How to travel with a cat in a car

Keeping watch
Keeping watch

Our trip to Perth from Sydney with a 21 year old cat made our friends ask if we could give them some tips on how to travel with a cat in a car. “Boots” is her name.

Many people also questioned the state of our minds but we did it simply because she was 21 years old and would have fret with someone else.

There were times on the trip that we also wondered about our state of mind, especially after the episode where she left a claw in my hand.


Preparing the cat for the trip

Toyota Landcruiser
Toyota Landcruiser

We knew Boots had previously enjoyed travelling in the car but, and a BIG but was that this was a Toyota Landcruiser and not a sedan like she had been in previously.

We also knew that Boots would get in the car, well we did, because she would jump in and have a sleep!

Problem was, that as soon as the ignition key slipped into the ignition and got turned she was out faster than Superman.

So, it was off to the shop to buy a decent cat cage. One with plenty of room, good ventilation and a wire front door.

Around the local streets she was ok, would move around in the cage, meow occasionally but generally she was good. So we tempted fate and went for a hours drive, so far so good we thought. Did that for a few times and never really had an issue.

Here we go, starting our trip, looking forward to it!

Our first day of the Perth trip

Packing for a long holiday is tiresome, with so many things to check off, double check and then last minute checks on the car, tyres and camper trailer including lights all round. Oh, and of course – are the fridges working?

I guess with all the excitement surrounding the packing Boots sensed something, she did not stop “meowing” for the entire trip to our first stop of Gunning, which has a great free camping site.

Even a stop just out of Sydney for a breath of fresh air did not stop Boots from complaining. She enjoyed the brief respite, so did our ears! But as soon as the car moved, she started complaining.

Do you understand how annoying such a noise is, how frustrated you can get and at the same time feel upset for the cat because she is not comfortable. We had to do something, and we couldn’t wait to get to Gunning.

Only 2 more hours!


Our second day of the Perth trip

Boots resting
Boots resting

After a leisurely breakfast for all concerned, yes that means Boots too, we packed up and moved out.

Our thoughts were all about whether what we did with Boots would make our lives, and hers, much easier.

We got the shock of our lives, she simply curled up and went to sleep. Not even a whimper (I know dogs whimper but this cat can too) so we knew she was happy, and so were we!

Our re-arranging of the car, which allowed us to let Boots out of the cage on a lead, proved to be the master-stroke. She had a towel to sleep on, food and water close by and her toilet wasn’t that far away either!

So her cat cage became our laundry basket.

Bliss, heaven, no stress, less noise and a happy cat.

Suddenly Boots took ownership of the entire car. When we got out she sat in either of the front seats, occasionally looking out a window looking for us and not complaining. She would get into the back once we arrived.

No more stressed cat

We stayed in places where there were dogs, noisy places (ie Melbourne) and quiet places and she just ignored everything. We even let her out of the car at Lake Elingamite near Cobden in Victoria to explore (on a lead of course).

Now, we could stop anywhere except for National Parks, and know that Boots would be ok, even if we were gone for an hour or two.

It was too good to be true.

It seems like cats can sense when others are stressed, and we were just after we arrived in Hahndorf’s Tourist caravan park – the Hahndorf Resort.


Car and cat issue at Hahndorf Resort

Steering failure
Steering failure

Our booking at this resort was pre-booked and paid, so all we had to do was sign in and go to our site, which was precisely when the trouble started.

We were reversing down hill into a site, with the camper trailer just off the road and of course the vehicle was near the middle of the road.


Steering failure!

Could you imagine being stuck in that position, in the dark? Well we were, when the owner of the park arrived. He towed our camper trailer to a new site, then I drove my vehicle (very slowly) without steering, but I had power, the motor was running so I could stop.  I might add that because we were on  a hill the vehicle would turn with the slope of the road, which was perfect because it lead straight to a concrete / dirt strip!

The car was out of the way, we were set up and cooked dinner etc – settled for the night.

Next morning the park owner was back, he took me down to a car parts store to order the parts, then later in the day he repeated the dose, but to pick up the parts – what a legend!

Had the car fixed in 30 minutes and ready to go. We stayed in a unit for another night, as “a thank-you” to the owner, Brian.

Even though the park has a no pets’ policy inside the units, Brian allowed us to keep Boots inside with the understanding we left it clean. Fantastic.

Boots needed some fresh air, so we tied her to the post outside, and she promptly got herself all tangled up in the plants. Being the kind person I am, I tried to untangle her. Next thing I see the hair in her back rise, her tail too and she was snarling. Before I could move my hand out of the way she swiped me, ripping her claw out when it stuck in my hand. Yep it hurt!

I threw a towel over her, put her in the car and she settled immediately and wanted a pat. Sorry that wasn’t happening!

Boots was fine, she slept in the car and in the end she would not get out the car at night unless it was onto our bed. That wasn’t happening either, it is a bad habit.


A visit to the vet


Boots struggling to eat
Boots struggling to eat

A couple of days later, Boots decided not to eat or drink and this continued for three days. She was getting lethargic, wouldn’t get out of the car, didn’t move even when I pulled her tail (that would normally get me a scratch) so we popped into a vet.

The vet asked us to leave her for a few hours and come back after we had lunch, and this was on a Saturday, just as he was meant to be closing. We gasped, we didn’t need such an expense on this holiday, but that is the cost of having a pet.

On our return, we were greeted with a happy cat, well-fed and wanting a pat. She got one this time.

We were instructed to feed her with kitten food every second day, as it appeared that she had a possible blockage in her digestive system. We also were given a needle to give her if it happened again.

On our return trip to Sydney, we had the exact same scenario occur again. Following the vet’s instructions we gave her the needle and within half an hour she was happy again. We got home safely, she had endured a 10,000 kilometre cross country trip, and we now know how to travel with a cat in a car.

At least Boots had an enjoyable last year

About 3 months after I returned to my home, Boots started to get unwell again, she had turned 22 by this stage. I decided it was time to visit the vet again, my vet this time.

Boots is now resting in her final resting place. I was pleased to have given her a really good last year of life.

If you want to say a few words to Boots please leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “How to travel with a cat in a car

  1. Anita Reply

    Our cat would never had made that trip! It’s a major production just to get her to the vet!

    I did have a cat that traveled well, though. She moved with me from Southern Georgia to Northern Virginia with barely a peep! She had a completely different temperament that my current cat though.

    I’m sorry to hear that Boots has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. At least you are left with some wonderful memories.

    • Steve Post authorReply

      Thank you Anita,

      Boots did eventually travel well but the month before we left she would not even go near the car once the motor was running! If it was quiet she would just jump in and have a sleep, turn that key, gone.

      She did learn all this late in life and was a great learner even at 21. On occasion she would walk along beside us with no lead and hang around while we enjoyed the beach. We do miss Boots, but it got too much for her. Thank you for your comment.

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