Seeking advice on transporting cats

My husband and I are moving from Florida to New York in three weeks. Yes, I know that only crazy people move from Florida to New York, especially in the winter but it must be done.

Traveling with us will be Snowy and Elvin our two cats aged 17 and 5 respectively.

We’ve been to the vet with both cats, got them all caught up on shots and cleared with the vet that the 17 year old could survive the trip. We’ve acquired tranquilizers for Elvin as he is apt to yowl constantly when in the car in his carrier. Snowy, we were told, shouldn’t be given tranquilizers because of her advanced years and will just have to tough it out.

What I’m seeking here is general advice on how to handle the car ride. We’re splitting it up into two days but they’ll be 2 long days. Approx. 10 hours of driving each day if you include stops.

We have a water bottle and we’ll have a litter box but I’m just wondering if anyone has done this before and has any specific advice. I think they’d both be happier if they weren’t confined to their carriers but I’m not sure that letting them loose in the van while driving is a great idea either.

Thoughts, suggestions, advice, experiences and funny stories are all welcome. Thanks in advance.

Definitely DO NOT let them out in the car while you’re driving. About every 3 hours stop and let them out of their carriers (in the van, with all the doors locked) to stretch their legs and offer them water and the litter box. They probably won’t be interested in either until you get to where you’re going at night. The drugged one will probably look pretty drugged (staggering, disoriented) at least in the morning.

When I had to drive my cats 10 hours from Michigan to Virginia they seemed to really like having an audiobook playing. They would mew when I had to change discs and quiet down when it started up again!

They cried more in stop & go than on the highway, so I tried to minimize local driving.

When I moved Lenny, a good 9 hour trip, I borrowed a really BIG carrier, so he could get up and stretch his legs and move around a bit if he needed to. It was big enough to contain a small litter pan.

Aside from his usual car sick puking at the start, he settled down and was not at all interested in food, water, or litter until a day or two after we arrived! :eek:

Why are you taking them with you if you’re only going to be gone 3 weeks? Get a neighbour or friend to feed them while you’re away. Or put them in a cattery.

“My husband and I are moving from Florida to New York in three weeks.”

In three weeks, not for three weeks.

Definitely don’t let them loose in your vehicle, not safe for anyone.

Slightly off-topic: When my family moved from California to Virginia, our cats were in their teens. They flew with no drugs and they were both fine. My mother and I were in the supermarket checkout line shortly thereafter and go into conversation with the cashier about our move. He marveled at how easily our cats traveled and said, and I quote, “When I moved back here, my cats were so nervous I had to seduce 'em.”

If all else fails, I guess…

I drove three cats from Boca Raton, Fla., to Silver Spring, Md., in 1988. It was August and too hot to fly them (FAA has rules about that), and you can’t take animals on the Auto Train.

I removed the back seat of my car and put a litter box, food and water. I had carriers but let them out of the carriers. They were fine, and did not interfere with my driving at all. They were not sedated but they were very subdued; perhaps they were car sick (though didn’t throw up). The risk of leaving them loose is they could get out if you stop and open the door, but mine had not the least interest in trying to get out. I left about 6:30 AM and arrived 11:00 PM and stopped only when the tank was empty so it was a tedious trip. They seemed fine the next day.

P.S. Since you’re splitting it into 2 days you probably want to plan your overnight to make sure you find a place that will accept pets. I guess that’s obvious but when you have a lot on your mind you might overlook the obvious.

My response and other (hopefully) helpful advice is here. Lochdale hasn’t come back to indicate the outcome.

In October of '05, we moved two mastiffs and a 19 year old cat from Colorado to north Florida.
It took us a few days.
I never let Pounce out of the carrier when we were driving. She cried at first but then stopped; she wasn’t thrilled but she bore up well. I had a special large shoebox that served as a litterbox. Pounce ended up just “holding” until we reached our night’s lodging. I would put her in the bathroom with her food and water, her special heated kitty bed and the litterbox.
Be careful–she did try to get out of the motel room once. She just was sort of freaked out at the shock of what was going on.
We made it fine, and you will too.

