Prius Penske Canine Cat
April 19, 2016 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Me, my husband, my dog, and my cat are all piling into two vehicles (our Prius and a moving truck) and driving 2000 miles. How do we keep from killing each other (especially the dog)?

We've done several long drives with animals before, but this time is different. First, we've always driven in the same vehicle--this time, my husband will be driving a moving truck and I'll be driving our car. Second, we've previously done the drives with two cats--this time, we've got one cat and one dog.

We're planning on driving only eight hours a day, to make sure that our animals (especially the cat) can have plenty of time to rest / eat / eliminate in a hotel room each day. But that's still a lot of time in a car.

The dog is the major issue. She's a one-year old Jack Russell terrier and beagle mix (obligatory pics available on her blog). She doesn't like being in the car. She's just too dang energetic. She gets bored and antsy. She starts to cry (and the beagle half of her makes that particularly intolerable). If she's in a crate, she cries even worse. If she isn't in a crate, she is in constant motion, moving all around whatever space she has access to. She's not bad, of course, when she's properly exercised. If we're driving back from the dog park, after she's been running around for an hour or two, she sleeps pretty peacefully in the car... for a while. But I just cannot for the life of me figure out how we can tire her out sufficiently, given our driving schedule, given that my husband and I will be in separate vehicles, given that we'll also have the cat with us.

Additional complications stem from where and when we'll be driving. The drive will occur in late May / early June. So, summer. And we'll be driving through the Midwest, to the Southwest. So, hot land. It won't be safe at all for us to leave either animal in the car unattended for even the shortest period of time. We can't just stop at whatever dog park we can find along the route to exercise our dog, as the cat will be stuck in the car.

Finally, there's the psychological turmoil all of this will likely cause our dog. Our cat's not going to be happy about it, either, but he's a trooper. He's done this before. He just hunkers down in a crate, sleeps for the whole trip, then glowers at us in the hotel room during the night. But our dog has never been in the car for more than two hours at a time (we've driven up to four hours in a day with her... but that was for trips to a dog park that's two hours away. She was a nightmare the first two hours, then she got to run around for half a day, and she was okay on the way back). She's also never been in a hotel room. Her whole little world is going to be exploding. I'm worried this will be very challenging for her, emotionally, thus making everything about the whole trip even more challenging for all of us.

Any suggestions? Anyone with experience managing super hyper Jack Russell-type dogs when a reasonable exercise routine is out of the question for several days? Any ideas how we survive this...and, perhaps, even find a way to enjoy it?
posted by meese to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We can't just stop at whatever dog park we can find along the route to exercise our dog, as the cat will be stuck in the car.

Of course leaving a cat in a parked car on a warm day could be fatal, but you could take the cat out of the car then, too, as long as you're careful to keep him in his securely locked carrier. One person could hang out with the cat carrier in a shady spot, maybe pushing a few treats through the slots, while the dog plays. The cat might enjoy some fresh air and novel things to smell/look at. Alternately, one of you could stay in the parked (but not turned off) Prius with the AC still on while the other plays with the dog for just a few minutes.
posted by lisa g at 9:48 AM on April 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Drugs. The answer is drugs for the dog. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but for your safety (no loose dogs in the car on the highway, that's dangerous!) and for your sanity, you're going to need to dope up the dog. Your vet should be able to help and you'll probably want to do a test run with it before the trip to see how she tolerates it? Good luck!
posted by purple_bird at 10:00 AM on April 19, 2016 [11 favorites]

When my boyfriend had a beagle, he used to use a seat belt leash attachment thing (like this) so that she could move around the seat and look out the window but never get too far away in the car. Might work?! He drove from Portland, ME to Denver, CO with her, so roughly the same distance, and they both survived.
posted by jabes at 10:01 AM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I can't swear to a Jack Russell (or your JR specifically) but there comes a point of resigned misery for most dogs where they're just all "I guess this is how we live now" and they generally go into power-save mode.

