Most people consider their pets to be part of the family. And that's why so many motorists choose to take their pets along on their road trips. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), more than 15 million Americans travel with pets each year. It's worth making sure you and your pet arrive happy, rested, and in one piece! Here are a few road-worthy tips for safe car travel with pets.
Visit Your Vet
Before you go, make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian. Discuss any travel concerns you have, including how to calm your pet if he or she becomes too anxious. Make sure your pet's vaccinations and ID tags are up-to-date, and be certain that he or she is in good physical health. Ask for a copy of rabies vaccination papers, in case they're required while you're traveling.
Take a Practice Run
Does the thought of travel leave you feeling both excited and anxious? Your pet feels the same way. If car trips are a foreign concept, take your pet on practice runs. Gradually increase the length of the trips to help your pet grow accustomed to your vehicle and the sensations involved with travel.
Pack a Pet-Pleasing Travel Kit
Include familiar comfort items like a special blanket, as well as grooming tools, portable food dishes, and water from home to avoid stomach issues. Don't forget a leash or harness for those leg-stretchers and a scoop or plastic baggies for bathroom breaks. If you're traveling with a cat, a plastic container with a locking lid and a few inches of litter can serve as a litter box. And, of course, pack plenty of treats!
Use a Vehicle Restraint or Carrier
As happy as a dog looks hanging its head out the window, chops flapping in the breeze (we couldn't resist including a photo), it isn't the safest way for your pet to ride. The ASPCA recommends using a proper restraint or well-ventilated carrier to safely transport your pet. A pet partition can also create a safe barrier between your pet and the driver. Also helpful: seat protectors help you care for your pet and your upholstery at the same time.
Stick to a Normal Routine
The same advice that works for humans applies to animals: We do best when we stick to a familiar routine. So take breaks at your pet's normal meal times for food and water. Let your pet get some exercise while on a leash and sniff out the new locale. If you're traveling with a cat, this is a good time to get out the litter box. When your cat is finished, scoop the box clean, replace the lid, and store it away in the trunk for the next rest stop.
Plan Ahead for Pet-Friendly Hotels
Whether you're staying at a hotel at your destination or along the way, don't leave finding a pet-friendly nest to chance. Do your research ahead of time with a site like petswelcome.com. If you're traveling with a cat, ask if the beds sit flush against the wall and floor. Your back will thank you when you don't have to crawl under the bed to retrieve your furry recluse. Also, secure your pet in a crate in the hotel when you have to leave for non-animal-friendly meals and excursions. They may not like it, but it prevents them from launching a prison break when housekeeping comes.
Go Beyond Fetch
Lastly but perhaps most importantly, leave time in your itinerary for activities that your pet will enjoy. Search sites like dogfriendly.com and gopetfriendly.com for adventures, attractions, beaches, dog parks, and restaurants that welcome pets. Call ahead to confirm with management to ensure the best experience for everyone. Road trips with pets can be twice as fun and half the hassle with some careful planning and consideration. So go for it! And leave a comment to tell us your pet-travel road trip stories.