Heading out on the open road with your best friend can be an exciting adventure and an opportunity to strengthen that all-too-special human/animal bond. However, planning a safe and enjoyable road trip with pets requires a little extra planning and consideration. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered!
To help you plan for upcoming pet-friendly vacations, we sat down with pet mom and content creator Britt Kascjak from The Kas Pack. Britt and her husband, John, enjoy travelling all over Ontario, camping, and hiking with their 3 dogs and 2 cats.
One of the key takeaways from our conversation is the importance of being prepared for anything. After all, accidents happen! Whether you’re a seasoned pet-friendly road-tripper or are planning your first road trip with dogs or cats, these insights will help ensure that your pets will be safe and comfortable during your next adventure.
Listen to the podcast episode here.
Tips and Tricks For a Successful Road Trip with Pets
If your pet is new to being in a vehicle, start with short trips and plenty of praise. This will help you create a positive association with the car that will set you up for success on future trips. Try just sitting in the vehicle in your driveway and monitoring your pet’s response. Do they appear to be nervous of the space? Are they comfortable with the engine running?
When they are comfortable sitting in a running vehicle, take a short trip around the block. Over time, you can work up the distance you are travelling, always focusing on praise and rewards. In time, you will be ready to take on long-distance car travel with cats or dogs.
Check Your Pet’s ID Before Leaving
Before every trip, take a moment to look over your pet’s identification. Look over any ID tags to verify that the information is correct and up to date. It’s easy to overlook updating a pet’s tag if you have recently moved! You should also check that the tag is easy to read and not too worn.
If your pet is microchipped, set a reminder in your phone to double-check the information the microchip company has on file at least once each year.
In the event of an accident, is your pet safe? There are laws in place requiring humans to wear seat belts, but this exact requirement should be applied to your pet during travel.
When road-tripping with a cat or small dog, you can safely contain your travel companion using a travel carrier buckled securely in the backseat. This will prevent the carrier from being thrown. Carriers can be used for larger dogs, but they may have to be secured with the seats down or in the back hatch, depending on the carrier size.
Here are some recommended pet travel carriers:
Your pet should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably in their carrier.
Another option for safe travel with a larger pet is to use a pet seatbelt and crash-tested harness. There are several styles to choose from, including harnesses that use the existing seatbelt, seatbelt additions that buckle into your current seatbelt buckle, or seatbelts that hook onto the seatbelt headrest.
Pack a Pet First Aid Kit
Every road-tripper should have a first aid kit in the vehicle in case of an emergency, but did you know that your standard first aid kit won’t contain everything a pet may need? When you road trip with pets, there are a few essential additions to consider, such as:
You can create your own DIY pet first aid kit by gathering all the necessary items or purchasing an already-made one like this pet first aid kit. Just ensure that you select a pet-specific kit with the additional items needed for your furry travel buddy.
Additionally, identify and list the emergency veterinary clinics along your route, including their contact information. Time is valuable in an emergency and may even mean the difference between life and death. This information lets you respond quickly and get your pet the help they need.
Take Frequent Breaks
When planning your route and timeline for your upcoming trip, you may need to include additional breaks for your pet – especially if you are the type of road-tripper who usually drives for hours without stopping. This will be even more important if you travel with a senior pet, kitten, or puppy in the car. At these ages, pets generally need to go to the bathroom more often to avoid an accident (and no one wants to clean the vehicle on the side of the road).
During these breaks, always offer fresh, cool water. Some water dishes claim to be spill-free, but that claim doesn’t always hold true. Wet bedding from a water spill is uncomfortable for your pet. Instead, keep the water safely contained and prevent dehydration with frequent water breaks.
If you’re travelling with a puppy in a car, you may also need to consider their excess energy. A bored puppy is often a destructive puppy. Planning breaks where they can stretch their legs or play a little before getting back in the vehicle may save your vehicle from damage. On long trips, you may want to use an app like AllTrails to locate a short, easy trail and break up the drive with a walk.
Ensure Accommodations are Pet-Friendly
We would love to think that every hotel and Airbnb is pet-friendly, but that’s definitely not the case. In addition to checking that the hotel you are visiting allows pets, you should also carefully read over their pet policy. Some hotels will restrict pets based on size or the number of pets, while others will accept dogs but not cats.
You may be charged additional fees for including a pet in your reservation. Check for “pet cleaning fees” when booking to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Watch this episode on YouTube!
Differences Planning a Road Trip with Dogs or Cats
While there are many similarities between travelling with dogs and cats, there are also some key differences that you will need to consider. The first and most obvious is the possible need for a litter box. Some cats can be trained to go to the bathroom outdoors like a dog, but most cats will be happiest with the familiarity of a litter box.
Travel litter boxes are available with lids designed to contain the litter and prevent spills while driving. They are also effective at keeping any smells contained.
Be cautious when relying on harnesses while out with your cat. Unlike dogs, a cat’s body shape and structure prevent companies from being able to design an escape-proof harness. Always monitor your cat carefully. Stay behind your cat when walking, as they are more likely to escape when backing out of the harness.
When is it Best to Leave Your Pet Behind
Not all dogs and cats love being in the car. For some, road trips can trigger severe stress and anxiety regardless of the steps you take to make them comfortable. Some situations are best handled by leaving your pet with a trusted friend, family member, or pet sitter.
Cats can be left at home in the space where they are most comfortable if someone is stopping in to clean their litterbox, fill their food and water dishes, and offer some much-needed companionship. This eliminates the need for car rides for those feisty felines who are uncomfortable in the vehicle.
Leaving a dog for vacation may be more difficult. If you’re unable to find someone you trust to stay in your home, you may have to help your dog navigate a short road trip. If your dog is severely anxious in the vehicle, contact your veterinarian to discuss the possibility of calming medication or sedation.
Listen to this podcast episode on Spotify.
Final Thoughts: Taking a Road Trip with Pets
Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip with a dog or a short trip to visit friends and family in the next town over, several key factors must be considered. These small changes and preparations will allow both you and your pet to enjoy a safe and comfortable adventure wherever the road may lead you.
Ensure your pet is safely contained, whether that means a secure crate or a seatbelt. We must wear seatbelts for safety; the same applies to them! Plan your trip with regular bathroom and water breaks.
When preparing for a road trip with pets, your packing list will need a few specific additions, including a pet-specific first aid kit. Bringing your pet’s favourite bedding or toy can help ease any nervousness by providing comfort and familiarity. Most importantly, make sure your pet always wears up-to-date identification.
Are you planning on hitting the road with your pet? Introduce your furry travel buddy in the comments.