But the two of you can stop together so that one can sit in the running car with the cat while the other (or each of you in turn) walks the dog and goes to the bathroom and gets snacks, and take the carrier out or sit in the car with the windows cracked for gas fill-ups. Don't underestimate the mental exercise of all those sniffs as a way to help wear the dog out (and the human walking her should carry an umbrella to shade themselves so you can dedicate some time to it). It might otherwise be better to have the cat go in the moving truck if the stress of the dog stressing out is going to bother her.

We moved three large dogs 1300 miles in one Prius (with no stops), with basically zero other crap in the car besides what we could fit in the passenger footwells with the seats folded down, so the dogs had the back seats laid down and the whole thing lined with every blanket and comforter we owned plus their beds. If any of them had been real active dogs, we would have gotten one of those dividers to keep them out of the front seats. We also got drugs from the vet. It's hard to say what exactly the drugs did besides lend an air of sadness to the whole ordeal, but we have one dog who loves car rides and two anxious pukers, and we made it with no vomit. The vet will often give you enough drugs to do one or two test runs beforehand, so you might do one just at home and see what that does, and then another test with a couple-hour car ride to see how that goes.

You kind of just have to accept that this is a trauma to the dog and the driver and get on with it. They're dogs, they're resilient, and as a human you'll know you only have to deal with it a few days. I would minimize overnight stops to as few as possible to get it over with faster, but I sympathize with the misery of driving for that long so you have to make a call on how hard you can safely push it.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, also - something we would have done if we'd moved two cars at once or a car and a truck would be to bring at least one extra person and paid for them to fly home. Having one more person than steering wheels - even if they don't help drive - to deal with animal and comfort issues in the moving car, and to babysit during stops in hot weather, can make a huge difference in stress and logistics.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:09 AM on April 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would take the dog in the car and the cat in the truck. Have the car either start a half an hour earlier each day or simply get ahead by a half an hour midday. Then, the car driver takes the dog for a run or walk or whatever until the truck catches up.

As long as you both are in cell phone contact, the benefits of caravaning remain in that in a pinch, you could turn around and meet the truck.
posted by AugustWest at 10:11 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't swear to a Jack Russell (or your JR specifically) but there comes a point of resigned misery for most dogs where they're just all "I guess this is how we live now" and they generally go into power-save mode.

Agreed. Our pit bull spends the first 30 minutes of every long drive looking out the window and whining and the remainder of the drive sleeping and sulking.

If you're going to try sedating the dog or the cat, you might want to try a test run first. In my experience, some dogs can get defensive/aggressive when they're sedated, and it'd be helpful to know that beforehand.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 10:13 AM on April 19, 2016

I hate to be the dissenting voice, and I hate to burst any bubble of hope that might have grown, but this:

I can't swear to a Jack Russell (or your JR specifically) but there comes a point of resigned misery for most dogs where they're just all "I guess this is how we live now" and they generally go into power-save mode.

is most emphatically not my dog. He has been on short car trips (to the vet, to the dog park, to the local ice cream store for a treat), he has been on long car trips (two hours to as long as five hours). The only time he calms down (and even then not for more than a half hour at a time) is when he's been thoroughly worn out and the car is traveling a constant speed on the highway. If there's any braking, any stopping, any slowing down, he starts back up again. The squealing. Oh god, the squealing.

Anyway, I nth putting the cat in the truck. At least he won't be bugged by the dog. Also: drugs for the dog, if at all possible. If you don't want to try the drugs (and I understand, I really do), I think stopping along the way is the best plan. If kitty is in a carrier, bring him along and one of you can sit with him in the shade while the other exercises the dog.
posted by cooker girl at 10:31 AM on April 19, 2016

It's not a dog park, but there are rest areas on the interstates and they have wonderful grassy areas where you can run with your leashed dervish.

Plan to stop at every one of them, get everyone out of the car (cat in carrier) and stretch your legs.

I'd also start conditioning the dog to get used to being in the car and to have good things happen for him while he's in there. New toys, treats, etc.

I'm also going to implore you, DON'T DRIVE A RENTAL TRUCK! It's a nightmare. Parking, gas consumption, mileage charges, driving them in high winds and the fact that at worst they could be shittily maintained and unsafe and at best the driver's unfamiliarity with them makes it more challenging and unsafe.

Look into ABF U-Pack instead. I suspect you'll break even over renting a truck and it will be SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT to have the four of you in the Prius on an adventure, rather than one with the pets in the car and the other in a huge truck on the interstate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:34 AM on April 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

I've done this trip with a dog and a cat.

Does your dog like doggy daycare? Before we moved 2,000 miles across the country I boarded my dog for a couple of days so she could play hard all day long and picked her up on the way out of town. That took care of the entire first day because she was so exhausted from playing the two days before that she slept in the car all day. And we played with her really hard in the hotel every night which helped a lot.

Also drugs from the vet if you need them to calm the dog down.
posted by ilovewinter at 1:16 PM on April 19, 2016

If you stop at rest areas, watch out for goats head stickers, they are common at rest stops. Also make sure your to freshly apply your flea protection of choice.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:10 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

You didn't say exactly where you're going, but I just wanted to let you know that in some parts of the Southwest, there are stretches of major highways with no cell phone service. So the idea of one person leaving 1/2 hour earlier may not be a great idea.
Also, if you happen to be taking I-10 west from San Antonio, start looking for gas when you get down to half a tank, because gas stations are few and far between, and just because the GPS says there's a gas station somewhere doesn't mean it still exists, or is open on Sundays, or whatever.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Leash the cat with a good harness, and put a bell and a flashing light charm on her collar for when you do stop and take her carrier out of the car. Even though she's staying in the carrier, I'd do that just in case- cats get squirrelly and if she bolts, you're screwed.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:34 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

We moved cross-country with two dogs a few years ago. My terrier had always whined in the car when in his crate, but wiggled all over if let loose. Turns out he only whines for 30 or so minutes, we'd just never taken him longer than that. On the move he cried for 30-60 minutes in the beginning, then settled down.

You didn't ask about lodging, but we had great experiences at La Quinta. If you call ahead and tell them you have pets, they'll try to put you in a room on the first floor near the door so it's quick to go out for a walk.
posted by radioamy at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2016

Our insane small friend (daschiuahua) calms down once we hit the highway even though he's a crazy annoying whiner runner in the city. So you might be able to get a BIT of a reprieve.. especially if he's getting more used to the car.

they make these car barriers: Like this. Could this keep him out of your face/lap? Also, does your dog love any kind of chewing thing? Ours is really into those Bull Pizzle things, but they're so expensive he rarely gets them. But last time we did the trip to my hometown we gave him one each way and he just happily chewed and slept and woke up and was like "oh yeah! treat!" for 5 hours. So if he can be distracted by delicious chewing that's something that might help a bit too? We also make scooter a little "nest" with our jackets and stuff that smells like us so he doesn't think that we're taking him somewhere away from us (but that's probably personifying :P).

Will your cat wear a harness? If so, I'd just take him out with you into the rest stop with one, or just in the carrier isn't too bad of an idea, but he might like to stretch his legs too!
posted by euphoria066 at 9:53 PM on April 19, 2016

Would the dog crate fit on the front passenger seat of the cube van?

If so, one thing you can do is swap the poor little guy between the two of you to ensure that you each get a little quiet for half an hour and yet can make progress on the road.

Having someone in the back seat with the dog who mauls his ears, hugs and kisses him and drags him onto their lap when he shows distress can make a huge difference. Check if you have any dog friendly friends who would like free transportation in the direction you are going and would like to plan a vacation and take a bus back.

Do not, do not, do not take the cat out of the carrier outside unless he is securely harnessed and leashed and you have a death grip on the leash.

Consider noise reducing headphones for the driver of the vehicle the dog is in. Or earplugs. Or both.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:19 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I moved from Chicago to Pittsburgh a few months ago and drove with my two cats and dog. She was just under a year old and is an Australian Shepherd mix who is very high-energy. As others have said, she was very jumpy and excitable for the first half-hour or so, but as soon as we got on the interstate, she laid down and slept. I let her run around at rest stops a few times, but she mostly snoozed.

That said, I did get some calming spray just in case she did get crazy, and if you're really worried, drugs are the way to go.
posted by anotheraccount at 9:51 AM on April 21, 2016

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