Traveling with Cats in Car Long Distance – 9 Tips For Success

Posted: January 21, 2022 by Anita

traveling with cats in car long distance
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If you’re a travel geek and you’ve been putting off that cross-country trip along Route 66 because you’ve recently adopted a cat – I’m going to help you and your cat get from point A to point B with your sanity intact.

Maybe you’ve been hesitant about planning a road trip because, “oh my god, there is no way you are going to be cooped up for hours in a car with a cat” 

I’m here to free your worried mind.

Long car rides with cats don’t have to be a complete nightmare.  Most cats, if prepared properly, will do fine traveling long distances in a car.

In this article, I discuss 9 tips on how to travel with a cat in the car long distance.  I also discuss:

  • best cat carrier for long-distance car travel
  • getting organized when traveling long distance with a cat
  • preparing for the long-distance car travel with cats
  • cat sedative for traveling in the car (for when you can’t travel on your cat’s time)
traveling with cats in car

Tip#1 – Purchase a good cat carrier

It is super important to pick the best cat carrier for long car trips. You will need something roomy enough for kitty to stretch his legs, snack on kibble and yes, take a crap.

Choosing the best car carrier for travel

So, no cute little carrier that you might have laying around that transports your little honey to the vet and back is going to do.

  • Make sure the carrier is large enough for your cat to move around comfortably. For long distance road trips, look for a carrier that’s more like a cat travel crate rather than one made for air travel for cats
  • Test out the carrier well before the move just in case you might have to exchange it for a better option.  Make sure you know how all the bells and whistle works.
  • If you are traveling long distance with cats (as in multiple), it might be better to purchase separate carriers for each cat. However, this depends on how well your cats get along and if you have the best car for traveling long distances with multiple cats.
  • For trips around your neighborhood, it’s okay to go with something smaller – click here to see the one I got for short trips to the vet for Theo.

My choice for the best car carrier for long distance travel

Cat lovers – EVERYWHERE. I have found the best cat carrier travel crate for long-distance car travel.

I’ve used the Necoichi Portable Cat Cage and was very happy with this purchase.

This portable cat cage travel crate is large enough for two cats with plenty of room for them to sprawl out and enjoys their bowl of kibbles if they should get hungry.  And – wait for it – it comes with a portable cat litter box.  I suggest lining the portable cage with So Phresh Quilted Potty Pads (click here for the latest price from Amazon) just in case there were any spills or accidents from the cats.

Some things to consider regarding the Necoichi Portable Cat Cage:

  • comes with a waterproof litter box but I recommend placing a disposable litter box inside of it.
  • the bottom of the Necoichi is not very supportive. So I recommend setting it up in your car then situating the cats once the cat cage is inside your car. Reverse the method – cats out of the car then cage out last – once you get to your destination.
  • Necoichi is the perfect cat carrier for two cats.
  • This is a soft-sided cat carrier travel crate.  If you are driving long distance with a cat that is a bit over the top and might put up a fuss and ruckus – I would recommend a hard-sided cat carrier.  Click here to check out the Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier or the Iris USA Medium Deluxe Pet Travel Carrier.

The next carrier that I recommended hasn’t been road-tested by me – yet.  But once the pandemic is under control I will be trying out the Amazon Basics Portable Folding Soft Crate Kennel on a roundtrip road trip with Theo to Chicago.

Check out the cute carriers from

Tip #2 – Get your cat use to his new carrier

You don’t want to wait until it’s time to get your cat packed for that long trip to test out the cat carrier. Most cats, once they get used to the concept will do fine traveling long distances in a car.

And be prepared for all possibilities.

Preparing to travel cross-country with cats can be overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be awful.

How to get your cat use to the carrier

  • start them out young – kittens are down for almost anything and everything. So get them loving that carrier when they’re little. Let them play in it. Let them lay in it. Let them eat in it.
  • adult cats can be taught to love the carrier, too – leave the carrier out all the time and make it one of your cat’s chill spots. Make it your cat’s crib-away-from-home by making it comfortable and homey to your cat. Place their favorite toys in the carrier. Feed him in the carrier. Make the carrier a no-big-deal for your cat by making it a positive part of his life.
  • get your cat use to having the door of the carrier closed – now that your cat is loving the carrier, it’s time to get her use to having the door closed and locked. Try this: close the carrier door once your cat wonders in. Give your cat a treat (while the door is close). Once the cat finishes the treat open the carrier door. Repeat the process with you slowly increasing the amout of time the carrier door stays shut. Be patient and don’t give up. It might take some time (like weeks) for your cat to get use to this part.

Tip #3 -Test drive your cat and the carrier

As cat parents, our cats are a special part of the family. People are going everywhere with their cats these days. The key to getting your cat ready for long-distance car travel is to take them with you…everywhere. Now.

Just like dog parents.

Take a few short car rides with your cat in the days before the real road trip. Eventually, your cat will get used to going places with you by car, leash, or backpack. Even by plane.

(Taking Theo on a plane…I’m not there yet, ya’ll).

And it will become second nature (and less stressful) for you.

Check out this cute escape-proof cat harness from by clicking here.

Check out these cute cat carriers from Etsy.comClick here

Tip #4 – Get organized when planning long-distance travel with cats

When traveling long distances with a cat, you must prepare yourself and your fluffball for the journey. The first thing you want to do is get organized.

