Keeping the Catstomer Satisfied
January 18, 2007 12:45 AM   Subscribe

I am driving two cats on a long trip tomorrow. How to make it go smoothly?

They both have travelling boxes and I have an estate car so they can go in the boot and still have light and not slide around. Obviously I can take water and dry food to keep them fed and watered, but I'm more concerned about the litter situation.

I'll be stopping every couple of hours or so but won't be able to let them out so I'll need a way of letting them do their catty business in an easy and smell-free way. Has anyone transported cats over a long distance? Any tips?
posted by jontyjago to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How long is 'long'? We've done 12 hours with 1 break with our cat.

Are you sure the, uhm, "boot" is safe? Carbon monoxide and all that?
posted by blenderfish at 12:59 AM on January 18, 2007

Me and a friend drove my stuff and my two cats about two thousand miles in about thirty-six hours. We stopped once to sleep for a few hours and I brought the cats and their litter box up to the room. At least one of them peed, but there were no solids to dispose of. They were in a medium-sized kennel together and were offered food, water and a chance to stretch whenever we stopped to eat (every five or six hours, I would guess.) They really did not eat much, but would have a little water each time. Mostly they were quiet, but sometimes the female would cry a bit.

My vet recommended keeping them together in the kennel and offered kitty downers, which we did not use.

We were in a fifteen foot rental truck and the cats were in between the two seats with a blanket over them for warmth and silence.
posted by beetsuits at 1:08 AM on January 18, 2007

My husband and I recently traveled a vast distance with our two cats -- as in a minimum of 10 hours driving each day over 4 days. They never once needed litter in the car and didn't eat or drink much of anything while in their carriers. We kept breaks short -- just long enough to quickly eat and stretch our legs. They cried for a bit in the mornings and thereafter basically slept through the whole thing, waking briefly during breaks to drink a bit, but I don't think they touched food at all. We immediately put out food, water, and litter, but they touched none of it until they'd thoroughly investigated each hotel room and were satisfied it wouldn't start suddenly start moving at 75 mph.

We also followed this advice about how to handle them from an earlier AskMe here with great success. Good luck on your trip!
posted by melissa may at 1:13 AM on January 18, 2007

Response by poster: It's about an 8hr drive (which is "long" for a European!). And when I say boot, it's an estate (station wagon) so it's open to the rest of the car, so no carbon monoxide.
posted by jontyjago at 1:15 AM on January 18, 2007

I remember one childhood road trip cross country to spend part of the summer with the grandparents. My parents failed to arrange a house sitter or something, so we brought both cats in one big crate. At one point one of the cats took a huge, messy dump on the other one because it had fallen asleep in the litter box we stuck in the crate. I think cats are smart enough to realize that a cake pan filled with cat litter is for dumping.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:32 AM on January 18, 2007

Like melissa may, we also moved our cat cross-country - west coast to east coast, 3 1/2 days of driving.
My only advice is "Get Valium for your cats."
Our own cat screamed from the time we put him into his crate to the time we forced a pill down his throat 3 hours later. We started with a pill in the morning after that and everything went well.

No need for a litter box until you reach your destination, but offer some water whenever you stop.
posted by Eddie Mars at 5:59 AM on January 18, 2007

Some cats are noisy, others aren't. While I've only had to drive our cats a couple of hours, rendering the whole litter box thing moot, one of them is always silent in the car, only occasionally meowing to make it known that she'd rather not be in a cage being jostled by the movement of the vehicle, while the other one will yowl for one and a half of the two hours. He's a big baby. :p

For that reason, I suggest you have sedatives on hand, but hopefully you won't need them.
posted by wierdo at 6:24 AM on January 18, 2007

I will actually warn against Valium. It works great to ease anxiety for some cats. In other cats, there's a rebound reaction thingy and they're basically drugged AND freaking out. My cat is one of those.

A six-hour trip trying to keep her confined to a carrier (on Valium) was a cat-screaming hell, a two-day trip letting her wander was unbelievably easy. (Litterbox secured in the back of a van, accessible, but cat taken to it during rest stops.)
posted by desuetude at 6:41 AM on January 18, 2007

I used to regularly take my cat with me on the 8-hour drive between where I attended grad school and my parents' house. I put litter, water, and food in her carrier but she ignored all of it. She never went to the bathroom until the last few trips, when she peed in her carrier - but she was very ill by then and I entirely blame that illness for her incontinence. She was generally pretty quiet, until about an hour before I got to my destination. At that point, she either realized we were close or just lost patience with the whole thing, and would begin to cry pitifully.
posted by amro at 6:48 AM on January 18, 2007

For 8 hours, don't worry about the litter situation. They probably won't eat or drink, but offering it would be nice. I would also recommend sedation (talk to your vet). We have one cat that will meow every two seconds when he is in a carrier, for literally hours at a time. This gets annoying incredibly quickly, and will make you want to drive off the road. While there is a CHANCE the sedation will have the opposite effect, I think it is a small enough chance to risk it.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:55 AM on January 18, 2007

