If your cat or dog gets car sick, you’re probably familiar with the symptoms: First there will be vocal cues — cats will meow or yowl, and dogs will whine — and then you’ll spot that your pet is drooling a lot. You may notice that your cat or dog is pacing somewhat frantically, or perhaps conversely, they will seem quite lethargic. The next expression of the problem can be vomit. What causes car sickness in dogs and cats? And how can you avoid it?
Very often with both cats and dogs, car sickness is caused by anxiety. Your pet is not sure what to make of the unfamiliar motion of the car, and they also may associate the vehicle with a trip to the vet, which generally won’t be a pleasant association. Many vets believe that carsickness is more common in dogs than cats — and dogs also seem more likely to outgrow the problem as they age.
Here are five great ways to make your pet’s next trip in a car more comfortable, plus a bonus tip just for dogs.
- 1. Start With Short Trips: If you suspect your pet may have trouble with car trips, keep your initial trips brief. Take ten minute jaunts, and if you’ve got the dog with you, make the destination someplace they’ll love, like the park. On longer trips, make lots of stops, so that your pet realizes the car ride won’t go on forever.
- 2. Skip a Meal: Before a trip, skip a meal — or even two — so that your pet doesn’t eat in the 12 hours preceding the journey in the car. A full belly does not combine well with motion sickness.
- 3. Bring a Crate or Carrier: It can be reassuring for cats to be within their carrier, and for dogs to be within their crate. Consider putting in a shirt or towel in the carrier that smells like home. If you can’t bring along the crate for your dog, try bringing along a familiar dog bed or blanket that will be comforting to lay on.
- 4. Bring Treats: Whether it’s a dog bone or a cat treat, or even a new play toy, bring along something special as a treat for your cat or dog to make the trip more fun. This can help ease feelings of anxiety and apprehension.
- 5. Keep the Car Calm: Remembering that the trip may be stressful for your pet, keep the car a calm place. Speak to your cat or dog in soothing tones and avoid yelling and loud music.
- 6. Have Your Dog Face Forward: Car sickness can be eased by looking forward — but your dog won’t know that, and might naturally tend to stare out the window at their side. Special seat belts are available to help anchor your dog into a forward-facing position.
More on Traveling With Pets
Take Your Dog For a Drive
5 Steps to a Safe Ride With Your Dog
How to Train Your Dog to "Load" Into Your Car
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.