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Moving to Alberta - will cats survive the 2 day road trip?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
We will be moving to Alberta in January and we will have to drive for 2 days to get there. All our stuff will be going before us, and we're taking the car. How should our 2 cats be transported?? Should we just let them have rule of the back seat? Should they be kept in their carriers? What about food, water and litter. Also, it will be winter then, so it'll be cold outside. I'm getting kinda worried about the whole thing. Dexter is 3 and our newest Jackie is around 6 months. They are both very good and get along well together. HELP! Has anyone done this before?

post #2 of 20
Every trip is different, but I have just moved five cats across Europe from Bosnia to Northern France. It was two twelve hour days of driving. I debated the choices like you and in the end got two large dog crates so the cats could stretch and eat and sleep easily, also they had company. Dushka started in her carrier but soon made it plain she wanted to be with the others, so I moved her. There were some nervous moments - one or two were prone to fits of panting and open mouth breathing, although they had water in the cages. I used a Feliway spray every couple of hours and that seemed to keep them calm. I travelled them all in harnesses (which they are used to) to make handling and stopping easier and safer.

I stopped every couple of hours to let them eat, drink and use the litter pan, keeping all windows closed of course, and taking them out one at a time. They got the idea very quickly. I had food and drink for myself and codrivers handy so we would never leave the car unattended.

I researched a hotel at the half way point that welcomed pets, and put the cats in carriers to transport them into the hotel room. They relaxed at once and explored everywhere. The litter pan went in the bathroom and they clocked it at once. The second day went even better as they were in a routine. One, I think, felt a little car sick as he tended to curl up and look at me all the time from a corner of the cage. But he was fine when we stopped.

My journey was in July, in an A/C vehicle, so the problems of temperature were different from yours. But although I would not want to do it again in a hurry, all cats and drivers ended the journey in good shape. Good luck.

Here are a couple of pix to show how relaxed they were, and the size of the cages:

post #3 of 20
Excellent advice from Jenny. If you get them used to wearing the harnesses before the trip (even just have them wear them around the house for a couple hours at a time) and maybe even take them for occasional car rides when you are running errands so they get used to the car might help.

Also, when we take our cats with us in the car, we take the carrier, put a towel on the bottom, lay a towel over the top and leave the door open so it's like a little cave. They are free to come and go in the carrier. We also have a water dish and food dish on a towel on the floor in the back on one side and a pan of litter on the floor on the other side.

As Jenny said, the cats wear their harness for the entire trip, plus we have leashes that we attach to the harness before opening any car doors just to be on the safe side.

Our cats actually enjoy travelling in the car now - Bijou jumps in if we just open the car door while in the driveway and waits to go on a car ride.
post #4 of 20
When you say they wear harnesses are you saying you let them outside of the vehicle when you stop? I have considered taking my cat with us to our vacation home (22 hour drive) but I would never let him outside of the car since he has never been outside.

Is there any medication you can get to help the cat relax?

Do any of you let the cat out of the cage while driving? This would be tempting but I am afraid he would run under the seat and we'd have a hard time getting him out.

Also my cat meow constantly in the car (short trips). Does this mean I should just forget air or car travel? We do go to our vacation home several times a year and it would be nice if he could come.
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Ok, now I'm not so worried about it all. I think we will do some test run's in the car driving around, before our trip. We'll probably try both ways, loose and in a cage and see how the cats react to the movement of the car or if they freak out at all. Hopefully they will get used to it and just sleep.

thank you for your advice and I will report back with the results!

post #6 of 20
Good luck on your trip, know everything will be just OK. BTW, I used to have a dog called Dexter, Dexter Dawg!
post #7 of 20
Another helpful tip - use Feliway! Last year, I transported 2 cats to Sacramento - cats who were outside cats till they were put into carriers. They basically hunkered down until mid-trip - after about 4 hours, they became curious and relaxed quite a bit. One did meow, but after about an hour, just did the occasional "I'll meow that I want out, just in case they'll pay attention to me this time".
That was the second attempt to crate these cats - they escaped from the first attempt (not by me), so they were esp. leery of crates. I wore a padded flannel shirt & heavy leather gloves, caught them with a large towel and popped them in. I did put the towel over the crates before the trip, but during the trip, the kids I was also carrying took the towels off & the kitties didn't seem to mind by then.
post #8 of 20
I'm assuming you are planning on stopping overnite at a hotel. If so, the cats should be fine - keep them in carriers for their safety no matter how much they complain!

