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Home > Cats > How to Calm Down a Cat in the Car: 8 Proven Methods

How to Calm Down a Cat in the Car: 8 Proven Methods

Cat in purple carrier

If you’ve ever tried to take your cat on a car ride before, you know just how anxious cats get when in the car. Because cats are such creatures of habit, they do not like being taken from their home and stuck in an unfamiliar situation.

Unfortunately, it can be impossible avoid taking your cat on a car ride, such as when it is vet appointment day. On these days, it’s important to know how to calm down a cat in the car with methods that work.

In this article, we go over 8 proven methods for how to calm down a cat in the car. With these methods, you can help your cat calm down so that you can safely transport your beloved feline from one location to the next.

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The 8 Ways to Calm Down a Cat in the Car

1. Introduce Your Cat to the Carrier Before the Trip

Woman riding a car with cat
Image Credit By: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Most cats do not like the car because they are thrust into an unfamiliar cat carrier and vehicle. Introduce your cat to the cat carrier days before the trip. By allowing your cat to smell the cat carrier before the trip, your cat won’t be as afraid the day of.

We recommend allowing your cat to smell the carrier inside areas where the cat is already familiar. For example, bring the cat carrier inside your home and let your cat explore the carrier on its own. Once your cat is comfortable approaching the cat carrier, you can try putting your cat inside to see how they respond.

If you are having trouble getting your cat to approach the carrier, try putting food inside the carrier. The food will lure the cat inside the carrier and cause the cat to associate the carrier with treats.


2. Take Short Trips to Acclimate Your Cat to the Car

After your cat is comfortable inside the cat carrier, put your cat inside the carrier and carry it to your vehicle. Just as you want your cat to be familiar with the cat carrier, allow them to get familiar with the vehicle as well.

Begin the acclimation process by taking short trips to the vehicle but not driving anywhere. You can even let the cat out inside the vehicle so that they can explore the ins and outs of the vehicle. Of course, make sure to shut all doors so the cat can’t escape.

Eventually, work your way up to exposing your cat to short car rides. Begin with short bursts and work your way up to longer trips. By starting with short car rides, your cat can be acclimated gradually and un-traumatically.


3. Tire Your Cat Out Before Leaving

cat playing an interactive toy
Image Credit: Maire, Pixabay

On the day of the trip, tire your cat out before leaving by having playtime. By tiring your cat out before the trip, your cat is more likely to sleep and experience less stress. Spend a good amount of time playing with your cat so that all of their energy is spent before getting in the vehicle.


4. Stay Calm

Animals are highly intuitive. If you are stressed out, your cat will be stressed too. Try to stay calm and collected on the day of the trip. No matter how stressful the cat is behaving, put on a brave face or else you could make the situation even worse.


5. Provide Familiar Smells in the Carrier

two cats sleeping in a carrier
Image Credit: Kolomiyets Viktoriya, Shutterstock

Make sure to add familiar smells inside the carrier for the trip. Provide your cat the basics it needs, such as their favorite bed, water, and food. With familiar smells, your cat is less likely to be stressed out. You can also add other smells and items they like outside of the carrier to further create a relaxing environment for your cat.


6. Try Calming Pheromones

Some cats respond positively to calming pheromones. You can purchase a calming pheromone and spray it in your car and carrier about 15 minutes before leaving. This tip won’t work for all cats, but it can make a big difference to cats that respond positively to these pheromones.


7. Place the Carrier Near You in the Car If Possible

cat in a carrier inside the car
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Try to place the cat carrier as closely to you as possible. The cat will likely look to you for comfort. The closer they are to you, the better.


8. Talk to Your Vet About Calming Medications

If you know that your cat has severe anxiety when in the car, you can also talk to your vet about prescribing sedation medication. Even though sedation medications are expensive, they may be the best option if your cat will be in the car for a long time, such as when driving across the country.

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What Should I Bring for My Cat During Long Road Trips?

cat in a carrier inside the car
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

When taking your cat for long road trips, it’s important to pack everything your cat may need during the journey. Pack food, water, and medication. Also, pack your cat’s favorite treats, toys, litter, and any other items your cat is familiar with.

In addition to your cat’s day-to-day items, don’t forget your cat’s medical documents, recent lab work, vaccination certificates, and vaccination tags. More so, ensure your cat is wearing identification and a properly fitting harness.

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Should I Leave My Cat at Home With a Sitter?

cat playing with owner
Image By: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Unless you can’t avoid taking your cat with you on the journey, it’s best to simply leave your cat at home with a cat sitter. Even though you may get lonely without your cat, leaving your cat at home is the best choice for your furry feline.

For example, you should leave your cat at home with a sitter if you’re only leaving for a week or so. Even if the sitter is a person your cat has never met, your cat will be much less stressed with a new cat sitter than they would be on a car ride.

The only time you should take your cat away from home is when it is unavoidable to do so. Vet appointments and moving to a new home are two examples of when you should not leave your cat at home for obvious reasons.

If you have someone you can trust that your cat is already familiar with, that’s the best choice for a cat sitter. If you do not know anyone who can or is willing to watch your cat, you can look online for reputable cat sitters in your area.

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Final Thoughts

If you need to take your cat for a car ride, you will need to prepare quite a bit since most cats hate car rides and get stressed as a result. By using the 8 proven methods above, you can help to minimize your cat’s stress to the best of your ability.

Keep in mind that your cat will likely still be stressed, even if you implement all of these tips above. Even with your best efforts, most cats are still stressed out during car rides. For this reason, minimize the times when your cat is forced to ride in the car.

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Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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