Travel litterbox.. wha?
December 15, 2011 7:13 PM   Subscribe

12-hour drive home for the holidays coming up - help me let my cat pee during the trip without it being in his carrier... again.

I'm about to make the annual trek home for Christmas, taking my cat, Gatsby along. He's made this trip twice (so four day-long trips) - the first time he was so flipped about the traveling that, as predicted, he didn't have any issues with needing to pee, etc. The second time, however, he seemed to have become accustomed (irritably so, but accustomed nonetheless) to traveling enough that he did, in fact, need his litter box. I misinterpreted his yowls to be him just getting temporarily extra-cranky until I heard him scraping his blanket back and I realized what had happened.

No big deal - the last two times we did this I traveled with his litter box in the car and a small amount of litter and would stop occasionally to let him roam while I took a break from driving. He never actually used it, though... so the accident vs. denial of actual facilities sort of confused me, but since the whole situation coincided with my own break, I didn't mind.

This time, I'm making the trip with a friend. This means Gatz will be in the backseat (harder to pick up on his cues), we'll be trading driving (fewer, shorter breaks), and the friend will be irritated as hell if I tell him we're stopping to see if the cat might pee (this will also be fodder for mocking over beers for years to come). That's all fine if the cat actually will pee, but I'm not sure - that said, nor do I want to make him uncomfortable/ruin another blanket and have me racing into a gas station bathroom to clean a cat carrier out again.

Anyway, this is all to ask - what does one do on a long car trip with a cat who may or may not need the facilities? Each cat I've had in my life, and all of the cats of my friends, don't seem to be this chill about cars.... so, points for Gatsby, but... what do I do for the comfort of all involved?
posted by AthenaPolias to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Uhm, forgot to add another picture and it's kind of my favorite - you guys don't mind, right?
posted by AthenaPolias at 7:17 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Since you'll have someone with you, can you let Gatsby roam free in the car the whole time and leave the litter box on the back seat? Then he can use it whenever he wants. Just set it up in a way that it won't move around, and make sure that whoever is the passenger keeps him away from the driver (and especially the driver's feet). I've done this (though on a shorter drive, about 3 hours) and it went OK, and this was with a cat who is freaked out about being in the car.
posted by dayintoday at 7:29 PM on December 15, 2011

I would give the cat a benadryl and not worry about the potty stops. Or, what I have done (Seattle to Chicago drive) is put a small litterbox in the carrier. You may want to get a slightly larger carrier. This one is very similar to what I have, and I love love love it. (cheaper on amazon) Gotta love a toploader.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:31 PM on December 15, 2011

We have done this twice, and both times it was: litter box in the backseat footwell (on top of a big trash bag), cat carrier on the backseat with the grille end facing forward; stop every 2-4 hrs or when there is frantic meowing.

Even when we have given the cat a 1/2 benadryl (check with your vet to see how much to give for his weight), he still needed to pee and poop during the trip.

I think you should lay it down for your friend that if the cat doesn't get to eliminate in the litter box and on schedule, the car will stink. But if the cat uses the box with a nice thick layer of clumping litter, you can just scoop out the offending substance and the odor is kept to a minimum.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:34 PM on December 15, 2011

Never done this or anything like it, but could you put a doggie wee-wee pad in the carrier and change it every stop?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:36 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The time I did it, it was 3-4 days in a Geo Metro with a co-driver and two cats. We just let them roam in the backseat and had a small disposable little pan with some of that pine litter on the floor [in a trash bag] behind the driver's seat. Cats would rarely pee, but they could do it while driving so we didn't have to make cat-specific stops.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on December 15, 2011

When we did a move we used a folding dog crate wedged in the backseat. There was room in it for a mini litter pan. I used a cheap metal baking pan. We'd stop when things got stinky and cleaned the pan out and replaced it with fresh litter.
posted by oneear at 7:44 PM on December 15, 2011

pee pad in the carrier. not pretty, but it does the job. bring extras.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:05 PM on December 15, 2011

I'm not your vet and this isn't medical advice.

