9 Tips Before You Transport a Cat Long Distance By Car

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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Before we dive into the tips on how to transport a cat long distance by car, there’s one important note: By nature, cats do not travel well. They are creatures of habit and routine.

How to Transport a Cat Long Distance By Car

As a result, a cat would prefer the safety of familiar surroundings. These are locations like their favorite sleeping places and their litter box, not the stress of travel and relocation in a car. If you are making a permanent move, naturally you have to take your cat. For short trips such as vacations or business trips, we advise you to hire a cat sitter or ask a neighbor (for the aforementioned familiarity, of course) to watch your pet. If that’s not possible, our tips for transporting a cat long distance by car will help keep the cat safe and happy during the trip.

Before the Trip

1. A Love For the Car

For your cat, car travel may be relegated to vet trips. If that’s the case, you can prep them for a long-distance trip by making vehicle rides a regular activity. Remember, the aim of this practice is to reduce the stress of travel for your cat. Typically, your cat will dislike any form of travel. However, the frequency of rides will make them feel more comfortable, as the car is slowly acknowledged as a safe place. That being said, car rides should be made as comfortable for your cat as possible.

  • Be sure the cat is comfortable in its carrier.
  • Try to make the car rides as quiet as possible. Turn the volume on your radio down or off. Avoid high traffic areas; honking horns and strange engine noises can add to the cat’s stress levels.
  • Bring lots of water. Depending on the duration of your initial trip, you should carry up to a gallon of water. Also, make sure that this is water from home. Cats may become sensitive to water that tastes different.
  • Try to drive as smoothly and softly as possible. Avoid potholes, bumpy roads and braking abruptly. 
  • Don’t forget the litter box!

2. Allow Your Cat to Get Used to the Carrier

We already mentioned that the cat should be comfortable in its carrier. A big part of ensuring comfort for the cat is having a carrier that’s large enough. That means the cat must be able to comfortably stand in the crate or carrier without touching the top.

  • We strongly recommend choosing a cat carrier out of hard plastic.
  • The carrier should be properly ventilated.
  • That being said, the aforementioned car rides will also be an exercise to get your cat familiar with the leash and carrier. Use this equipment as much as possible as familiarity will reduce the impact of stress.

3. Visit Your Veterinarian

Before your trip, it is a good idea to give your cat a checkup. Test for any form of motion sickness or any other factor that could affect the trip. Advise your veterinarian of your intention to travel with your cat, and listen to the expert advice they provide. While we don’t recommend sedation, you might be able to do this to reduce stress. Your veterinarian will once again advise you on the proper dosage if you choose to go this route.

4. Allow for Stopovers

Remember, cats don’t travel well. Depending on the duration of your trip, you will need to consider stopovers. Let your cat have a break along the way. You might want to research the best pet-friendly hotels and book your stay in advance. 

The Actual Trip

You completed your preparations and the day of the trip is here. Your cat should have some familiarity with your car, its carrier and its leash so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises.

5. Feed Your Cat Before the Trip

It is recommended that you feed your cat at least four hours before the trip or even longer. Based on the trip’s duration, four hours is the ideal amount of time. Your cat would not get hungry during the trip (or before the recommended stopover), so this time is ideal for proper digestion. Also, some cats get car sick, so feeding them in time will avoid vomiting accidents.

6. Properly Secure the Carrier

We cannot emphasize enough that cats do not like to travel. The experience, therefore, has to be as comfortable, stress-free, and safe as possible. Make sure that the carrier is secured properly using the seatbelt. This will prevent any unnecessary movement, and also improve safety in the event of an accident. Also, make sure that the carrier’s door is securely closed so that the cat does not get out and move around in the vehicle. This will help prevent accidents.

7. Try to Make The Trip as Comfortable as Possible

With your carrier secure, you have to now focus on the actual driving. Try to avoid any potholes or bumpy roads where possible. Keep in mind that the drive is a silent one. Cats detest loud noises. Keep the radio off or at a low volume. Also, avoid any areas of high traffic where possible as this may contribute to uncontrollable noises.

After the Trip

With the arduous trip completed, there are still a few things to do to properly facilitate your cat. Remember, your pet will be adjusting to a new environment. Given a choice, your cat would have preferred to stay in familiar territory. This is why you will try to make the adjustment and eventual acceptance as comfortable as possible.

8. Spread Out Your Cat’s Toys and other Possessions

One step towards making your cat feel comfortable in their new home is to bring a sense of familiarity. Make sure your cat is surrounded asap by everything they love. We would recommend spreading out their possessions over the area. These will carry familiar scents and assist in making your cat comfortable. Set up the litter box and food and water bowl with the same intricate love that you did at the previous residence.

9. Spend Time With Your Cat

For your pet, the constant in the whole experience will be you. Pets can pick up on emotions and we all know that they are capable of love. Spend time with your cat in this new environment. Talk to him or her. Play with him or her. Give your cat that sense of love and familiarity. You will eventually see the acceptance of everything. It starts with a purr.

Plane Versus Car: What is the Best Way to Transport a Cat Over a Long Distance?

Depending on the nature and distance of your trip you may have to transport your cat via airplane. This, of course, is the least ideal option. 

With airplane travel, you have less control. Your cat is placed in a carrier and put in a designated area usually in the cargo hold. All of the familiarity, the comfort, and the personalized aspect of traveling in the vehicle will be nonexistent. This is in light of the repeatedly mentioned fact that cats hate to travel.

However, traveling with your cat via car will lessen the amount of stress that your pet will feel. This is even more effective if you prepared for the trip beforehand using the aforementioned guidelines. You are in control of your road trip and based on the fact that you know your cat intimately, you are the best person to make the trip comfortable.

If You Can’t Drive Your Cat Yourself

If you can’t escort your furry friend to their new destination, there are plenty of pet shipping options out there. While there are traditional pet transporters, there are also less conventional options that can save you money and give you more choice about the individual that drives your cat. All you need to do is submit a quote for your cat’s journey and you’ll receive bids back from professional, experienced pet shippers within minutes.  

CitizenShipper makes it easy to communicate with potential drivers so you can give them specific instructions or requests for your cat. Once you have selected a driver you can arrange for a specific pick up and drop off time. You can even suggest the best route if you have a preference. The driver will stay in touch with you for the whole journey, giving you peace of mind that your kitty is safe and sound. 


As a cat lover, arguably one of the most rewarding feelings is to hear the comforting purr of your little furry friend. A purr means that your cat is relaxed, comfortable and most of all, that your cat loves you. Some may think that they choose a cat, but the cat actually chooses its master. It does this based on a level of trust that it would have in you. Such trust is an honor and you should always try to maintain it. This extends to the transportation of your cat. If you have to move your cat over a long distance, make the trip as pet-friendly and comfortable as possible.

Contact us at any time if you have further questions about how to transport your cat with a professional driver!