Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | July 7, 2007

Pets in Cars

Dear Pet Column, Why does my cat dislike riding in cars so much?  Do cats get car sick?

Sincerely, Cat & Car Blues

Dear Blues, don’t worry – most cats truly dislike driving in cars, unless we are at the wheel, which you don’t see very often.  Being in a car is far from our natural habitat or environment.  Seeing trees go flying by, hearing engines, feeling unsteady on our feet – all of these things make for an unpleasant experience – compounded with the learned association for cats that cars usually mean the Veterinarian.  If you used your car only to go see the proctologist you wouldn’t like cars so much either (no offensive vets, we appreciate what you do for us!). 

However, for cats and dogs who dislike automotive transport there are some options to help your pet feel more comfortable and even enjoy a nice ride.  First, try to acclimate your pet to your vehicle.  Put him in the car, hang out, give him yummy treats then bring him back inside. Once he adjusts to this, repeat yet start the engine this time and follow with treats.  Next, go for a short ride, try to start on a straight and smooth road if one exists in your area.

Some of your pet’s anxiety is likely to dissipate as he realizes he is safe and secure in the car (and he gets yummy treats!). If he is still seriously stressed after several nice short rides there are herbal remedies that help pets relax, and in severe cases your vet may even prescribe medication to ease your pet’s nerves.

If your pet is not adjusting it may have issues with motion sickness, which should not be mistaken for pure anxiety of being in the vehicle.  The difference is that pets with motion sickness are generally quiet and even a little depressed because they feel awful.  They will drool all over the place and eventually start vomiting.  Such pets would greatly benefit from anti-motion sickness herbs or medication.

The pet that goes bonkers when in a vehicle demonstrates anxiety (or with dogs just hyperactivity).  These pets aren’t sick, they’re freaked out!   Salivating, panting, whining, jumping from front seat to back, and trying to cling upside down to the roof of the car are common characteristics of the anxious traveler.  Keeping the pet secure in a carrier will help him and prevent pet-on-your-head induced accidents.  While your pet may never enjoy a car ride, helping him adjust can make the ride much more bearable for both of you.

Other important considerations for traveling with your pet include keeping them safe and preventing them from escaping from the vehicle.  Make sure they have ID tags (including cats) and that your cat is secure in a pet carrier.  Having a cat dash from the car at the gas station is not uncommon. 

Of course, starting your pet young in the whole car adjustment training is a good idea.  A kitten such as me typically won’t really mind a little car ride – we are always up for adventure – particularly if it means driving from the shelter to a new forever  home (hint hint…)  My name is Tomichi, and I am a male  9 week young kitty.  My 6 siblings and I are all waiting here at the Second Chance Shelter to cruise on out of here with you and whatever means of transportation you have to offer!  In the meantime you can catch us cruising around in the Second Chance Mobile Mutts & Meows RV from Montrose to Telluride.

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about  the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance & Rebate Program, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other pet questions.  For more information on SCHS, or to visit our shelter pets online, go to:  Questions for next week’s column can be sent to:


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