible for each cat and then add a small disposable litter box. The boxes are sometimes found in the small animal section of the pet store. Crates can be stacked in the back seat, as long as you can get them level, so don't hesitate to do that to maximize your room.

Like kittens mentioned, I would also feed them canned food and hang water bottles on the cages if you think they'll use them. If they don't usually eat canned food, start them on it a few days before you leave so their system can adjust to it.

A quick trip to the bathroom shouldn't be a problem, but if you think you may need to leave the car longer, buy a second key for the car and lock it while it's still running. I've done this with my pets for short trips into a quick mart.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:31AM
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I would love to get bigger crates but I have a little 2 door coupe and my cats are 20, 17 and 10 pounds so they pretty much take up all the space already. I can't double stack them or I risk blocking my back window and I don't want to do that for safety sake. Right now I put one on each seat in the back and strap the carriers in, and the third goes on the passenger seat. The carriers are too big to put on the floor.

I'm going to use the pee pads and bring baby wipes and hope for the best. :) No one pooped in the carriers on the way from FL to Boston so I'm hoping for the same now. They eat canned food exclusively so at least they'll be getting some hydration in the morning then again at night so that should be ok temporarily. I don't think they will drink anything while they are in the car but it's only for a couple of days and they will have 12ish hours to recuperate in the motels each day.

Thanks again for the suggestions! I'm dreading it so much, haha.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:52AM
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Oh and it's really not as bad as I thought it would be when I made the FL to Boston trip in terms of cat hysterics. They cry for the first hour or so then all 3 of them eventually fell asleep for the rest of the day. I guess the car motion was soothing maybe and they only woke up if I stopped. I didn't sedate them and it was fine. The pain is going to be sneaking them in and out of motels and getting them in the carriers each day. :)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:59AM
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Have to ask........what do you mean by 'it's only for a couple of days'? Last time I drove from Miss. to Calif. it was a 5 day trip.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 6:35PM
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It'll be 4-5 days. I plan on driving about 12 hours a day so that will be 4 days if everything goes smoothly. 12 hours is a lot, I know, but it's manageable and I've done it before. I only drive during the day but I get early starts so I can turn in for the night before it gets dark. I suppose I should have been more literal. :)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 8:19PM
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I have driven across country with cats before. You will want a couple of things with you. First a wire crate is better than a cardboard box since you can secure it keeping the cats secure when you get in and out of the car. A cardboard box is the next best thing - it is dark and safe. You will want to park your car in the deepest shade possible if you stop. Better you being hot and walking to where you need to go than the cats overheating.
Make certain they have water and a bit of food - which they probably ownt touch.
We had a kitty litter pan in the car as well with a thin oil drip pan underneath everything in case someone misses.
The cats were fine at Motel 6 (we did not declare the cats) they were let out and were allowed to roam the room without constraints. They were fine. Yours will be fine as long as you park them in the coolest place possible when you need to get out to stretch or make a pitt stop. If there is no shade, dont stop - look for a better place.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:07PM
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I guess leaving the car running and having a spare key is too tempting to do? Not sure if I would do it either, but in an emergency it might give you a bit of piece of mind.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 7:05PM
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Good advice. You're very brave. The three mile trip to the vet is more than I can handle. I would do the timing trick to see how long it takes your car to warm up. Good idea. Before I stopped I'd run the AC so high it would be freezing so it would stay cool longer. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 1:25AM
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Thanks everyone. I don't have a spare key but I'd be afraid someone would smash my window and take off if I left it running. I don't care as much about the car but I don't want to risk my kitties being stolen. :)

I'm just going to leave them for a few minutes. I'm sure it will be fine as I'm very conscious of them and I won't let them sit too long.

Thanks again for all of the suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 10:17AM
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Well, we made it!

This is not a trip I would like to repeat, lol. Monkey yowled the entire time we were in the car, enough that he gave himself kitty laryngitis towards the end of the trip and could only make little squeaky noises. He's fine now and as loud as ever, haha.

Mouse was quiet in the car but went crazy in the hotel rooms. He runs around like a little whirlwind and chirps and meows and jumps on things and makes it impossible to sleep. I very nearly left him in Nebraska to fend for himself after he only let me get 1.5 hours of sleep one night. :)

Moose was the best behaved. He's the one who blocked up a couple months ago so I was worried the stress would cause him to block again especially since he wouldn't be drinking as much but he seems to still be peeing fine.

We're settled in the new place and things seem to be okay. Mouse is still driving me nuts at night because he likes to hear himself talk in the echoes of my furniture-less apartment but hopefully he'll get over that soon...

The weather was nice so a hot car was never really an issue. Just wanted to update you that we made it okay. :)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:59AM
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So glad to hear that the trip went well. I remember when I moved from NYC to Boston many years ago and spent one night in a motel before I moved into my new apartment. My 2 cats had never seen a slider door and they spent hours crouched there side by side, looking out at the wide world, with just the tips of their tails twitching.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 12:07PM
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Glad to hear you made it OK too ... hope you could turn up the radio and ignore Monkey.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Glad you made it. You're a brave soul. They would have to commit me if I drove across country with my four who freak going two miles. You were smart to do it. There's a cat, Jack, missing at JFK for weeks out of his carrier.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 3:28PM
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