How to Conquer Cat Car Anxiety
Men, children, people in general, thunderstorms, cars, other animals—all are common sources of cat anxiety. Often a cat’s fear begins with an initial bad experience—say, accidentally being locked in a car on a hot day. Cats express their fear in different ways. They may bite or scratch, run and hide, tremble, or even urinate when scared. Your job is to figure out what’s making your cat afraid and try to change those conditions.
By Pet Editor
Calming Cats in Carriers: A Gradual Process
It’s very common for a cat to be afraid of being locked in a carrier or travel crate while in the car. This action usually leads to a trip to the vet, and kitties are very good at anticipating what that may mean. You can help your cat get over that fear, but it will take some time. Start by leaving the carrier out on the floor with the door open and letting your cat explore it on her own. After she seems comfortable with the idea of the carrier being out in the open, place a treat near the entrance. If she eats the treat, put out another, a little farther into the carrier. When she takes that one, place another goodie inside the carrier, even farther toward the back. You may want to put a towel or a bed in the carrier to make it even more inviting. Eventually, the cat will get into the carrier, at which point you can start picking it up. Start by simply walking into another room and then letting your kitty out. Gradually increase the time the cat spends in the carrier and the distance until you can comfortably get her into the car.
Cat Scared of the Road? Take Her for a Ride
If you have to drag your shy cat to the car or she trembles uncontrollably during the ride, ask yourself whether you take her in the car only when she has to go to the vet or boarding kennel (or someplace else that he might find unpleasant). If the answer is yes, take her for a ride around town or go somewhere pleasant, such as a friend or relative’s house. Keep your cat calm by doing this several times until she gets the idea that a car ride doesn’t always lead to a scary place.
Calming Cat-in-Car Tricks
If your cat is afraid of the car, start to desensitize her by putting her in the car for a few minutes without turning the engine on. Then gradually expose her to more of the sensations associated with being in the vehicle. Work up to starting the engine, backing the car out of the driveway, and then actually going on a short trip. If you slowly desensitize her to more and more of the elements associated with a car trip, she will eventually learn to tolerate a road trip.