Please consider the possible dangers of the cat being free in the cabin. Cats are not accustomed to travel in a car, and can get super freaked out even if they have not done so in the past. A cat in near the pedals can be a danger to everyone in the car.

Having a small pie tin with some litter, a back up blanket and some bags to put soiled articles in would go a long way toward making Gatsby more comfortable.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:31 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I made a 14 hour drive with my cat in the car. He was in the carrier the whole time, but I had the top off, so he could have gotten out if he wanted to. I rarely stopped, and he didn't need to use the kitty rest room. I had a litter set up at my destination, and after 10 minutes of sniffing around at the new place, my cat used the new box there.

Kitties are good at holding their pee!

If you're worried, I would echo what others have said and put a small pan in the backseat on the floor.
posted by katypickle at 10:15 PM on December 15, 2011

I've done a multi-day cross-country trip with a cat and we a) let the cat roam the car b) stopped at least once every 2 hours to walk the cat on a long lead with a harness. I suspect the success of this approach depends on the temperament of the cat; this one was super-mellow.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:30 AM on December 16, 2011

If you're going to let the cat be free in the back seat, get some towels, sheets, etc, and stuff them under the front seats and around the sides - what you want to do is plug up every possibly avenue for your cat to somehow sneak into the front seat and get under your feet. Plug up every space, no matter how small. I can't emphasize how important this is. We all know that Cats Are Weird, and a cat that has been sleeping quietly for 9 hours can suddenly wake up and slink silently through the space between the driver's seat and the door, and then there they are! Under the brake pedal! Not a good situation at all. They will even burrow through a barricade of towels, so pack the towels or whatever tightly.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:19 AM on December 16, 2011

We drove for three days with four cats and we had a litterbox set up in the back (we have an SUV so we just put it in the way back) and let the cats roam around. They would not tolerate being in crates and just kind of picked a spot for the trip and mostly stayed there the whole time. If they used the litterbox (and they did, although most of their litterbox activity was overnight in the hotels) and it smelled, we pulled over and scooped. I recommend a really good clumping litter so it's easy to keep clean.
posted by Kimberly at 7:28 AM on December 16, 2011

Here's what did NOT work for me: I crafted a harness with a long leash, and strapped my cat into it before going for a 'walk' at the rest stop. Outside, he just looked at me with extreme aggravation, and then piddled on the seat once we got back into the car.

Seconding the advice to NOT let cats roam free, while driving. Whenever I've tried this, the frightened animal migrates to the place he thinks is safest -- down around the driver's feet. When you need to stop (or shift gears) some part of the animal invariable gets pinched between brake or clutch pedal and the floorboards.
posted by Rash at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2011

There are super absorbant cat carrier liners that are supposed to soak up the pee and keep the surface dry- so that the cat can pee in the carrier without any ill effects. I think this is the brand I've used.
posted by periscope at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2011

An option I haven't seen mentioned - get a large dog crate, the largest you can fit in your car. Put your back seats down if necessary. Put the cat and a smallish litter box in the crate. You may want to drape a blanket over the crate to give the cat the illusion of a safe cave. This has actually been my best solution overall.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:43 AM on December 16, 2011

And if you do decide to go with a wire crate like I just mentioned, learn from my mistake - don't ever try to lift the crate out of the car with the cat inside. The crate is highly likely to fall apart, and your cat may take off running.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2011

Moving cross-country with three cats and two dogs, I did what MexicanYenta did. Two crates, 2 or 1 kitty per crate, small pan with litter in each crate, three days, worked out well.

Seconding Nickle Pickle and others: I would never, ever transport a cat loose in a car. In addition to the issues concerning the kitty getting up front and under the pedals, I would be terrified that kitty would make a dash out of the open car door at a rest stop.
posted by Seppaku at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2011

For those who worry about a free-roaming cat in the car, we've had success with having a cat on a leash in the car. (A specific cat leash with a harness, not just a string from a break-away collar.)

It was super helpful for the couple of times when she got curious about places she shouldn't have been, like anywhere near the driver's footwell. Once she got used to it, most of the time she forgot she was on-leash. But when we needed to, we could always pull her out of trouble. And when the door opened, we were ready for the breakout attempt.
posted by nadise at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2011

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