If you plan on traveling with a cat, the key is preparation. Cats love spaces that are quiet and dark. Take advantage of these tendencies and you’ll create a positive situation from the outset.
First things first, get a small to medium pet crate.
This should be big enough for the kitten or cat to turn completely around in, and tall enough to stand upright. You don’t want something too big, though, as the comfort of the “den” will be best felt in a limited space. Put the carrier in a location where your cat is already comfortable. Use an old t-shirt or something you’ve worn and put it in the crate. If your cat likes toys, add a soft toy that can’t be chewed to pieces too easily.
Many cats will actually go into a crate on their own if the door is left open in a place they enjoy. Cats naturally gravitate to boxes. To take better advantage of this, start with the crate door closed to entice the cat. Soon, open the door and leave it open.
Most cats will explore the crate, fall asleep in the crate or go inside if they are nervous.
Don’t ever use a crate as a punishment or when the cat is already upset unless it is the cat’s choice to go in. The crate becomes a favorite hiding spot.
Once the cat associates the crate with happy times, close the door for gradually increased times. This will prepare your cat to find comfort in familiarity. It works with kittens as well, although the times should be short for energetic ones.
Once the cat adjusts, try keeping the crate in less familiar places. You can also take the cat in the crate for a short calm ride in the car. The cat will begin to associate rides with low key time.
You may want to visit a vet if motion sickness or extreme anxiety is an issue. Learn about safe medication or get alternative recommendations.
If your cat is a nervous type or shows ongoing distress with travel, try a natural relaxant product and check into a pressure vest. Some cats react poorly to sedatives, so try it in short car trips near home.
The day before the trip begins, limit food about 8 hours prior to leaving. Give no food at all about 4-6 hours prior to leaving. Limited food helps avoid illness or the need to use litter during the trip. Allow water until 30 minutes before you leave. Cats get dehydrated easily, so there should be no restraint on water for very long. On trips of less than 3-4 hours the cat probably won’t have too much trouble waiting for food, water, and litter.
If the cat is very young or if the trip is longer than 4 hours, you may want to make stop every four hours. These stops should provide enough room and safety to offer a litter box and some water. If the trip is longer than 6 hours, you will probably also need to allow for small amounts of food. Don’t worry if the cat chooses not to use the box.
Some cats cannot help but lose bowel or bladder control while traveling. Come prepared with sanitizing wipes and extra bedding.
The biggest key to all of this is the preparation you have done before the trip, so the sooner you start, the better!