I've travelled with show cats (car and plane) and don't feed them till we get stopped for the nite - they usually use the litter pan first

Since it will be cold, you can cover the carriers with a blanket but if in the car, and the heater on, they should be fine.
post #9 of 20
Just don't let them run around in the cat while you are driving because they may get down at your feet and could cause a crash. Not that I know from experience or anything...ahem...
post #10 of 20
Originally Posted by bedtime_bear View Post
Should we just let them have rule of the back seat?
I've never traveled with a cat but I'd think that wouldn't be a wise thing to do for several reasons:

1. Kitties can get high strung and stressed out and could end up flipping out in the car and that could lead to serious accidents happening;

2. If you stop the car and need to get out for any reason, they could escape and become lost;

3. They could hide under the seats and it would be difficult to get them out from there without traumatizing them.

I'm sure there are other reason, but those are the 3 that come to my mind first.

As others suggested I'd use a good sized cat cage for each kitty. Don't bunk them together in case they get stressed out and fight with one another hurting each other.
post #11 of 20
It really will depend on your particular cat. Ours settle down nicely in the back or Bijou will sleep on my feet (my husband is driving - not to worry). Mika was quite content to sleep/cuddle on my lap for our 4.5 hour trip and would occasionally go back into the back area to have a sip of water or just check out the cage, walk around a bit and come back to my lap.

When we brought Bijou home from the breeder he cried for almost the first hour in the car before settling down. If you get them used to the car first you shouldn't have any problems. They will settle and stop crying once you've settled into the drive. If they are a bit wildish about being in the car then I would agree with the above poster and keep them in their carrier. As long as the carrier is large enough for them it shouldn't be a problem. We just find ours are better being out of it. In the beginning when we would take Bijou on short trips to get him used to the car, he would try to get under my husbands feet which was definitely a no-no. Because we were on back streets and sideroads and weren't in traffic, we were able to train him not to go there by moving him over to my lap and away from the driver.

I really believe in taking them for short rides to get them accustomed to the car from the time they are kittens - it certainly has made travelling with ours a joy.

As to the question above about harnesses - they are harnessed during the trip and leashed before any car doors are open just as a preventative to them escaping and running away or potentially get hurt or lost. We do take ours out on walks so they are used to being outside on harness and leash, but not all kitties would be comfortable outside the car - that's your call. Often when we stopped for gas the attendant would want to see them (in one place she called over 4 other attendant to see them) so we make sure they are leashed before opening the door for them to see our babies.
post #12 of 20
To do a few test drives is a good idea. Don't be to dissapointed if the cats gets stressed the first and second time. I usually to train the cats to go with me in the car to make it easier to go to the vet and such. Some cats get more at ease if you hold them in your lap in the beginning but only do that if you
1. know that you can hold your cat whatever happens and
2. have a carrier to put the cat in before you open any door or windows in the car.
I have had cats who used to come with me on vacation every summer and we spent hours in the car. We lived in tent together and they came with me on long walks but they were used to do that since they were kittens.
If they get very stressed or car-sick there is medication you can give them that takes away the nausiousness (bad english i know) and make them sleep most of the way.
It is the same medication people can take when they get ill from going by car,bus or train but ask the vet since there is a lot of medication on the market and it is 20 years since I had to use any.
A big dog cage seem to be a good idea. I am bying two for our cats instead of new cat carriers.
God luck with your journey.
post #13 of 20
Last Febuary, I drove from northern Colorado to San Diego with my two babies. I've told the story several times on this board, but I always remember different details, so I'll say stuff again.