I did a 23 hour drive with two cats. We gave them each a sedative tablet from the vet and left them loose in the car, although mostly they just slept. We put a small, disposable litter box where they could get to it and they used it. For the litter box I used a madarin orange crate lined with a plastic bag and filled with litter. It's easy to just replace the bag and litter if necessary.
posted by robinpME at 7:01 AM on January 18, 2007

I used to occasionally do a 10-hour trip with two cats. They loved it! One sat in my lap most of the time. They didn't eat much though I did have food and water down, and they didn't use the litter tray I had down either. It allllll depends on the cat.
posted by loiseau at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2007

A friend drove with two cats from New York City to San Francisco and used Rescue Remedy with great success (she said). Might be worth a try if you prefer not to use actual drugs on your kittypie.
posted by scratch at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2007

Be very careful with sedatives (even if prescribed by a veterinarian). Once during a long move (Ohio to Connecticut) one of our cats got very ill from them (to the point we were worried whether she might die during the drive and had to stop to find a veterinarian in a town we were passing). I don't mean to scare you as the majority of cats have no adverse reaction, but it can happen.
posted by aught at 8:02 AM on January 18, 2007

I have taken 4-6 hour trips with a cat before. Here are some of my suggestions.

* Take your cats on some short trips now, before the long trip. Let them get used to the car. This will give you a chance to see if they'll be freaked out or just curious (I've had one of each).

* If you are traveling with someone else, try not to lock the cats in a carrier. They'll probably be much happier if they can wander around. It's going to depend on the disposition of the cat, which is why the practice runs are a good idea. If you're traveling alone, it's probably safer to put them in the carrier.
posted by muddgirl at 8:14 AM on January 18, 2007

I let my cat out of his crate for a long car trip. He took up residence under my seat and didn't stir for the entire trip, until at long last after night fall he crawled into my lap and purred at me. Lovely. Made me want to take him everywhere.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:34 AM on January 18, 2007

A warning against letting cats loose without another person in the car. One time my cat got out of her carrier while going down the road. She jumped up on top of my seat and promptly latched herself firmly to the back of my head. When I finally dug her claws out of my scalp and tried to get her to calm down, she jumped down where my feet were and messed with my access to the pedals. All of this while she was screaming, too.

So yeah, please be careful.

My friend took her cat from Charlotte, NC to Ohio and used a large collapsable kennel for dogs, like this. There was enough room in there for a small litter box, blanket, food and water and toys. It seemed to work quite well!
posted by bristolcat at 9:25 AM on January 18, 2007

I've had incredibly differing experiences with cats in cars. I once drove from Chicago to Philadelphia over two days with a stop overnight and had two adult cats in one carrier and they were totally fine. They actually seemed much better together than apart. I didn't give them food or water until night time and they were totally happy to wait on the litter box until then. They slept most of the way. Now that I think of it, there were three people AND one cat carrier with two cats in the front of a moving truck for this trip. No sedatives for any of us.

However, last year I drove two different cats from LA to SF (about 6 hours). They had grown up together and were in the same carrier but half way through the ride, one of them must have had some sort of anxiety attack and took a massive crap in the carrier, which then got all over both of them. It was unbelievably gross and meant that I had to stop at a gas station and wash the kitties in the restroom sink. Everyone standing in line to use the toilets was understandably appalled. So in that instance, I think sedatives might have been best.....for me.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:31 AM on January 18, 2007

In lieu of sedatives on our long move, we opted for Feliway or "Comfort Zone"--a cat pheromone product that calms cat nerves. This works quite well on our cats, but I know this isn't the case for all cats. You may spend quite a bit and find it doesn't work for you. But when it works--it is a godsend, let me tell you.

We sprayed the carriers several days before the trip, as well as the inside of the car. You can find it in most pet stores as well as on the internet.
posted by divka at 10:03 AM on January 18, 2007

Like others have said, it really depends on the cats. I've done numerous 15-hour drives with my two cats and it's quite pleasant overall. A couple of points:

1. Make sure you take a big roll of paper towels and maybe a spray bottle of water and detergent. Cats sometimes get carsick, which often means, errr, stuff coming out at both ends. This will be minimized if you don't feed the cats before leaving in the morning. It's nice to be able to clean that up thoroughly and quickly when you're in a small enclosed space! One of my cats _always_ gets carsick about 1.5 hours into the trip, then he's totally fine afterwards.

2. A leash and harness for each cat is really nice to have; it makes taking the cat out to clean the carrier much easier when you're on the side of the road and he's freaking out because of the sound of cars whizzing by. Also, some cats like to take a little walk around at rest stops, so a leash and harness are key for that.

3. At the very least, make sure each cat has a collar and tag with your phone number and such. Better safe than sorry.
posted by agent99 at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2007

Seconding the recomendation to take your cat on small trips to acclimatize them. Our own cat never gets in a car unless it's a trip to the vet or we're moving to the house. I'm sure he associates the car with the most traumatic moments in his life. He might have been better if getting in a car didn't always end with a shot in the ass.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:58 AM on January 18, 2007

Lots of good info above. I would stress though that it depends on the cat. One cat I used to drive to NY from VA just hated every second of it. Did that scary, pathetic, insane sounding yowl the entire way.

Just took another cat to the beach this summer and she loved it. Rode in my lap, or curled up in the back window.
posted by vronsky at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2007

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