Regular readers will know that I adore my cat, Ivy, and despite a few feline eccentricities, she is an absolute angel. But nothing turns her into the devil’s child faster than taking her out for a car ride.
From what I understand, cats aren’t fans of change to begin with. Then, to place them in a crate, going to places unknown, can be a scary prospect for certain cats.
The first time I took her to the vet, she didn’t just cry, she meowed in repeated shrieks at the top of her lungs. It was horrible. Thankfully, the vet is just 5 minutes away, but that was the longest 5 minutes of my life.
I often wonder what must be running through her mind through her persistent meows.
But what is it that elicits this strong reaction? Is it the sound of the engine? Is it the tires against the pavement? Is it the motion? Is it the displacement from her cozy routine? Is it a little bit of everything?
Given my occasionally overactive sense of empathy, when my cat is unhappy, it makes me equally unhappy.
In fact, longer car rides have been gut wrenching for me. With her meowing at varying intensity levels through the entire duration of the ride, driving Miss Ivy to her kitty hotel just before I take a trip, has become one of the most stressful parts of my vacation time.
I keep telling myself that I know it is the best thing for her as she will be well cared for. Plus, my little extrovert will be around humans for most of the day, so she won’t feel lonely.
I have heard that by taking the cat out more often for short car rides as practice trips might help take the edge off. While it may be true, I often find myself short on courage and energy to put us through what is a traumatizing experience for both of us.
Just the same, for the times we have been out, I have successfully picked up a few tips that seem to have helped make the car ride less taxing on both of us:
It took a few car rides to figure out that Ivy is not a fan of a cold car. When I get the car temperature to a nice, cozy point, similar to what she enjoys at home, she seems far more relaxed and mellow.
Trying to replicate the comforts of home seems to help. Gentle classical music or smooth jazz from Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong seems to put us both in a mellower frame of mind.
It’s hard to avoid bumps and cracks in the pavement, but it seems that taking a route that involves less stop-and-go traffic also seems to take the edge off.
Breaks to check in
Even when her meowing is consistent, I think it’s a good practice to pull into a parking lot or a rest area (every 20-30 minutes) and take a moment to show her that I’m still there and to just verbally reassure her that everything will be OK.
But if along the way, her meowing suddenly takes a turn and starts leaning toward a more panic-stricken meow, it’s definitely time to safely pull over and make sure she is not in distress. Maybe the cat is indeed telling you that she needs a break from the motion, the noise, whatever it is that cats don’t like about the journey.
For safety reasons, I would not release her from her crate in a strange place (that could be disastrous and heartbreaking!) but just taking few minutes to pause, relax and to take a break from the road seems like a good practice for everyone’s blood pressure.
I am not getting paid to say this, but this pheromone spray product has made a significant difference. A couple of sprays in the car seats 30 minutes before we leave, and Ivy seems to show greater tolerance and less anxiety throughout the duration of the car ride.
If you use a product like this, read the instructions carefully and use as directed.
It’s still not a picnic to take Ivy out for car rides, but as time goes on, she seems to be more comfortable and more tolerant of the experience. The trick is to be aware of what she’s saying, to notice any changes in meowing patterns, and to address them as soon as they come up.
With each new tip and trick we incorporate into the experience, I hope that we will eventually get to a point where the journey will be as enjoyable as the destination!
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Have a great day,