Traveling with one cat long-distance is a daunting prospect. Throw multiple cats into the car and you’ve potentially got a difficult and distressing situation on your hands.
That’s exactly what we want to avoid. In this article we’ll show you 8 things that you probably didn’t think about when it comes to safe and easy transportation of multiple cats!
We all know that cats aren’t natural travelers. There certainly are exceptions that prove the rule – and such cats go on to have long and illustrious Instagram careers, I’m sure.
For most of us that will be in the position of transporting multiple cats by car, it will be a first. So, how do you make sure that you’re giving your cats the very best chance of getting from A to B with minimal stress? Follow this practical advice and make sure you and your cats have the best cross-country car trip ever.
Like many travel-related issues, the key to traveling by car with more than one cat is preparation. The more preparation time you can give to this endeavor, the better the chances of success.
One final word of caution before we dive in. It’s best to avoid long trips by car unless they are strictly necessary. Taking cats on vacation can be quite stressful for the animal, unless you make the commitment to prepare well in advance.
Cats rarely relish car rides, so make sure you’re not putting your felines through any more discomfort than is necessary. If you are planning an RV trip however, check out my cat RV guide linked below.
Travel-train the cats together to see how they respond
It may seem like a lot of work to get your cats ready for travel. And you may be wondering, can’t I just throw them in the car and make the adjustments as necessary?
You certainly could, but you’d be inviting more stress and this way. It’s much more worthwhile to work up to a big trip like this, calm and prepared. After all, to you a long car ride is nothing more than a little tedious. To your cats, it can be downright terrifying. Think 9-lives-flashing-before-their-eyes, and a feeling of sickness so terrible they are saying their kitty prayers.
Take dry runs around the block starting as far in advance as you can. Prepare the car exactly how you’re planning to do so for the big trip. If the items you’ve bought don’t work out the way you’d hoped, you can hopefully return them and try something else out.
Put the cats in the car together and see if you can make progressively longer journeys, always comforting and rewarding them. They’ll soon learn that car rides are nothing to be afraid of. You can try a few different setups so that on moving day you won’t have to worry about your cats. The car will be a regular part of their day.
Before you set off, allow the cats to sniff around the car for themselves. They’ll want to explore every nook and cranny. If possible, allow them to do all of this together and at their own pace.
Take your cats’ unique personalities into account
Are your cats mischievous and curious, or more the type to curl up on your lap or find their own comfy spot? Do they like to hide away or be where the action is?
Are they skittish or bold and tenacious? How do the cats influence each other, and how does each cat’s personality change with a dynamic situation?
Age can have a huge impact on your cats’ needs, too. Younger cats or kittens will want to play much more so that older cats, which tend to be mellow. If your cats are wildly different in age, they are likely to have different activity needs.
Will your cats be together in one enclosure, or two separate?
Consider how they normally interact with each other to help answer this question. You may decide to keep them separate or even position their crates or carriers so they can’t see each other.
Most likely they are bonded, but you’ll have to judge for yourself whether keeping them in the same crate is going to be the best course of action, given their unique temperaments and their bond.
Dry runs are essential. If they actually comfort each other, one crate could be a good idea. However there is a chance they may antagonize each other, or whip each other up into a frenzy. You’ll only find out by seeing them in action.
If you’re not sure whether to go with separate crates or one big one, you could use a kennel that can be divided up if necessary. You might choose to split up their time so they have some time to interact with each other in the same enclosure. Then, if one cat for example has more energy than the others, the enclosure can be zippered to separate them again. More on that in the section below.
If you’d prefer separate cages, consider a hard crate like the one below. This one, though designed for dogs, fits the bill perfectly! It can be modified to accommodate cats better, like by adding a wooden perch. This works great for cats that like to look out of the window!
It also has the benefit of folding down flat, plus the cats can look around better than through mesh. Pam wrote on the writing platform, Wizzley that this dog crate worked incredibly well for her two cats, Fontana and Skittles. They had to take a 1,400-mile road trip and the cats did remarkably well!
Read more below about how to choose the best cat carrier for your cat.
How will your cat crates fit and be secured in the car?
OK, this may be an obvious one but hear me out. Whatever kind of cat enclosure you’re going for, make sure it fits correctly and won’t shift it you hard break.
Double crates work well, especially in a station wagon. If you don’t have a station wagon you would use the back seat, making sure your carrier is the right size and can be belted in.
So, how will your cat carriers be secured on the back seat? With multiple carriers, where exactly will they all go? It might seem like something you can easily wing, but remember a little preparation goes a long way.
If the cats will be all together, a great use of space is this cat tunnel which fastens securely to the back seat.
You don’t need to worry about driving super slow or looking back to check on them every time you brake a bit too hard. The cats will be secured, with maximum space. You can even use the zipper to create two compartments.
Wondering how to get your cats ready for their crate / carrier?
Sedate all cats or none
Sedation of cats is not something that should be treated lightly. Even with consultation from your vet, there are definitely risks associated with putting cats under a sedative.