I only had them in their carriers for the first couple minutes. I was starting out in a *very* empty part of the of the country, and even had I gone off the road, crashing was... unlikely. Besides, I had small carriers by necessity, and they would have hurt themselves if I hadn't let them out. They roamed freely during most of the trip, except during our... three? rest stops, and they were leashed during the other two times I stopped for gas and my passenger didn't feel like getting out. Not that they had any interest in going outside the car.

Rowan spent most of the time in the litterbox. They have this thing, where they'll hang out in the others' carrier, but not their own. Bella stayed in Rowan's carrier, and hung out on my passenger's lap a lot. And I have a freakin' adorable pic of her laying around my stick shift. They spent just a little time together in Rowan's carrier, and Bella slept behind my heels for a while. There was one point in the middle of Utah where she got interested in my toes, but I had their harnesses on, so it was an easy extraction. Mainly she didn't like the car noises and altitude changes.

I had their harnesses on for easy leashing and restraining, and because their identification was on there, in case they got out somehow. I also had their rabies tags on the harnesses for if I got stopped at any of the state ports of entry. And vet paperwork handy. I didn't need it, but I hear that the ports of entry are occasionally used for something other than state trooper doughnut trades.

I had water, which mostly just got spilled, and food that Rowan ate a bit, and I believe he used his litterbox at some point. Probably when we were eating lunch, or I would have noticed, I'd think. Bella was too upset to eat, and I didn't notice her drink until we arrived that night. For eating lunch, I parked in the shade, and left the windows open just a crack. It wasn't cold or hot that day, and I ate quick. If the weather had been less neutral, I would have just eaten while driving.

I drove straight through (23 hours), because I was too poor to afford a hotel room, and because it's easier for me to drive an exhausting day than to drive two half-exhausting days. I'd made the drive twice before, without a passenger and cats, so I knew it was do-able in bad circumstances.

Not having a passenger would have been awful, I think. He kept Bella occupied and off the windshield, which was distracting through Vegas. I wouldn't recommend travel with free-roaming cats and no passenger.

So... passenger, harnesses, litterbox, food/water... that's pretty much it. I probably should have had their favorite pet bed out and waiting for them in the room that night, but it was too packed in for me to care. We made do with the litterbox and carriers that night.

And, of course, cats do best in their new house if you introduce them to it one room at a time. Mine were overly-brave kittens at the three story I just moved out of, but the tiny little apartment we just moved into last week scared the dickens out of them. Keeping them in the bedroom for a couple days gave them a 'safe room' for when they're frightened by a new sound (oh so common with the construction three feet away). I was actually blown away at how quickly they wanted to start going out on walks here, with all the scary strays that the oldies around here feed.
post #14 of 20
I would make one more comment, summing up several things others have said, and maybe that I didn't emphasise enough - safety is paramount - of you while driving and of the cats so they don't escape. I would never have unleashed cats loose in a car - or even leashed, without a passenger. Do clip the leashes on every time you open a cage, and do it with the car closed. I did not let the cats out of the car except at the hotel, when we leashed them and transferred them to carriers to carry inside. But I still leashed them when I let them out of the cages to use the litter box inside the car. And one thing I forgot - we started with a small litter pan in each cage, but it soon became clear that there was not really enough room for them to sleep and sit and look around. So I took the trays out and we let the cats go at each stop as necessary (inside the car). This meant there were one or two accidents. I put towels on the floor of the cages and had plenty of spares so I could change them quickly. The cats appreciated the large cushions I put in each cage so they could see out and also never had to lie on a wet towel.
post #15 of 20
One thing that has not been mentioned, and which is a factor every time we've ever taken our cats in the car for short or long drives, is that one or all of them, after a few minutes, start howling, whining, meowing, whatever you call it, and do not let up. It can drive you completely crazy, and I must say that 'test' runs before a trip do not help. If anything, they seem to sensitize the cats to a situation they don't like and they're even worse when the big day comes. We moved just from Montreal to Toronto years ago, with a friend driving our furniture and us in the car with the cats. We stayed overnight just west of Cornwall (in-laws) as we'd left very late to begin with (car trouble just before leaving!). We had gotten some meds from the vet (Valium - no longer given out by vets) and gave it to the 3-4 cats (forget... 30 yrs ago) before driving and eventually all but one fell asleep and was quiet, but the one who didn't (and always needed a lot more meds for anything than othes) just kept up the mindless meowing the whole way. If I were you I'd ask your vet for something, anything, to keep them as relaxed as possible for this one time big event, as I doubt if Feliway will be enough. Do not allow them to roam free in the car... huge mistake, but do have leashes to clip on before opening doors at any time when stopping - a friend learned this the hard way going from Mtl. to Calif. once - added 2 days to her trip! Don't feed them as much as usual, and be sure the food's already known to be well tolerated. Don't forget some kind of seat wedge to keep carriers/crates, etc. level (rolled up towels are good) and just keep telling yourself it'll be over soon. We ended up flying our 3 present cats & bunny from Toronto to Halifax on our last move and it went like clockwork tho' we still had to get them to our place afterward, but the vet had given us something, taken just prior to their flight (rabbit excluded) which helped a lot. Make sure new place's doors and windows are shut before letting anyone loose inside.
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
We took Jack for a test ride yesterday and it went very well. He didn't meow at all in the car, and he just layed in his carrier. We let him out for a bit, and he just layed on the seat and sometimes looked out the window. It all went great and I'm fealing a lot better so far. The challenge I think will be my other cat Dexter. He's older and I think he'll be a bit scared of the whole ordeal.

