Cross-country solo drive with elder cat. How do I pee in transit?
June 18, 2021 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Mid-50s woman looking for advice for peeing without leaving the cat locked alone in the car (obviously bad) during 8-10 hour long driving days. How can this be accomplished besides desperate behind-the-car-door stealth pees? Are there non-gimmicky devices that actually work for ladies? Bring a side-of-the-road bucket? What's worked for you?

(General old cat travel advice welcome as well. He's 14 and has early stage kidney failure (unmasked as a result of thyroid meds). It's his first long drive, he has never been a water drinker and gets all his moisture via adding extra H2O to food--keeping him hydrated may be a challenge.)

Thank you!
posted by quarterframer to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you breeze into a not-crowded McDonalds (for example) to use the bathroom with a carrier in tow, it’s unlikely anyone will even notice. I’ve had to do this with my chihuahua before, though his carrier is much more subtle than the hard kind I usually see people use for cats, so maybe look for something that doesn’t scream “there’s a pet in here.”
posted by cakelite at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

Not sure whether you're willing to bring your cat inside stores with you, but pet stores and hardware stores are pet-friendly and have bathrooms for customers. Best to plot out your stops ahead of time using this method.
posted by cursed at 7:31 PM on June 18, 2021 [11 favorites]

Wouldn’t you only be gone for about five minutes at a time? I am fairly confident even an old sickly cat can survive 5 min in a temperature controlled car by himself…
posted by tristeza at 7:44 PM on June 18, 2021 [33 favorites]

I regularly drove 8-10 hours to and from graduate school with my two (eventually elderly cats). I put them in a large soft kennel for dogs, with a small litter tray. I offered them water but they were never really into it while in the car.

If you park in the shade the car won't get really hot in the time it takes the average person to pee and buy snacks. I always peed when I stopped for gas, so I always parked under the awning. It really wasn't a big deal.

As for water, I wouldn't be too concerned about a cat that does not drink water for 8-10 hours. If the cat will eat/drink as normal once you've stopped for the night, then they're fine. If your cat has special needs beyond just being old and being in the beginning stage of kidney disease, though, that's something you should talk to your vet about.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

This could be incredibly stressful for him. If you haven't already I would recommend running your plan by his vet (or any vet if you can't see yours in time) and get their feedback. I had a frail, elderly cat and her little system wouldn't have been able to handle this.
posted by bleep at 7:57 PM on June 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I do long drives I stand on the passenger side between the open front and rear passenger door and pee away from the car using this P-Style. It’s changed my life and frankly is now my preferred method of road trip peeing!
posted by stellaluna at 8:00 PM on June 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

Get a big, wide skirt with an elastic waist. You can reach in through the waist with a pee bottle and not reveal anything. Thrift stores always have wide mouth water bottles, pick a color that doesn't reveal the contents. TP goes in a paper coffee cup, as you may empty the bottle on a tree or wherever.

I'd ask a vet for kitty meds, because you may need 5 or 10 minutes away from the car, and it will be less awful for the cat.

When you feed the cat canned food, you can add a couple teaspoons of water; it will reassure you.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 PM on June 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

As for water, I wouldn't be too concerned about a cat that does not drink water for 8-10 hours.

If he’s in renal failure, this is a really long time for him to go without a drink.

Here’s a very weird, possibly unrealistic idea: are there vet clinics along the route where you could arrange in advance to stop in, have them administer subcutaneous fluids, and use their human-facilities while you wait?
posted by armeowda at 9:31 PM on June 18, 2021 [20 favorites]

Just drove cross country with my elderly (but otherwise healthy) dog in very hot weather. Icing down the car with full blast AC for a few minutes prior + cracking a window and parking under a gas station awning + peeing quickly was my MO.
posted by justjess at 9:48 PM on June 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

If he's not already trained to come when you call his name, I'd try to teach him that starting today. Just in case he gets out of the car. In a strange place, he might be too stressed to actually come to you even if he's trained, but it's better odds if he is trained. You know his personality anyway -- maybe he's cool.

