Calming your cat down for travel – whether in the car or on the plane – is crucial for your cat to have a good traveling experience. Learn our best tips for keeping a cat calm for travel below.
Traveling with a cat can either be calm and pleasant or extremely stressful. And that all depends on your cat’s experience.
Many cats hate traveling because they associate it with trips to the vet. But there are cats who are travel enthusiasts. These adventurous felines go on road trips, outdoor hikes, backpacking, kayaking, and more, with their human owners.
But none of that exploring would be enjoyable if your cat wasn’t comfortable. No cat mom or cat dad likes to see their fluffy kitty all distressed in times of transition.
With that being said, it’s absolutely crucial that your cat can remain calm while traveling. We’re here to share our 10 best tips and tricks for how to calm a cat down for travel.
Tip 1. Train, Don’t Sedate
With exposure and experience, cats can learn to stay calm while traveling. But this requires effort and patience.
Many people will rush their cats into travel because of necessary vet trips. And while you can’t avoid this necessity, you can prepare for it.
If you truly want your cat to stay calm, on their own will, then avoid sedating your cat at all costs. Sedating a cat for travel is more harmful than harmless. You’ll not only put your cat at risk of health issues, but you’ll also likely terrorize the crap out of them too. And they’ll most definitely hate traveling forever after.
There are sedative alternatives, like calming aromas and even natural CBD oil drops to help soothe anxious cats without risking the harmful side effects of drugs/medical sedation. But before using these, make sure to do your research and seek out if the brand is reputable or not. Talk to your vet if you have concerns.
Tip 2. Start with The Carrier
In almost every situation where your cat has to travel, there’s some sort of cat travel carrier involved.
That being said, your cat must be able to stay calm while inside the carrier. If not, and your cat hates the carrier, you’ll need to start back at the basics.
Training your cat to use their carrier is an essential part of keeping your cat calm for travel.
I always recommend separating your cat’s carriers into two different uses. One for traveling and for fun outings, and the other for serious situations or vet trips.
Some cats need this separation in order not to panic. If you put them in their vet-designated carrier, they’ll likely be tensed the whole time you’re traveling.
Tip 3. Reward with Treats
Cats learn through positive reinforcement and association. So if you can reward your cat with treats every time they sit quietly in the car, then soon enough, they’ll realize the car isn’t that bad of a place after all.
Don’t be too generous though. Otherwise, your kitty might lose interest and therefore will be less willing to accept a reward for their good behavior.
Tip 4. Give Distractions
When we first traveled with Yoda in the car, there was so much for him to take in. Moving vehicles, loud noises, changing environments, sudden stops, and acceleration, etc.
To give him a sense of belonging and familiarity, we always brought along his pop-up cube, which he used as a bed and place of comfort. By training him to lie down and take a nap, we were able to slowly remove the cube over time.
To this day, he will still lie down on the car seat and sleep, because we trained him to do so at an early age.
Similarly, the first time we traveled by plane everything was new for him (and for me). Yoda adapted rather quickly, however, and didn’t show signs of obvious stress (like meowing in the plane). I believe his good behavior is a direct result of his early training to stay calm while traveling in the car.
Tip 5. Practice (Almost) Makes Purrfect
Small steps are key when wanting your cat to remain calm during travel.
Every new sensation can change your cat’s experience, so introducing these in incremental steps is crucial for getting your cat to calm down.
You can start by practicing in your home first. Especially so if your cat needs time to adjust to their carrier.
Next, you’ll want to head outdoors. Say your backyard or garden. See how your cat reacts to a new environment. Then, go in the car, but don’t turn it on. Just let your cat explore the car when it’s not moving. And so on and so forth.
Tip 6. Be Calm, Move Gently
If you’re stressing out about traveling, so will your cat.
Cats can pick up on their owners’ stress. If you’re moving about quickly, like rushing to place them in the carrier and speed to the vet because you’re late, then your cat will not be able to calm down.
From all of our travels with Yoda, I’ve observed that when I’m calmer, so is he.
So make sure to radiate your calmness, move gently and slowly, giving calm, reassuring cuddles and cues.
Tip 7. Make Traveling “Fun”
What does your cat enjoy? What’s your cat’s favorite toy? Food?
Providing the things your cat enjoys most on your travels will help your cat ease into travel and help them stay calmer. Bringing these items along and frequently giving them to your cat will help them stay calm.
It lets them know that traveling doesn’t have to be a stressful part of their life.
Foods or toys that they don’t get often, but love, are even better. Try not to use their daily food, as they’ll likely find that boring and uninteresting.
Tip 8. Play Relaxing Music for Cats (?)
Some cat owners attest to relaxing music to help calm their cats down. We have never tried this with Yoda, but some cats respond differently to different stimuli.
In any case, it would be interesting to test it at home to see if it helps your cat sleep and calm down.
Tip 9. Provide a Sense of Security/Privacy
Cats can be odd travelers. When they’re completely safe, they might think otherwise. This is sometimes the case with Yoda, who sometimes stresses if his carrier is not covered enough.
When he is anxious during travel, he tends to curl up tighter in a ball and shies away from the public eye.
So to help keep him calm while traveling, we use a dark blanket to cover up parts of his carrier. Giving him this extra sense of security and privacy helps him feel less exposed – and therefore less threatened to all the “scary” sounds and sights outside.
Tip 10. Keep Trips Short & Sweet
To help keep your cat calm while traveling, try to shorten the total length of your trip. If this isn’t avoidable, then at least give your cat breaks (i.e. potty breaks, walking, stretching, etc.).
Shorter trips will be less stressful for your cat in general, but every cat is different.
Bonus Tip: Know Your Cat Well
Above all, you really need to know your cat’s comforts and limits.
Knowing your cat’s strengths and weaknesses will help you better provide for your cat while traveling. It’ll also help you know how to calm your cat down by responding to their specific needs.
These 10 tips are just guides to help you calm your cat in case you don’t know where to start.
Final Thoughts: 10 Tips How to Calm Cats Down for Travel
Every cat is different so knowing how to best calm your cat down for travel will greatly depend on your cat and you.
We hope this article will help you in training your cat to stay calm while traveling. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below!
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