Here are some suggestions to get you started with organizing your trip:

  • Make two lists, one for you and one for the cats, of things that you will need for the trip.
  • Make deadlines to get things done and hold yourself accountable. Think about what should be done to make the trip easier for the cat and for you.
  • get your packing done and in the u-haul or with the movers the day before your trip.
  • Don’t forget about the car.  Make sure maintenance is up to date.
  • Then come up with a contingency plan should the first plan blows up. When traveling long distances with cats, anything could happen.

Tip#5 – Prepare for long-distance travel with cats

  • Prepare a cat travel bag with snacks, cat food, litter pads, and baby wipes.
  • Place small bowls of food and water in the carrier.
  • Prepare the carrier with a couple of items that the cat is familiar with such as its favorite toy and a comfortable blanket.
  • Set up a travel litter box for cats with a litter pad.   Even though your cat might not have the desire to go potty during the trip it’s best to be ready – just in case. Be sure to pack extra litter pads and travel cat litter boxes.

See my recommendation for the best disposable litter box for travel – click here.

Right before you take off on your trip

  • Leave the carrier out weeks before the move so your cat can get used to it. Place kitty’s favorite treats inside the carrier.
  • On the day of the journey, spray a cat pheromone inside the cat carrier.
  • Allow the cat to mosey on in the carrier under its own steam. Close the door of the cat carrier once the cat is inside.
  • How to travel long distance with multiple cats? If applicable, wash, rinse, and repeat for 2nd cat.
traveling with cats in car long distance

Tip #6 – Prepare the car for the cats

  • Don’t overcrowd the cats and their carrier inside the car.
  • Make the cat’s space inside the car priority number one.
  • If possible, don’t pack anything else but the cats inside of the car.
  • If it sounds like I’m repeating myself it’s because I believe this step is important.  Less clutter in the car means a more zen, anxiety-free space for you and your cat.
  • Be sure to place cats/carrier in the car right before driving off.

Tip #7 – Cat sedative for traveling in the car

Cat sedative for travel?  Some cats will be stressed and irritated no matter how feng shui you make your car and the cat carrier.

Medicine to calm cats for travel might be something you might have to think about to keep everyone safe during the trip.

If you’ve had your cat for a while and taken a few trips in your car to the vet, you will know whether sedating your cat is a good idea.

Cat sedative means easing your cat’s anxiety via medication.  This easing of anxiety can range from chilling your cat out to your furball getting sleepy enough to take a catnap.

How to sedate a cat for travel

First, discuss sedating your cat with your vet. This is very important. Do not try to self-prescribe medicine for your cat.

The vet can prescribe the right sedative and dosage based on their knowledge of your cat. Or at least ask your vet for recommendations for an over-the-counter cat sedative.

  • Administering meds to a cat isn’t easy.  You might need help with the process.
  • Wrap your cat in a towel, small blanket, or pillowcase.  This is to protect you from getting scratched.
  • With a firm grip, lightly squeeze the jaw to open your cat’s mouth.
  • Push the pill into the side of your cat’s mouth.
  • Gently grasp the jaw with one hand and stroke underneath the chin with the other hand.  This should activate the swallowing action in your cat.
  • Stay in this position for a few then release your cat.  Once the cat starts to chill, assist the cat into the carrier.
  • Take off on your journey.

Tip #8 – Plan for stops along the way

  • Plan for stops to give you and your cat a break. Allow for playtime during these stops.  Be sure to have your cat on a leash should you let him out of the carrier
  • If necessary stop overnight at a hotel that welcomes cats.  Be sure to ask about deposits or fees, and the number of animals allowed.
  • Keep to your cat’s schedule. Make sure you feed and provide water at times he would normally eat.

Tip #9 – Consider training your cat to walk on a leash

This trip might be the perfect opportunity to get your cat use to a leash. Leash training requires time and patience. So your cat might not be ready for the leash on your first trip.

However, if you plan on taking lots of trips – as I do – training your cat to the leash might be something that will benefit both you and your cat over time.

On long trips, having your cat leash trained will allow you to be able to take a bathroom break. You can bring your cat with you to the bathroom when the weather is too hot for your cat to stay in the car.

A cat on a leash with a well-fitted harness can be helpful in controlling your cat while in a unknown environment. Be sure to have your cat microchipped just in case your cat get away from you.

traveling with cats in car long distance


Traveling with cats in a car long distances can be stressful.  But it doesn’t have to be awful. Traveling with cats long distance has to be well planned out and synchronized to the very second.

n this article, I discussed:

  • how to travel long distance with a cat (in a car)
  • best cat carrier for car travel
  • cat sedative for traveling in the car (for when you can’t travel on your cat’s time)

Get organized. Make two lists, one for you and one for the cats, of things you will need for the trip. Make sure to pick a carrier large enough for your cat to move around comfortably. Look for a carrier that’s more like a cat travel kennel rather than one made for air travel for cats.

Prepare you and your cat for the journey.  It might be necessary for you to sedate your cat.  Please consult your vet for the right type of medicine and dosage.

Don’t forget about the car.  Make sure maintenance is up to date.

Then come up with a contingency plan should the first plan blows up. When traveling long distances with cats, anything could happen.

Other great articles from the Cat Mama: