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6 Tips for Traveling With a Dog (or Cat) in the Car During Long Road Trips

Traveling with a dog in the car for the first time? Is your cat terrified of the pet carrier? Preparing for a longer-than-average road trip with one or more pets? Many pets only ride in the car when going to the vet. The vet is filled with strangers, new smells, scary noises, and other pets. So, your pet may associate the car with a negative experience. The tips below promote safety and comfort if you have a long road trip ahead. 

#1 Ensure Your Pet Is Easily Identifiable

The first tip is to ensure your pet has one or both (ideally both) a microchip and a pet collar. They provide a fast and easy way to contact you if they get lost.

Standard and GPS Pet Collars

Standard pet collars should at least contain your phone number and your pet’s name. Adding their name may seem unnecessary, but it can be comforting for your pet if they’re lost.

In addition to standard pet collars, consider a GPS collar, so you can track your pet on the accompanying app. Most have a range of a few miles, so you must be nearby to find them. GPS collars are a bit bulky, so the smaller your pet the less comfortable.

Traveling with a dog in the car is stressful for everyone. It can be even more stressful if you’re traveling with a housecat who howls. So, have them wear their new collar for at least a few weeks before your road trip, even if only for a part of the day. The fewer things that are unfamiliar during your drive, the better.


Since most pet collars are breakaway collars, it’s ideal to have a microchip implanted in your pet as a backup. If they already have one, double-check that your microchip contact information is up to date before your trip.  

#2 Safety

Next up, it’s time to ensure your furbaby is secure during your ride. Since it will be a long trip, consider options beyond your current pet carrier. Even if your dog is accustomed to riding in the front or backseat, riding unrestrained isn’t the safest option. So, you may want to utilize one of the options below to ensure they stay safe when driving on high-speed freeways.

Pet Harness

You may want to put a body harness on your furry friend during your road trip. Body harnesses are much harder to slip out of than standard collars. They also minimize the risk of escaping from the car and provide control when walking them at rest stops.

Pet Carriers and Crates

The pet carrier you use for the vet is designed to be easy to transport, so it’s likely to be quite small. For a longer drive, you may want to consider using a larger pet carrier. Ideally, something that small and mid-sized cats and dogs can sit or stand in. Not too large, though, because you don’t want them to be tossed around if an accident occurs.

If your dog is large, consider a crate. Crate training before the trip is suggested. Again, the less new things the better when traveling with a dog in the car for more than an hour or two.  

Set both crates and pet carriers out in the house a week or two before your trip, as they may venture in on their own. Entice them with their favorite pet beds, pet blankets, toys, and treats.

Securing Soft Carriers

Although dogs can escape soft carriers, cats are highly skilled escape artists. So, secure soft carrier zippers with a safety pin or by tying them shut. Or put a body harness on them that hooks to the internal ring.  

Pet Seat Belts

Pet seat belts aren’t always as easy to find in pet stores, but you can find a large selection of pet seat belts online. These allow your pet to travel crate and carrier-free while keeping them secure. However, their range of motion may be limited. Also, your pets may prefer to be rude somewhere they can hide.

Again, give it a try before your trip. The answer might be a mix of crate/carrier and pet seatbelt.

#3 Comfort

One of the many reasons pets don’t like plastic pet carriers is that they’re hard and inflexible. Even soft carriers lack adequate cushioning. Think about it, your car seat is cushioned, but it gets uncomfortable on long rides. And let’s be honest, modern pets are pampered pets!


Before traveling with a dog in the car take measures to ensure their comfort. You can find waterproof cushions in the pet store that you can layer underneath a soft blanket. Or even their pet bed if you have room in your vehicle.


Cats are typically more sensitive to smell, so also provide cushioning, but use a pet bed or blanket they’re familiar with. Even if a soft carrier has padding, it’s often not enough to provide comfort for extended car travel.

Cats and Dogs

For both cats and dogs, you may want to place a soft t-shirt that you’ve worn recently in the carrier. This can be calming as it smells like you. Ensure it’s something you don’t mind tossing in case they have an accident while on the road. Also, bring an extra blanket to cover the carrier, as some pets prefer a dark hiding space. Especially cats.

