By Debbie Murphy/autoMedia.com
Once I scraped my cat off the headliner, I was bloody and covered in very fine cat hair, as was the car. Cats are home-oriented; dogs are people oriented. As long as the cat is in familiar surroundings, it’s okay whether you’re there or not. Dogs don’t seem to care if you take them to Outer Siberia as long as they’re with you. Think seriously before you bring your cat on a vacation trip.
Next, pack for your pets. Bring their bedding, (if small enough to fit), blanket, or pillow. One of your sweatshirts with your body scent might do to provide a sense of normalcy. Include favorite toys and enough of their regular food to last the trip. Even if you think your pets have a cast-iron stomach, limit them to their home diet and avoid new and exciting local delicacies. Also include a water bowl and water to use on those frequent potty breaks.
Bring kitty litter and a box for your cat. Also, during that preparatory time, get your cat used to a cat harness and leash. Dogs seem to acclimate fairly quickly to a leash, but cats may have ideas of their own.
Another personal experience: if your dog is not used to taking potty walks on a leash, get him used to it. On our first road trip, my terrier-mix went 14 hours without performing properly on her many potty breaks. At home, she ran free all day and took one last outdoor excursion before bedtime. Apparently, she didn’t think she could pee on a leash. Judging from the volume that came out of her once we got back home, I’m surprised her bladder didn’t burst.
Invest in one of those special collar tags and include your name, the pet’s name and your cell phone number. We’ve all heard stories of lost pets on family trips and how they managed to find their way home. But we don’t hear the sad stories about lost pets who never make it home and end up in shelters with no way to contact traveling owners.
Try to keep to your pets’ home schedule. Feed them in the morning, about an hour before you take off, then again in the evening when you get to your destination or first night stop. If they’re used to regular walks, plan breaks that would coincide with his schedule and be sure to pack poop bags. Even if your dog is great at staying with you without a leash, keep him on a leash in unfamiliar surroundings. Every dog has its own “nature”—terriers are fearless; herding dogs tend to stick closer to their people; retrievers are chasers but give up much more quickly than terriers. But all this is moot when you and your dog have no idea what’s going to leap out of bushes in new territory.
Weather or Not
Hot weather presents very specific perils. It goes without saying: you never leave your pet in the car unattended in hot weather. Even if it’s relatively mild but sunny, the interior of your car can heat up very quickly. If you’re one of those hardy travelers who doesn’t use the air conditioner, use it for your pet’s sake. And if you don’t have a functioning A/C, keep the windows rolled partway down and keep an eye on your pet. Dogs and cats don’t sweat, they pant. It’s probably safer and less messy to pull over and let your pet have a drink. If you’re in the middle of rush-hour traffic with a violently panting pet, give him a drink anyway (hopefully, you’ll have a human companion to assist in this procedure).
Despite our shaky start, my little terrier and I have enjoyed many road trips together. I have to be careful not to leave the truck door open when she’s roaming about. She hops into her spot in the passenger seat and does everything but strap herself in and start the ignition for me. With any luck and good preparation, your pet can become an equally adept traveler.