Pets are loved ones who rely on you for their daily needs and many people now travel with their pets in tow. Road trips can often turn into stressful journeys, not matter how long the trip may be, if your pet isn't comfortable or properly contained. Here are some tips to make traveling with furry (or scaly or feathered) companions in the car easier:
Use a crate or other secure container: Although it may feel like you are putting your pet in jail when you lock him or her up in a carrier or crate, it's a safety precaution you should take for every animal you transport in your vehicle. Just make sure the container is large enough for your pet to stand up and move enough to stay comfortable. You may consider getting your animal used to the crate or carrier in short stints at home before a longer trip, so he or she associates the crate with an already comfortable environment.
Pack a bag for your pet: Just as you have essentials to take on the trip, there are things your pet requires as well. Make sure you have a collar and/or harness, leash, bowls, and a copy of vaccinations. Include the pet’s favorite toy or blanket as well.
Bring your own food and water: Many owners consider how a change of food can wreak havoc on a pet’s diet, but different water sources can also cause tummy upsets or worse. Your pet may already be under stress from a long ride, so you’ll want to minimize as many changes as possible for its general well being.
Feed your pet a light meal a few hours before departure: While you don’t want your companion to be hungry on the drive, it’s difficult to predict how food will settle in a moving vehicle. Give your pet a little to eat beforehand, but refrain from providing any meals until you stop for an extended duration or reach your final destination. Water should of course be administered throughout the trip.
Don’t leave your pet in a locked vehicle for extended periods of time: While you may feel like stretching your legs or stopping to eat, don’t abandon your pet in the process. Aside from the emotional stress that it can cause, it’s possible for pets to overheat or freeze even if the temperature inside feels moderate and the vehicle is well ventilated.
Make sure your pet has identification: If you’ve opted for microchip identification on your pet, double-check that your current contact information is on file before you leave. It's also a good idea to have a tag with your cell phone number on your pet’s collar in case the animal gets separated from you. You may also consider carrying a current photograph of your pet with you to show others in the event of an escape. Such things are harder to retrieve when you’re away from home.
Take regular rest stops: Pets have bathroom needs just like humans, and it may be more difficult for them to let you know when nature calls from inside their container. Stop every two to three hours to allow your pet to relieve itself and stretch.
Only use tranquilizers prescribed by your veterinarian for your animal: If you choose to sedate your pet for the trip, don’t give over-the-counter medication for humans or a sedative intended for another animal, even if you’re familiar with the medication’s effects. Such action presents a greater risk than just some indigestion or lethargy; non-prescribed medications can do grave harm.
Don’t let others upset your pet: If you have other human travel companions, especially children, instruct them to leave your pet alone in the car. “Travel time” does not equal “play time,” and agitating your pet will only make the trip harder on all of you, and set the wrong expectation that the car is a place for play for your pet.
Be prepared for arriving at your final destination: While it may sound like a no-brainer, sometimes the most obvious elements of a plan get overlooked. Check that you have booked pet-friendly accommodations and make sure you’re aware of any extra fees or rules you must follow while on the premises.
If you follow these guidelines while traveling with your pet, the road trip should go enjoyably for all. These simple preparations will relieve much of the stress (for you and your companion) associated with a car ride, so you will arrive at your destination feeling energized rather than worn out from a frenzied ride.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Top 10 Tips for Traveling With Pets in the Car and was authored by Elan McAfee.