#4 Pottying on The Go

Now that you’ve taken measures to keep your furbaby comfortable, it’s time to prepare for both potty breaks and accidents. The stress and anxiety of the ride can result in accidents. This is uncomfortable for your pet and adds to your stress. On the flip side, some pets will hold it, as they have trouble pottying when stressed.

Just in case, be proactive by layering a pee pad under or over their pet blanket or pet bed. Ideally a pad one. While there are disposable options, pets may not like the crinkly sound of the pad during your long road trip.

Traveling in the car with a dog may be easier, as most are accustomed to going potty outside.

Stay organized by packing food, water, treats, pet prescriptions, and accident clean-up essentials in an easily accessible bag.

Keep your pet clean by packing:

·         Plastic gloves

·         Plastic bags

·         Paper towel

·         Travel towel

·         Water

·         Pet-safe wipes

·         Waterless pet shampoo

·         Extra blanket for comfort

·         Extra pee pads and blankets

Map out your rest stops at least every 4 hours for dogs. For cats, you can find small or travel-size litter boxes online and in pet stores.

#5 Take Fun Practice Trips

Now that your pet is safe and comfortable, consider training them to ride in the car. Practice trips aren’t the right fit for all furbabys, so consider if it’s right for your pet. If your dog or cat is new or hasn’t spent much time in the car it may be a good idea to train them ahead of time.

For Dogs

Identify a nearby dog park you can drive to and play and take them there a few days a week. This will familiarize them with your car and create a positive association with being in the car. As they get more comfortable in the car, make a few stops. Maybe take them to a pet store or restaurant that allows dogs. Also, consider going through a drive-through that offers pet treats, like Dairy Queen’s pup cups. This is soft-serve ice cream with a dog biscuit. Pup cups are free at most DQ’s, so you’ll need to purchase something too.

For Cats

Traveling with a dog in the car is likely to be easier than traveling with a cat. For cats, it may be best to begin with visits to the car instead of trips. Sit with them in the car and keep them as comfortable as possible by talking to them and giving them their favorite treat.

Then consider short rides in the car. Reward them when you return home, that is if they don’t run and hide from you. Rewards can be playtime, extended pet sessions, or their favorite treat.

#6 Stress and Anxiety Control

Last but certainly not least, you must be proactive about managing your pet’s stress and anxiety. Even if your beloved isn’t typically stressed in the car, the long car ride may be confusing for them. If you’re moving, the commotion of packing and your stress the days prior will stress them out too. You’re their human, and they’ll often mirror your anxiety levels.

Pack Toys

Pack toys to play fetch at rest stops and a wand toy for your cat if you’ll be staying a night or two in a hotel. A new chew toy can keep your dog occupied in their carrier. Also, be sure to pack their favorite toys (and be or blanket) so they have them at your final destination.


Noise is another consideration when traveling with a dog in the car, and cats can be highly sensitive to noise too. It may be best to play soothing classical or instrumental music during the drive. This can be challenging, as you may prefer to play something more upbeat when driving long hours. If you play something with a beat, keep the volume low, and monitor their response. Get earbuds or headphones for all non-drivers.


If possible, seat pets next to each other, or next to their favorite human. If they can see you, their best furry friend, or someone they love, it will help keep them calm.


Consider a pet compression shirt or vest. These essentially “hug” your pet, in a similar manner to swaddling an infant for comfort.

Calming Hemp Treat

If you’re like many pet parents, prescription anxiety medications aren’t your first choice. Either you already know your pet doesn’t respond well to these medications, or you're anxious to try. Hemp provides you with a natural alternative.

One Wellness has you covered! Our calm-inducing products are made with the highest quality natural and organic ingredients, with zero harmful chemicals or additives.

Our Salmon-Flavored Hemp Oil is a popular choice for cats, but dogs love it too. For pets that don’t do well with liquids, we have Cat Treats and Dog Treats. We ship to all 50 states.

Feel Better Prepared for Traveling With a Dog or Cat in The Car?

Finally, identify a vet you can call when you arrive at your destination. For high-risk pets, send their medical history ahead of time.


Safe and happy travels!

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