Car Setup for Cats

Going on road trips with your cat is the best way to transport your cat from your home to your outdoor destinations. Figuring out the best way for the to travel by car is important, for everyone’s safety and enjoyment. This article will outline the various options you have for car travel with your cat(s).

Jump to:

  1. Considerations
  2. Carriers and Kennels
  3. Booster Seats
  4. Seatbelt Tether and Harnesses
  5. Free Roaming
  6. Teddy’s Car Setup

Considerations

In general, there are several things to consider:

  • Keeping Your Cat Safe: The more confined the cats are, the more safe they will be, since they will not be thrown around as much in the case of an accident. However, most cats do not enjoy being confined for long periods of time.
  • Keeping Your Cat Happy: Keeping your cat happy and calm is important because otherwise you will be worrying about them instead of focusing on driving. If your cat does not tolerate being confined, it may be best to not shut them in a carrier and have them meow the entire way. Some cats may also prefer to be able to see out the windows.
  • Driving Safety: It’s important to make sure you are driving safely. If a cat is on the dashboard, rear windows, or a side window bed, they are obstructing the driver’s view, which is unsafe. If a free roaming cat gets under the driver’s legs on the foot pedals, this is extremely dangerous as the driver may not be able to brake properly. And if the cat is on the driver’s lap, this may limit their range of movement in controlling the steering wheel.
  • Local Laws: Remember to check your local laws regarding pets in cars. Here in BC, Canada there is no specific law regarding pets in cars, however, a loose pet may implicate you for distracted driving.
Roadtrips with Teddy

Carriers and Kennels

Carriers and kennels keep your cats contained and secure, so they will not be jumping around the car and distracting the driver. Carriers / kennels are a good option if:

  • The cat is used to being in a carrier and are happy being inside for long periods of time.
  • The cat is scared of being in the car – keeping a scared cat in the carrier will prevent them from freaking out and running around, and also keep any accidents contained within the carrier.
  • The cat likes to jump around the car – keeping them secure and away from the driver is important.
  • You are driving alone and can’t keep an eye on your cat.

Crash Tested Carrier for Cats

Sleepypod is the only brand that makes officially crash tested carriers, and also specifically for cats. They make four models, one of which is plane compliant as well. These carriers go on the car seats and require strapping down with the seatbelt, to make it extra secure.

Sleepypod

Crash Tested Kennels for Dogs

There are several crash tested dog carriers, and the smallest sizes could also work for cats. These can go either on the back seats or trunk of an SUV, and are also crash tested to withstand car accidents. However they are not specifically designed for cats.

Gunner Kennel

Regular Pet Carriers

A regular carrier or backpack can also be relatively safe, if it is placed at the foot well of the rear passenger seats. In the event of a car crash, this is the most secure location as it is protected by the front and back seats. Alternatively, you can use your seatbelt to strap the carrier into the car seat, to prevent sliding while driving. Using their regular pet carrier is also convenient because you don’t have to buy a new piece of gear.

Soft Sided Kennel

A large kennel placed in the back seats can be used to keep your cats secured and confined, and give them more room to stretch out. If the kennel is large enough, you can also put a litter box, and food and water bowls for them which is a good option for longer road trips. Soft sided kennels are a good idea if you have more than one cat and they like to stay together.

Soft sided kennel

Booster Seats

Booster seats are a raised box seat designed for pets, and can be put on the rear seats or the passenger seat. Some car seats have a tether to restrict them from jumping out. Booster seats are a good option if:

  • The cat gets bored in the car – The car seat is higher up and allows them to see outside the car windows
  • The cat is calm and not likely to want to run around the car.
  • The cat doesn’t tolerate being in a carrier

Car seat options:

Car Booster Seat

Seatbelt Tethers & Harnesses

Using specially designed seatbelt tethers and harnesses allows the cat to feel free but still be safe and secure, in the case of a car accident. These harnesses are designed to reduce force on the animals’ torso in the case of an accident. Having them tied in will also stop them from suddenly running out when you open the car doors. Seatbelt tethers are a good idea if:

  • Your cat is calm in the car and not likely to try and jump around
  • Your cat is used to being in a harness
  • You don’t want to get something that takes up room in the car

Seatbelt tether options:

Seatbelt harness options (designed for dogs only):

Kurgo Tether and Harness

Free Roaming

The least safe option is letting your cat free roam the car. This is unsafe as your cat may jump onto the dashboard or rear window and obstruct the drivers view, or jump under the driver’s pedals, or climb onto the driver’s lap and restrict their control of the car. In the case of a car accident, a free roaming cat will be thrown around, and may even fly out the windshield. Free roaming is not recommended, however, it may be a good option if:

  • You’ve tried all the other options and nothing is working out
  • Your cat is extremely well behaved in the car, and never goes to the dashboard, rear window, or driver’s lap
  • Someone else in the car (not the driver) can keep an eye on the cat
Teddy on the dashboard – he is usually NOT allowed to do this!

You don’t need any gear for free roaming, however, a car seat cover may be a good idea to reduce dirt and prevent scratches on your seats.

Car seat cover

Teddy’s Car Setup

How does Teddy travel in my car? He uses a car booster seat, and is tethered to the seatbelt as well. I’ve decided on this as our best option, because he hates being enclosed, and he’s pretty good about staying in the same spot. Having him in the car seat next to me while driving allows me to check on him and not have to worry about what he’s up to. He is happy that he can look out the windows, and also be close to me.

Teddy’s car booster seat – Kurgo Heather Dog Booster Seat

I also sometimes put teddy in his backpack, if I don’t have the booster seat with me. He is pretty good about staying in the backpack as well, as long as his head can stick out (so he doesn’t feel trapped). I will also put his backpack on my lap like this, if we are traveling in someone else’s car or if there is no space for a booster seat. It’s convenient because I always have the backpack with him anyways.

Teddy in his backpack – Petsfit Backpack

2 thoughts on “Car Setup for Cats

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