cat in a carrier covered

Should I Cover My Cat’s Carrier When Traveling?

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Cats are territorial animals, and they can find traveling difficult.  Moving them can be a stressful time for both pet and owner.

Often, it’s the carrier that causes the most concern. It can be difficult to get the pet inside and it’s hard to know how to keep a cat calm in a car when they’re anxious or distressed.

You may have had a bad experience in the past.  Your cat may have been panting in the car or meowing loudly.  Perhaps it suffered from motion sickness or it managed to escape and became a danger to others traveling in the vehicle.  You might be looking at carriers more suited to nervous cats.

Or maybe your cat is as cool as a cucumber during journeys.  Like humans, cats are all different and they react to experiences in any number of ways.

As owners, we want to do the best for our cats.  We want them to be comfortable even when we need to pack them into a box and take them many miles from home.

We’ve had a couple of emails from owners asking ‘should I cover my cat’s carrier when traveling?’, and we wanted to see what the answer was. 

Should I put a blanket over my cat carrier?

We’d recommend having a blanket with you in the car even if you don’t use it.

Cats like to hide when they’re anxious about something and a blanket draped over the top of the carrier helps them to feel more hidden. There’s nowhere for your pet to run and hide in a carrier and that can be distressing for them. If you don’t have a blanket, then a towel or a sweatshirt will do.

Our cat has a towel now because she responded well to being covered at the vet’s office even when there were other cats, big dogs, strange noises and bright lights around her.

Covering the carrier can also help reduce motion sickness.  Cats can quickly become queasy with all the scenery rushing by.

You might find that there’s no need for the blanket.

Some cats love looking out of the window at what’s going on.  It depends on the individual cat. We’d still recommend taking a blanket because it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

Should I put a blanket in my cat carrier?

We’d also recommend putting a blanket or towel inside a hard carrier.

The plastic can be quite uncomfortable otherwise and it stops them from sliding about when you pick the box up.  If you have a nervous cat, then it helps if the blanket smells of them. You could also add a fleecy cushion or a square of soft fabric.

Blankets and towels are handy to have whenever you’re traveling with your cat.  You never know when it might come in useful. 

Additional FAQs

How can I calm a cat down in a carrier?

The best thing to do is get your cat used to its carrier before you start your journey. You should start from a kitten where possible by leaving the carrier out for them to explore.  Put things they’re familiar with inside like bedding and toys (anything that will smell like them).  You might want to drop some treats in, too.  Take a piece of cloth and gently wipe it against your cat’s cheeks before wiping the cloth around the interior of the carrier.  Cats use pheromones to mark areas as ‘safe’ and by doing this you’re helping speed-up the process.  You can also buy synthetic cat pheromone sprays.  We’ve written about this in our Feliway Vs Comfort Zone post.

If you’re already on the road, then try talking to your cat as they’ll associate your voice with safety.  It might be better to keep their carrier on the floor of the vehicle (although that’s not always recommended).  Drive carefully to avoid bumps in the road and make sure the temperature inside the vehicle is suitable for your pet because they can become aggravated when too cold or dehydrated.  Some cats enjoy music because it drowns out the sound of the engine.

How long can I leave my cat in a carrier?

There’s no magic number.  It depends on the cat and how long you’re planning on traveling for.  We’ve written a post on this but we think between 6-8 hours in one go is probably okay provided that they’re no dehydrated or in need of the litterbox.  It may be that you have to have your cat in the carrier for longer (a long-haul flight, for example) but by and large, try and plan some sort of a rest stop during your trip.

Do Cats Prefer Hard or Soft Carriers?

It depends entirely on the cat.  Soft cat carriers tend to be more comfortable but they wouldn’t be suitable for a pet who claws and bites when agitated.  It’s also less helpful if your cat is prone to accidents as it’s harder to clean than a harder carrier.  Hard carriers are more durable and robust and probably more suitable for cats with issues about traveling.  You can make a hard carrier more comfortable by adding padding and toys.  When deciding between a hard or soft carrier you should also think about yourself as you’ll be the one carrying and cleaning it.

Do cats prefer big or small carriers?

A carrier should be 1.5 times bigger than your cat.  There should be enough room to lie down, turn around and stand up.  Mostly, cats prefer smaller spaces so don’t be tempted to get a much larger carrier thinking that your pet will be happier inside it because that’s not always the case. 

2 thoughts on “Should I Cover My Cat’s Carrier When Traveling?”

  1. I planned to drive from Devon to Norfolk at Bristol my cat was howling messed or over himslfe and was frothing at the mouth his brother was fine it was a stressful disaster which I turned round and drove home,since this I have introduced the carrier to the lounge while both cats sleep in,some people have having a leading and travelling with the poorly cat on a leash,I’m at a loss but would love to travel with my boys.

    1. Vanessa Jane Wikel

      My cat used to do the same thing. She has a vet appointment, first in a long while, next week, and for six months I’ve left her carrier out and put her toys in it, blanket, treats, cat nip…something that smells like me, etc. She has willingly slept in it repeatedly. Now she’s at the point where for a few minutes she can be inside it before she meows. I get her inside with treats, she doesn’t hiss or swipe at me like she normally would and I talk to her. She seems relatively calm up to about five mins then meows. I have moved her gently up and down keep it stable talking to her. It’s a work in progress. I think I’ll cover the cage because she does seem more distressed as soon as I move it up and down six ft (I’m that tall). Once I stop moving it and talk to her she will nuzzle and paw at the gate but won’t bum rush it or chew on it or extend her claws like normal. So hopefully by next tues I can get her in the car and drive her 20 mins downtown to the vet with minimal trauma. She really has horrible separation anxiety and once I’m htere and let her out she’s fine. It’s like nothing happened. But because of COVID I cannot go inside with her. I recommend asking for a vet that can deal with animals under great duress as they may have tips on how to travel with your cats. Thats the advice I got, doing everything i mentioned above. So far it’s working but I’m afraid after 6 months of prep work that may not be enough, however, I am concerned for her health so I wantt o get her in sooner than later. If you can take your time longer with your kitties I’d do this until they trust that the cage is not a ‘bad’ experience. Positive reinforcement. Lots of treats, and praise. Never get frustrated or raise your voice.

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