If you must sedate your cats, use a natural sedative and be sure to monitor their reactions. If possible, use the sedative on dummy run car trips.
It can be distressing for the one(s) who are still awake to see those that seem to be lifeless. Our recommendation is to try without a sedative for the first day, and if they don’t calm each other down, have a natural sedative or calming collar (like the ones linked below) on hand.
We do advise caution when using any kind of cat sedative or calming agent. Our more in-depth take on this topic of whether to sedate a cat for travel is included here.
Plan your accommodations ahead of time – and be upfront about your feline entourage
If you are the planning type, it pays to know exactly where you’re going to bed down each night. Sure, you could rely on luck and prepare to pay a little extra for the convenience, but it pays to have a realistic plan.
Airbnb is awesome for inexpensive and reliable accommodations. However, you absolutely need to give hosts a little time to respond and maybe ask you a few questions. It might be the first time they’ve been asked about hosting a gaggle of cats. A back-and-forth conversation well in advance of the trip will ease everybody’s concerns.
Obviously several cats meowing and howling can have a compounding effect. It can present much more of a disturbance than just one cat that will soon enough tire herself out. Other destructive behaviors can put some hosts off having cats on their property.
There is usually a fee for pets. Expect this to be per animal – though you might even find some cat-loving hosts not charging extra. However, this is something to budget for when considering the cost of your cross-country trip.
Even the most well-behaved cats can act a little crazy in an unfamiliar situation. Give them plenty of time to explore the accommodation together, which means planning extra time. Hopefully they’ll be curling up on the bed in no time.
You’ll probably need to leash-train them!
Leash training for cats is something that takes a little while. I’ve read guides suggesting it takes months, which is a little excessive. You do need to allow a few weeks though, depending on the cats’ temperament. Also, consider how long and how frequently you can invest in training.
However long it takes, it’s recommended to get your cats comfortable on a leash. Cats aren’t like dogs in this regards. They have been domesticated far less time than dogs, and will likely not take to it until prolonged exposure is forced on them… and they give in.
It’s recommended that when you take a pitstop on your trip, you give the cats a chance to stretch their legs, too. But consider what you would do if your cats got loose and ran away? It wouldn’t necessarily be possible to go after multiple cats, even if you had a two-legged traveling companion.
That’s why the investment of time in leash training your cats before the trip, will be the ultimate insurance. Pop the leash on your cats while they’re in the crate, then walk them together on the leash. Cats will normally take their time sniffing around rather than bolting – but you can never be too careful. They can explore safely with zero chance of escape.
Just make sure you use a leash that’s made especially for cats – and get them used to it well beforehand. My cat took about a month to get used the leash. After initially hating it, he now associates it with positive experiences – and treats!
After trying several, this one, called Come With Me Kitty is the only one I can recommend. It’s not the cheapest – but I’ve tried the cheaper ones and I couldn’t even get them on my cat’s head.
But just purchasing the leash and keeping it in the box until moving day will not work! You’ll need to implement a program of leash training for all your cats. Yes, this is a little time-consuming but if you think of it as a nice treat and bit of bonding time for you and them, it won’t feel like a chore.
I found this awesome video made by the Animal Humane Society. It’s really short and guides you through the steps of leash training for cats. The ‘reinforcing with treats’ part is really important. Definitely tap into some of that cat psychology, or else they may not take to the leash!
Keep meals small and don’t expect them to eat a lot!
Just like humans, if one cat throws up this can produce a nauseous feeling in the other cats. It can have a rather unfortunate chain reaction. Keep the larger meals to your evening’s accommodations. Your cats may not have much of an appetite while actually in the car.
You might want to stick to snack-type food like cat jerky and treats while on the road. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be able to stand the smell of cat food in an enclosed space! During pit-stops, the cats will no doubt be more interested in exploring the gas station than actually eating.
Do make sure they are hydrated. You could try a feeding tube on each crate (another reason why hard crates rock!) or just put out some fresh water in a feeding bowl during pit stops. Some travel crates come with a pop-up bowl which is pretty cool.
Traveling with multiple cats presents an extra level of challenge compared to regular cat travel. As we’ve laid down in this article, preparation is your best friend.
Unexpected things can happen at the best of times when traveling long distances. You can give yourself a fighting chance that you’re not battling your cats when it comes to transporting them cross-country. You have enough to focus on!
Give them plenty of encouragement and patience. Allow them to explore the space of the car safely, together. Do this well in advance of the trip. Take your cats into the car one day, close the doors and encourage them to roam around and sniff away. Introduce the idea of car travel safely and in increasing increments. You can also take them out on increasingly long drives, if you really want to give them the best chance.
Experiment with keeping them all in one enclosure, vs separating them, depending on their temperaments. Make frequent stops, at least initially and give them plenty of reassurance! Preparation is key here. Continue monitoring your cats throughout your long journey.
If you found this helpful, check out our other articles on traveling with your cat.
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