Road tripping with your cats is way more fun than paying pet sitters and worrying about them while you’re away! With these tips and tricks, you’ll all enjoy your next adventure together.

Woman and a cat on a bed in the back of a vehicle

When we adopted our first cat, Fish, we knew that we wanted to include him in our travels. So, right from the beginning, Fish started traveling with us. We’ve learned a lot, and we’re happy to share our tips and tricks for traveling with your cats!

Traveling With Cats

The most important piece of advice when traveling with cats is to plan ahead. This doesn’t mean that you need to nail down every detail of your trip – we rarely do. But it works best to have some ideas about where you’ll stay and the things you’ll do along the way.

Tips and Trick for Road Tripping With Cats |

Planning Where to Stay

For us, there are five main options when considering where to stay: car camping, tent, trailer, hotel or vacation property. Each of these options comes with its own obstacles and benefits when road tripping with cats.

If you plan to sleep only in a tent or your car, keep in mind that you’ll be limited to activities that include your cat. When we’re traveling in our car, we often book one or two nights in a hotel along the way. This allows us to leave the cats safely while we do some shopping, eat out, or see a movie.


However, staying in a hotel with a cat brings its own challenges. In some places it can be difficult to find cat friendly accommodations. And when you find them, they often charge additional pet fees. Also, some hotels do not allow pets to be left alone in the room. So, be sure to verify pet policies before making your reservations.

READ MORE ⇒   Nine Cat Friendly Hotel Chains

Another option is to buy or rent a small travel trailer to tow along on your adventures. Although it’s less convenient when driving around cities, the cats are super comfortable in ours. Once we’re set up, it feels like home. And campgrounds that welcome cats are relatively easy to find and rarely charge pet fees.


Car Comfort and Safety

The safest way for your cat to travel is using a crash-tested, secured carrier. To avoid undo distress, make sure your cat is acclimated before you leave. Also, choosing the right pet carrier will allow it to double your cat’s bed while you’re traveling.

Sleepypod Mobile Bed with PPRS Handilock
Photo Credit: Sleepypod Website

Our cats, Fish and Chips have been traveling with us since kittenhood, so they’re both relaxed in the car. However, Chips does get motion sickness on winding roads. We’ve found that raising his bed to the height of the windows so he can look out helps.

When we’re planning to sleep in the car, we take the extra precaution of covering our stuff with a blanket that’s easy to wipe off. That way, if Chips gets car sick or they get something yucky on their paws, it’s easily cleaned. 


Pack the Right Gear

Road tripping with your cats means you’ll need to pack some additional items. We use a compact litter box that stays in our car, with a litter scoop and scented waste bags. You don’t need to keep a litter box in your car, but if you travel with your cats frequently, it’s more convenient.

Pet wipes are also key. You can use baby wipes, but I don’t like the scent, so we purchase wipes made specifically for pets. They are super gentle and have a lovely coconut smell. They’re great for cleaning up all kinds of messes.

Having a cat travel bag packed with Fish and Chip’s gear means we’re ready to go whenever the mood strikes. Our bag has collapsible food and water bowls, extra leashes, cat jackets, wipes, treats, and dehydrated cat food.

It’s also a good idea to bring nail clippers if you’re traveling for more than a few days. Keeping our cats’ nails trimmed means we don’t have sharp claws digging into our shoulders on hikes!

Finally, you should be sure to put a copy of your cat’s vaccination records in your travel bag. If you’d need a veterinarian, or decide to use a daycare or boarding facility, it’s necessary to show that your cat is up to date on his shots.


Respect Your Cat’s Limits

Before road tripping with cats, it’s imperative to understand what they’re comfortable doing. Fish and Chips have been traveling so long, they see the car like an extension of our home.

If your cat has only ever ridden to the vet, you’ll have some work to do before embarking on a road trip.

Begin by acclimating your cat to a harness and leash. Then start taking short drives to fun places, like the park. Keep building up the length of your trips until your cat is comfortable no matter the distance. Finally, practice sleeping in the car or a tent in your backyard. Being patient with your cat while he gets used to these new behaviors will save you sleepless nights on the road.

READ MORE ⇒  Choosing the Right Harness For Your Cat


Keep Them Cool

The final thing to stress is never leave your cat in the car on a hot day. This is why planning ahead is so important. If you book an activity that doesn’t allow you to bring him along, you’ll need to find a pet sitter or kitty daycare where your cat can stay comfortably.

Even grocery shopping needs to be done around the cats. We run those errands in the evening when it’s cooler, or one of us stays in the car with the cats.

READ MORE ⇒  Complete Guide To Planning The Perfect Pet Friendly Road Trip


Traveling with cats means making a few sacrifices along the way. However, we find it’s much more enjoyable and increases our bond.

