Gearing up for the road with your pet? Whether it’s a short trip to the pet store, or a long car ride to go camping, both you and your pet must be ready to make the journey. Taking the time to plan for your trip can help make it more comfortable and safer for your pet.
Follow these six easy pet car safety tips to keep you and your pet happy and safe on the road.
1. Start with Training
Introduce your pet to car travel well before you plan to take a big trip. Riding in cars can be traumatic for many pets. Some pets may also face anxiety and may be reluctant to get into your vehicle.
Introduce your vehicle when you’re parked in the driveway or garage. Put them in the car and let them have a moment to get used to their new surroundings. After a few sessions introducing the vehicle, turn on the engine and use car features, such as the horn, to get your pet used to the noises a car makes.
Once your pet is used to getting in an out of the car and the noises it makes, start taking them on short drives. Begin with a quick trip around the block and work your way up to longer drives. This lets them experience the car in motion without overloading them on the first trip out.
2. Restrain Your Pet
A pet loose in a vehicle could be a disaster waiting to happen. Restraining your pet is the easiest way to keep your mind focused on the road, instead of worrying about your pet in the backseat. There are many products available to safely restrain your pet. Some options include:
- Harnesses that attach to the seatbelt
- Seatbelt ziplines that allow some movement
- Carrying cages
- Backseat pet hammocks
Be sure to check reviews and safety ratings on any products you buy to restrain your pet. You should also consider your pet’s individual needs. A young dog with a lot of energy, for example, might need a seatbelt zipline so they can move back and forth to look out the windows. A cat, on the other hand, would probably do best in a dark pet carrier where they’ll feel less exposed.
3. Keep Your Pet Off Your Lap
If your pet needs to be able to move around, you should still aim to keep them out of the front seat and your lap. You can install a pet barricade between the front and back seats, or between the cargo area of an SUV, to restrict the areas your pet is allowed.
Physical barriers are often made of wire mesh or sturdy canvas to keep pets from the front seat while also allowing airflow. A pet barrier is usually a good choice for large dogs who get anxious when they’re restrained or confined.
4. Take Breaks
You should plan to take breaks to reduce distracted driving even without a pet in the car, but it’s even more important when you do. No matter how comfortable your pet is riding in a vehicle, there’s no way to explain to them why you’re confined in a small space. Frequent breaks help your pet stretch their legs and use the restroom.
Regular breaks can also help relieve any anxiety that comes from being in a moving vehicle for too long. Plan your route in advance so you can pick pet-friendly stops. Roadside parks and rest areas often have sections dedicated to pets that let you take your dog for a walk or relieve themselves. For animals in carriers, such as a cat, stopping for a while and letting them be alone without movement can help keep them relaxed.
5. Maintain a Cool Temperature
Pets with fur can quickly get overheated in a vehicle, even when you’re on the road. It’s usually a good idea to run the air conditioner anytime you have a pet in the car. Check the temperature before leaving your pet in the car while it’s turned off. Even on a cool day, the interior temperature of your vehicle can rise rapidly. An overheated pet could lead to serious illness or potentially death.
If you must leave your pet in the car unattended, take extreme caution when doing so. Make sure you park in the shade and consider leaving the car running. Bring an extra set of keys so you can use the air conditioner and still lock the vehicle. Limit the amount of time you leave your pet unattended and check for signs of distress as soon as you’re back to your vehicle.
6. Pack the Essentials
In addition to a well-trained, restrained pet, you want to make sure you’re prepared with your pet’s essentials. Regardless of the length of your trip, you should bring along tools to restrain your pet outside of the car. For dogs, this means packing their usual collar or harness and a leash. For cats or other animals in carriers, you should have a harness or other restraint in case you need to take them out of their carrier.
Longer trips require more necessities, such as food and a spill-proof water bowl. Never feed your pet on the road and give them plenty of time to digest their food before you head out again. This lets them relax, gives you a break from driving and helps reduce motion sickness.
Depending on your pet, you may want to pack other products, such as toys and treats or their favorite bed. Use a plastic tote or bag to keep all of your pet’s items in one place so you won’t need to search if you need something.
Whether it’s a trip to the vet or a cross-country road trip, being prepared and training your pet to ride in the car will make your journey safer. Take the time now to get your pet used to riding in a car and make a checklist of your pet’s essentials so you’re ready to hit the road with your pet.