Thanks, we were sure we’d just let them ride loose in the car but I’m rethinking that decision. Right now we only have one carrier and will definitely need another one. Never had to take them both somewhere at the same time before.

Thanks Cooking I’ve already been researching pet friendly hotels. Expedia lists plenty of them though some of them charge extra per pet.

Yes Quartz what maladroit said…in three weeks we are moving to NY. Moving in with my husband’s parents to help them out. Dad just went into a nursing home and mom is 88 and all alone. We’ll be staying in NY for the rest of their days. Hoping to make the last years of their life happy for them.

Thanks for the link cantara it didn’t occur to me to search for a thread on this subject.

I’d make sure you have a reservation, and confirm in advance that they will accept your cats. Just to minimize the chance of any last-minute surprises.

It’s dangerous to you to let them run free in the car. Cats don’t understand how dangerous it can be to distract the driver or get under the pedals.

In my experience, it really depends on the cat. On one extreme, we had a meatloaf of a cat who never needed a cat carrier. He’d just sit in our laps and look out the window occassionally. On the other extreme, we had another cat who *had *to be in the carrier, screaming and chewing at the bars the entire 12 hour trip. I thought she was going to hurt herself, but no damage done.

Our vet refused to prescribe a tranquilizer, saying that they sometimes had a paradoxical effect and caused the cat more anxiety instead of less. After that trip, I don’t care. It couldn’t have gotten much more paradoxical than how she acted without the tranq.

Thanks Caprese you’re right, I’m sure we and the cats will survive. Still it’s nice to talk to folks who have done it.

PoorYorick The vet did say to try the tranquilizer out on Elvin a couple of days before we actually leave to see how he reacts to it. Elvin is 16 lbs and the vet said that if 1/2 a pill didn’t do the trick to up the dose to a whole pill. He cries non stop when we drive him to the vet but that’s only 2 miles away. On a longer trip (25 minutes) he got so scared that he pooped in the cat carrier. That was disgusting and smelly and I hope that doesn’t happen again. He’s a big baby that one. The older cat is much more stoic.

I recommend body armour.

When a family member died, I inherited a cat and had to drive most of a day to get him home. I really thought he was going to go into cardiac arrest. He spent most of the trip lying on his back, sticking out his tongue, gnashing his teeth at the cage door while shrieking at the top of his lungs. Anyway, he turned out to be an awesome cat but I wouldn’t voluntarily take him anywhere in a car again.

Funniest thing I’ve heard all day. Thank you. I mean it.

Did a three-day drive with two older cats a few years ago. Advice: get the largest cage or carrier that will fit in the allotted space. Pad or support it so it’s level. Make bed area(s) where cats can relax (or huddle) comfortably. No-splash water bowl inside cage too.

In our case, we had a 2 foot by 4 foot area available, so I had two cages side by side. Larger one for everything already mentioned, smaller one barely big enough for a small litter tray. Surrounded the tray with cheap plastic panels to direct liquid and solid “overspray” back into the litter. Cut matching holes in both cages for easy access, tied the two cages together with cable ties. An extra plastic panel could be slid across the passageway, keeping both cats secure in larger cage while smaller one was opened for tray cleaning.

To our delighted astonishment, it worked like a charm. The fright and yowling from both cats were minimal, and after the first few hours they got used to the new system and had a rather peaceful journey.

It helped that while we drove, the passenger could easily turn around, reach between the seats, slide the big cage’s “front door” open just enough to snake a hand inside and pet and comfort the felines.

Our vet strongly adviced against tranking the cats, so we didn’t.
Good luck!

When I relocated from NYC to Cleveland, I drove, with my two cats on the passenger seat, each in his own carrier, one atop the other. These were adult cats who had never been in a car. The trip was long, since I had to make frequent stops due to back problems. I did not let them out of the carriers for the entire trip, and I did not give them tranquilizers. They were surprisingly well-behaved, and didn’t complain nearly as much as I had predicted. I played soothing music and talked to them regularly. Afterwards . . . I’m sure they forgot the entire experience while exploring their new home.

Of course, the trick would be getting the pill *into *the little darling. Our cats have always had the talent of being able to eat around a pill, no matter how small we broke it up. Next trip, I’m thinking dart gun.