I would start gently, slowly acclimating the cat to car travel so that he enjoys/is bored by it, so he can be as un-stressed as possible during the trip. Seriously slowly, like, if he gets nervous going into the carrier because he associates it with the vet:

- Buy a new, better carrier (I love the ones with sheepskin/fur lining in the bottom, because the cat can grip them and won't slide around in the carrier, which _has_ to be awful for them); get as large a carrier as you can so the cat can turn around during the trip if he gets a cramp, and can lay down sprawled on his side if he wants to.

- The new carrier won't be associated with vet trips, so you can leave it open on the floor or on your bed, and he can discover it and enjoy his new den/bed. You can also start tossing treats in there, petting him while he's sitting near it, etc.

- Take him in the carrier into the car, talk to him the whole time -- this is a relaxed cat outing -- then immediately treat him in the car, maybe pet him; the trip to the car in the carrier is fabulous and fun! He shouldn' t feel excessively trapped. Then take him back into the house: See kitty? This wasn't bad at all!

- Repeat the car visit in the carrier; treat a lot; he should start to learn that carrier = nice time with you and treats.

- Next time keep the cat and carrier in the car a slightly longer time

- Work up to starting the car and then turning the car off; starting the car and driving a short distance; etc.

- At each step, the cat should not get stressed if you can avoid it. If he seems distressed, stop and try again later, OR look into pheromones like Feliway.
posted by amtho at 10:39 PM on June 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

If you really feel obligated, just stop at vet clinics in major cities. The receptionists will totally understand and most med/large clinics will have a restroom for guests (many large clinics even have grieving rooms - they have to have these facilities). You can likely leave the cat in the waiting area or on the counter, and a receptionist will probably mind it.

Honestly, I'd be completely okay with the cat and a cold press in the car for 10-15min. The hothotcar rule is very serious for certain types of cars, but if the carrier is on the floor and the car is large or has enough space to maintain some lesser temp, it'll be okay.

Btw, cats gain a critically high rate of hydration from eating wet food (or did, before we conditioned them to dry, which shouldn't actually be commonplace.. but it is. The statistic is seriously around 90%). They're desert animals and will absorb significant amounts of water thru food. Try to feed wet food before/during/after a trip. You can try to sneak Pedialyte or similar into it if you like, but it should help.

Safe travels.
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:16 PM on June 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I transport rescue animals on a regular basis. Am also a 50's woman who pees and eats snacks regularly. It's not obviously bad to leave your cat alone in a locked car, as long as it's only for a few minutes.

It's been my experience that most animals are lulled to sleep or to a chilled-out zen-like state by the steady movement of the car, very much like human babies. Some don't even notice when I park, get gas, go inside to pee and get more soda (so I can pee again later).

As long as you have working air conditioning / heat, leaving your cat alone in the car for even 15 minutes will be fine, ime. It would take that long for the cool/warm air to dissipate. I don't advocate leaving your car running, unless you're sure it wouldn't be stolen.

Do not, under any circumstances, drive around with a cat NOT secured in a crate of some kind. (I'm sure there will be plenty of replies chiming in on how they drove across all the continents with their darling kitty who rode peacefully on their shoulder the whole time. Those kitties are the exception.) Most cats - out of the 1000's I've driven - would have been happy to make me think they were being very polite and cooperative, and then made a beeline for the open car door and freedom at their first opportunity.

If you have room in your car to move around, I suggest a smaller crate that can ride on your passenger seat. Then at pit stops, move the smaller crate into a larger dog crate and open the small crate so kitty can get out and take care of business. Then back in the smaller crate. But only if you can do all this with all doors and windows closed. If not, then kitty rides in the biggest crate you can fit in your car, with a small litter tray*, food and water**, and a bed.

*You may want to practice with a smaller tray at home for a while, maybe placed inside an actual box with a hole in the side.

**I have no personal experience with these, but I wonder if kitty might find one of these dog crate water dispensers intriguing enough to use?

Also, some cats respond well to harnesses, so that's an added safety feature. Also, be sure kitty is chipped and that the chip info is current.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:48 AM on June 19, 2021 [13 favorites]

I haven't tried them myself yet, but one of those cat backpacks might be a better/easier option for bringing kitty inside with you than a regular carrier?
posted by eviemath at 6:56 AM on June 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Cat safety in car travel requires he be in a carrier designed for travel. Soft sided is fine. Backpack with bubble window could work if he likes it. If you get the hard sided kind that bolts together, check every bolt for finger tightness. ONE TIME I failed to do this cat and I were both very surprised when cat slithered out the space provided by one bolt being out completely.