I'll report back when we do a test run with him.

thanks again!!
post #17 of 20
I definitely think keeping them together is the key. We moved our four, each in separate carriers, only an hour away, and boy... it was horrible. After about 1/2 hour we stopped and I rearranged them so they were facing each other, and it was much better.

I can also say please don't let them run loose for so many reasons. I remember when I was a little girl we travelled cross country with one cat, Princess, and she wasn't in a cage (it was the early 70s.. not that that means anything), but I remember clearly we stopped for a rest in the middle of the desert, and when my mom opened the door the cat flew out. It took several hours to get her back, we almost had to leave her. It was very traumatic for a 5 year old, and I remember it to this day.

post #18 of 20
Originally Posted by redyave View Post
I can also say please don't let them run loose for so many reasons. I remember when I was a little girl we travelled cross country with one cat, Princess, and she wasn't in a cage (it was the early 70s.. not that that means anything), but I remember clearly we stopped for a rest in the middle of the desert, and when my mom opened the door the cat flew out. It took several hours to get her back, we almost had to leave her. It was very traumatic for a 5 year old, and I remember it to this day.

That's exactly why we suggested the harness and leash before any car doors are open. Excellent example of reasons one should ALWAYS travel with them harnessed and have the leash handy for attachment before any doors or windows are opened.
post #19 of 20
I second that advice totally.
post #20 of 20
I really empathize with your concern. Our move was a five night car trip and here are the steps I took:
I got her accustomed to wearing a harness and leash and increasingly longer car trips weeks before we left. On the mornings we traveled I gave her one treat with rescue remedy soaked into it to keep her calm and prevent vomiting if she got car sick. I put a teeshirt that smelled like me in her carrier and strapped her in and we hit the road. she did better on the interstate and I would bring her carrier up front on my lap and open the door. she spent most of the day sleeping on my lap with her harness and leash on. we had cat litter and water bowls in the car but she never used them during the day. At night we would check into the motel. I would spray feliway around the room, set up her litter box and water and food bowls inthe bathroom and open her carrier. She would throoughly explore the room and then eat. She pooped every night soon after eating and slept like a dream cat our bed.

This went on for five nights and when we got to our new house I followed the same routine and she settled in very easily. Between feliway and rescue remedy the trip was wonderfully smooth and she loves her new home.

Since you are going to be traveling on cold weather you might want to consider a heating blanket that plugs into a car lighter. Don't let your cats roam free in the car they could get hurt or go down under the foot controls and create havoc, they will feel most secure in a cozy carrier with familiar smells and as much contact with you as they want. Good luck in your move !!
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