Hopefully this article helps you enjoy adventures on the road with your feline friend, too!

Post originally published February 4, 2020.

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  • I’m considering taking a lengthy trip to see many, many national parks, but I have two wonderful cats that I can’t bear to part with. They’re indoor cats and I’m not much for camping anyway. An RV is not terribly realistic. Putting aside the difficulty of finding a cat friendly hotel, the inability to leave them in the room while I spend the day in the park has really put a damper on any hopes I had about doing this with them. I’d appreciate any suggestions or ideas you can think of. Thanks.

    • Hi CJ, and thanks for your note. Perhaps vacation rentals would be a good option for you? You’d be able to leave your cats there while you explore the parks. Another thing to consider would be a cat stroller. That would allow you to take the cats along when you visit the national parks. I hope that helps and wish you the best!

      • Thank you for the suggestion and the quick reply. Unfortunately, results from Airbnb and Vrbo (as well as sites that are just pass throughs to those two) have the same problem: pet-friendly really means dog-friendly. Someone needs to invent the cat-equivalent of those portable baby playpens, to protect the hotel/rental furniture and carpet.

  • Hi,
    We will be moving to Alaska in the summer and have 3 friendly cats! This will be at least a 6-7 day (3400 mile trip). We will be camping along the way and taking two cars. The cats will ride in the mini van and the dog in our Kia. I am certain this will be a huge adventure and appreciated all your tips

    • What a wonderful and exciting adventure, Tim! I’m glad we could help and hope you all have an amazing time.

    • We’re also moving to Alaska! Haven’t decided if we’ll fly or drive though since we have two cats and two very young children…

    • Hey Tim! I have two cats and a dog that are taking the same adventure this summer! Maybe we’ll see you out there.

  • hi my family is going home for the holidays I was wondering what kind of harness you use or recommend for a kitten about 8 months old he’s very active and very talkative I really enjoyed your article, were going from Texas to cali .

  • We are taking our 7-month old kittens away with us to a hotel next weekend. I used to do this with my other cat, but she’s since passed. The only time they’ve been in the car is for vet visits. I am looking for suggestions for the car, harnesses, anything. Thank you.

    • Good for you, Sarah! We have a bunch of posts written by people who actually travel with their cats, so they have real, practical advice. Here’s a link where you can find all those articles in one place >>

      I hope that helps! Wishing you safe and happy travels.

  • We are moving from California to Oregon next month, and we have to drive our own cars up there, so I will be driving with our cat alone. I am mostly concerned about gas/bathroom breaks and leaving my cat in my car on a hot day, even just for 5-10 minutes, as I know the internal car temp can increase quickly. I am looking into getting those usb powered portable AC units to leave on for my cat while I’m out of the car for 10 minutes or so. Do you think this will suffice to keep my cat cool and comfortable? I will also put ice packs in her carrier, just in case. Thank you!

    • Hi Tiffany, and congratulations on your upcoming move! There are a few things you can do, in addition to running the portable AC unit, to keep your cat comfortable for a short time while you need to be out of the vehicle. When possible try to park in the shade, use a sun shades to block the sunlight from coming in the windshield and windows, and use an extra set of keys or remote starting to let the car run (with the AC on), while it’s locked. If you’ll only be away for 10 minutes or so, these things should work well to keep you cat comfortable. Safe travels to you!

  • so my family is moving in a few months to canada (we’re in cal) and it will be very long for our cat. he’s used to the leash and ok with going outside (tho he gets spooked by big sounds) he is deathy afraid of our cat carrier do we let him walk around a full car or do we put him in the carrier?

    • Hi Jamie! Congratulations on your move. As you know, the safest way to transport your cat is in a carrier. But of course you don’t want to subject him to anything he’s deathly afraid of.

      My suggestion would be to start with a different kind of carrier that the one he’s afraid of and let him acclimate to it slowly. Sleepypod makes a great crash-tested carrier with a top that zips off completely. The lower half is a cozy round cat bed, which your cat might like. Once he does, you can put the top on, but leave it open while he gets used to the new configuration. Then start closing the lid for short periods of time. When he’s used to that, you could slowly start acclimating him to the car – starting with very short trips and gradually building the length while he adjusts. It would take some time and patience, but that’s what I’d recommend trying with him. Good luck to you both!

  • This was a great article I appreciate your candor, we’re moving from California to Canada with our cat we’ve had for over 11 years she’s a wonderful calico sweet personality lovable and mellow….. I really took note when you spoke about respecting the cats limits…. we leave for a road trip in about two months, so I’m gonna start introducing the leash and taking her for drives until she’s comfortable and ready for the journey. We think the drive will take about six days traveling about eight hours a day.
    I welcome any more tips….

  • Category: Travel Tips / Tagged with: Cats