Traveling with dogs and cats can be exciting for you and your pets. Whether you’re heading to the beach or moving out of state, bringing your furry best friends with you adds a new level of fun to the experience. Learn more about how to prepare your pets and stay safe on the road.

Preparing Pets for Travel

Good preparation can mean the difference between a successful journey and a stressful trek. Whether your dog or cat is already comfortable in cars or is terrified because of trips to the vet, it’s helpful to prepare yourself and your pet for a long car ride together.

All pets react differently to car travel and it can help to go on a few shorter drives to condition your dog or cat to the feeling. If a pet is particularly afraid of vet trips, making driving a part of a routine can help. If possible, take them with you on short drives several times a week so they don’t always associate the car with the vet.

When it’s time for the trip, feed them a smaller meal a few hours before you leave. Feeding a dog or cat in a moving car can give them an upset stomach, so it’s better if they eat before you leave and schedule dinner during one of your rest stops. Sometimes, dogs don’t want to drink water in the car. You can help them stay hydrated with ice cubes, which are easier on the stomach.

Your pet will probably need more bathroom stops than you. While you’re preparing the best driving route, mark the places along the way that are nicest for your pet to relax for a few minutes and stretch his legs. Your cat might not like using his litter box while the car is moving. Plus, your dog will appreciate the exercise breaks. Even if you think they can wait a couple of hours, it’s better to stop regularly to ensure that they’re comfortable.

Pet Supplies for the Car

Packing for your dog or cat means thinking about all the things that they need for their daily routine, plus some special extras for the long car ride. Use this list so you don’t forget anything important:

  • Pet Food and food bowl
  • Water bottles and bowl
  • Your pet’s favorite treats
  • Their bed and some toys
  • Collar and leash
  • Wipes and towels to clean paws and seats
  • Brush, shampoo and other grooming supplies
  • Medications
  • A crate that’s tall enough for them to stand and stretch

Don’t forget clean-up bags for your dog during bathroom stops. And, for your cat, bring the litter box, litter and garbage bags.

Your travel kit can also include any favorite blankets, pillows or other items from home that your pet is used to. These little things can make them feel much more comfortable in the car. Also, consider using seat covers and rubber floor liners to catch any messes and avoid stains.

On the Road With Your Pets

Safety is the top priority while driving with pets. The safest place for dogs and cats is in the back seat in their crates. A crate is safest because it can be secured to the seat to protect your pet from sudden stops.

If you’re not using a crate, your pet should still sit in the back seat. Putting their bed or favorite pillows on the seat can help them feel at home. You can even purchase pet car seats that keep them secure and comfortable. Or, you can buy a harness that attaches to the seatbelt so they’re buckled up, just like you.

Don’t let your dog hold her head out of the window, no matter how much she seems to love it. Making sure your pet is secure in his crate or bed means less distractions for the driver, too. Always prioritize safety and, if your pet needs something, pull over to address it.

Stopping for a bathroom break or some exercise can make a pet excited, so it’s important to organize yourself before you let them out of the car. Have your dog’s or cat’s leash ready and only let them out after you’ve poured their food or taken their toys out of the bag so they don’t run off before you’re ready. Staying calm and being prepared will make the trip safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

Never leave your pet alone in the car, even if it’s for a quick trip into the bathroom. If you’re the only person driving with them, make plans ahead of time for how to handle this situation. Temperatures can become too hot or too cold very quickly in a car, even if you’ve left the windows open.

Many stores will indicate on their websites if they’re pet-friendly, so you can plan to visit one of these places to bring your dog inside and use the restroom. Plus, a pet store is a great place to pick up a new toy for your travel companion!

Comfy Pets Are Happy Pets

Making sure your pet is comfortable is the second-most important thing, after safety. Maintaining their usual schedule of feeding times and walks is a good way to help them feel calm. Familiar blankets or one of your shirts or jackets works, too.

Research has shown that classical music has a soothing effect on dogs, while heavy metal has the opposite effect. So, when you’re choosing your playlist, keep your pet’s tastes in mind, too.


Driving long distances with a dog or cat in the car can seem complicated, but with the right preparation and some simple considerations for your pet’s needs, you can make sure everyone’s comfortable. Even traveling with multiple pets is easy when you follow our tips and plan ahead. Most importantly, drive safely and have fun together!

  1. Burkert, Amy. “Tips For Traveling Alone With A Pet.”, GoPetFriendly, 11 Dec. 2017. “Travel Safety Tips.” ASPCA, ASPCA.

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