Get him used to the carrier well before you travel by making it a happy place full of treats and whatever he Loooooves (catnip! Sure, you can travel with a stoned cat!)

This serves many purposes. If there is any kind of accident, cat will be easier to remove from vehicle safely. Cat is not able to freak out and get under your brake pedal (this happens and is terrifying and dangerous). When you open the door to go pee, the cat will not dash. If you need to roll the window down for any reason, cat will not launch himself off your seat and into the wilderness. Cat cannot express boredom by riding on your shoulder, chewing on your hair, and swiping his paw across your face. In the carrier, he may yodel and scream and even poop to get his message across, but none of those things will actually kill you.

And, in service of your current concern, you can pick up the carrier and take it into the gas station restroom. If you add a long strap you can hang it from the door handle. NOT from any hooks, they will not be installed to support that kind of wait.

Source: have traveled literally thousands of miles with cat(s) in cars since I was a tiny child.

If you do want to pee without taking cat into a building, I recommend quart size togo soup containers. The lids are not going to leak, the mouth is bigger than any bottle, they are generally deep enough that pee doesn’t splash back if you aren’t producing a super heavy stream. You can pour the contents into a toilet when you reach your destination.

Another suggestion is to get incontinence product of your choice and drive in it wearing a huge skirt. You can change the product without revealing everything.

Whatever you do, please go as frequently as you need to. The distraction of driving while holding pee is serious business.

Bonus: feed him wet food to prevent some of the water sloshing around problem. We had luck getting some cats today use a hamster bottle in the car. I have never traveled with a cat with renal function problems so I was always able to offer water at stops.
posted by bilabial at 7:10 AM on June 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For my cross country drive during Covid times, I purchased TravelJohn Disposable Urinals. It feels like TMI to share this, but here goes, in case it helps. I parked in the far reaches of a rest area, pushed the front passenger seat back as far as it would go, and facing away from the windshield, I had room to kneel in the front passenger compartment and use the disposable urinal, without spillage. YMMV.
posted by smokyjoe at 7:41 AM on June 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Does your vehicle have a remote starter, or can one be added?

When I run errands with the dogs and it's hot out I'll turn the A/C up, exit the car, then start it again. It locks the doors until I unlock it with the key. The remote start will run for 15 minutes before shutting off which would be plenty of time for a biobreak.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:25 AM on June 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Disregard my answer, I reread and saw you're looking for options where you don't need to leave the car. I think the cat would be cool with you leaving for a few minutes but I get it.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:33 AM on June 19, 2021

Best answer: Yes to a pee funnel. They're amazing.

I had a kitty with renal failure who lived 9 months in late stage (fueled solely by love for me and pure, bloody-minded contrarianism. I swear she made it that long out of spite, just to prove the vet wrong) and I learned a whole lot about this kind of thing.

I would 100% schedule a vet visit the day you leave, immediately before you get on the road, for 100ml of subcutaneous lactated ringers solution. You could do this yourself, of course, but its probably best to have a vet handle it for this situation.

I'd also ask for Acepromazine for the trip. It's a sedative safe for cats in renal failure and is also an antiemtic, which is critical since you'll want to feed him in the AM before you leave.

If your cat needs regular fluid injections at some point, please memail me and I'll give you some tips to make it easier on you both. A really amazing vet showed me her jedi ways, which are far less traumatic than burrito-wrapping the poor dear every time.
posted by ananci at 9:09 AM on June 19, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You can also have your vet teach you how to administer subcutaneous fluids yourself and take the stuff with you if he’s getting dehydrated. We do this every other day with our dog who has kidney issues and it’s not a huge deal especially after the first few times doing it. I’d plan to do it a few times, maybe with a vet tech watching and helping, before you go so it’s not so intimidating.
posted by bananacabana at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Just here to sing the praises of the P-style, which I'm glad to see stellaluna has already done. It's great! You don't need toilet paper! You don't have to squat or bare your ass to the world! It's also a lifesaver in gross gas station restrooms where you don't want to sit/squat. (And unlike pee funnels, it doesn't run the risk of overflowing & you peeing all over your hand/pants, which has happened to me because I guess I have a high-volume urethra?)
posted by knucklebones at 12:51 PM on June 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

The Go-Girl funnel works, is made of soft silicone, rolls back up and (with a bit of work) slides back into the storage tube, and fits discretely in a purse or pocket. Practice in the shower, wear a loose skirt or shorts, and aim the stream of pee down hill. If necessary, aim into a wide-mouth bottle that can be emptied elsewhere later (be careful of backsplash).
And pee is sterile, so don't get too weirded out about it. Wash your hands afterward as needed. Rinse the funnel and let air-dry in a clean place if available.
Bathroom facilities are not always clean. A funnel is a welcome addition to the travel arsenal.

Tucks hemorrhoid pads or the generic equivalents are soaked in witch hazel. I prefer this to soapy baby wipes or Kleenex while taking a nature break. I divide them for easy storage into several tiny resealable bags (check the yarn and crafts area at Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby).
A pee-dana (cotton bandana reserved just for pee breaks) is another alternative, and several can be ready and available between launderings. I would hand-launder them.
If you insist on paper products, some paper towels are better at absorbing than toilet paper or facial tissues, and less likely to shred and turn into papier-mâché in humid climates. Bring Ziploc bags for trash.
Baby wipes are refreshing to remove sweat and dirt between showers, and for other general cleaning jobs inside the vehicle.

Liner pads or ultra-thin pads with plenty of coverage are useful for long road trips. Hot weather is particularly a problem, so the extra protection is nice.

Seconding all advise to keep the kitty inside a carrier until you are at your destination. It sounds like he is not harness-trained or acclimated to vehicle travel. This is not the way to find out what he is capable of doing when stressed out.
Cats are escape artists and darn hard to retrieve at the best of times. Better safe than frantic.

Stay hydrated, bring a couple of reusable masks, bring your own soap and water setup, and try to enjoy the trip. At this point in the pandemic, a quick trip into the bathroom for a fully-vaccinated person should be okay. Keep the vehicle cooled down with the cat safe and secured inside a carrier. Don't risk leaving the vehicle running.
If it comes down to it, a battery-operated fan could be included to move the cooled air around, but that may make the cat more nervous. Or not.
Don't allow the cat to have any access to the fan or the batteries, and secure the fan so that it cannot slide around or distract you while driving.
I am not a fan of small clip-on fans while driving.
posted by TrishaU at 5:28 PM on June 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

A cat who has kidney disease should not be with out water for 8-10 hours. When I travelled with my elderly cat who had CKD (chronic kidney disease) I gave her subcutaneous fluids (fluids under the skin) before departing for the day. This way we didn’t have to worry about her water consumption. I would speak with your vet about getting some subcutaneous fluids for the road. They’re very easy to administer and you’ll help persevere your cats remaining kidney function. I also administered my cat gabapentin for sedation and cerenia for motion sickness as she got very nervous and motion sick in the car. With the fluids and the meds our multi day road trip was a relative breeze. I left her in the car parked under the shade for quick pee stops.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:20 PM on June 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

There's always "Depends" adult undergarments, I guess...
posted by kschang at 2:26 AM on June 20, 2021

Pull off the highway and find a La Quinta, which is a pet-friendly hotel chain. They will definitely let you bring the cat in a carrier inside with you while you use the lobby bathroom. If there's no La Quinta, find another brand hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn) that has a canopy over the driveway right in front of the front door. Park under the canopy, crack your windows, and run in and use the lobby bathroom.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:34 PM on June 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My preferred FUD (female urinary device) is the Pibella. I usually use mine standing or kneeling while hiking/camping, but their instructions show someone using it while seated in a car. They also have a version specialized for bedridden folks with a bag attached that might be a little more secure/leakproof.
posted by natabat at 7:37 AM on June 21, 2021

Response by poster: I had asked this question on behalf of a friend. SubQs for the hotel at night and one of the pee funnels for women made this a successful feline transit despite the heat wave. Thanks all!
posted by quarterframer at 1:49 PM on July 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

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