Driving Pets

If your pet could talk, it would probably say, "Chauffeur me!" Your animal will usually be more comfortable riding in the car with you, and this option is far less expensive than sending it by air. Be sure your animal is in good health and carry any required health certificates, permits, identification, and rabies tags. In addition, take a test ride, use proven pet travel techniques, make frequent stops, and consider medication.

If your dog is not used to riding in a car, take it on several short trips and work on its travel manners. This step is easier if your dog has been obedience trained. To safely travel in a car, your dog should be trained to sit or lie down quietly. An alternative is to keep the dog in a crate. If your move includes overnight stops, take a crate anyway so that the dog has a familiar space in unfamiliar surroundings such as motel rooms.

Cats usually hate to ride in a car, but they will settle in eventually. They are safest, and usually happiest, crated. They like having a cozy, close place to nap. Whether a dog or cat, if it's in the crate, it's comfortable and it's not going to jump out of the car and run away when you open the door. Nor will it have the opportunity to plunge its teeth or claws into your right arm just as you're executing that hairpin turn down a steep hill. Or cower under the brake pedal.

If your pet gets carsick easily, ask your veterinarian about options. Medication is one. It also helps to feed very lightly or withhold food until the day's drive is completed. And some pets will get sick the first few miles of the trip, and then adjust to the motion and be fine for the day or the entire trip.

Even if your animal has never been prone to motion sickness, it's good insurance to carry paper towels, trash bags, and cleaner in case of sickness or accidents. Confining your pet to a crate will also confine any mess to that crate, and you can clean the crate much more easily than you can clean the car's carpeting or upholstery.

Make sure your pet has its collar and tags, and never let it loose while traveling. Even a well-behaved dog may bolt when let loose in a strange place. Cats can be taught, at an early age, to walk on a leash and will not be lost if they are only taken out when on one. As when traveling with small children, plan plenty of rest stops to let your pet exercise and relieve itself. Keep your pet under control at all times and don't let it annoy others.

Remember your pet when you make motel, hotel, or campground reservations. Many places accept pets, but some do not, and those that do may have certain restrictions. Cuddly kitty may be welcome, but your three mastiffs might cause alarm. Ask ahead of time.

Believe it or not, some motels welcome pets. Most motel chains offer directories of locations of their motels along with information, usually including whether or not they accept pets.

Never leave your pets in a completely closed car. Even in cool weather, on a sunny day the temperature inside your car can reach killing degrees. If you must leave your pet alone in the car for a few minutes, park in the shade and open each window an inch or so. Never leave an animal alone in a car in hot weather.


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