Cats don’t always enjoy car rides. Why? Imagine being in their paws. It’s likely that the very first car trip your kitten took was to your home (a scary, new place they hadn’t acclimated to just yet) or from your home to the vet (somewhere cold and sterile where a large human poked and prodded them for roughly twenty minutes). Not a fun experience, right?
Unlike dogs, most cats are never taught to enjoy car trips. Plus, cats associate cars with past experiences. If all of their past experiences are negative, they’ll not have an enjoyable ride—instead, they’re going to yelp, meow, and be all around anxious. How do you remedy this behavior? Help your cat associate cars with fun. Here’s how.
1. Put them in a cat carrier.
First and foremost, put you and your cat’s safety first. And the absolute safest way to transport your cat? In a cat carrier. Having a confined space that’s all their own will make your cat feel more comfortable in a foreign space. It may also reduce her risk of injury should something tragic happen along the ride. To make the crate a safe space, you’ll need to crate train your kitchen at home first—teach him or her to love the crate by adding positive reinforcement to the situation when entering and staying put.
2. Make the car a positive place.
Much like crate training, you want to associate the car with positive thoughts for your cat. Training your cat to enter the crate first, then enter the car without whining, will make things much easier on you. How do you do this? Well, you must teach your cat that your car is a fun, safe space. Bring toys along, play soothing tunes, and give lots of cat treats—eventually your furry friend will associate the car with fun instead of horror.
3. Associate the car with food.
Food works wonders when you are training animals. If you can willingly get your kitten to the car and you’ve made it into space safe, food can make the trip easier. Once your cat is calm in the car, offer him or her a treat—and make it something super special. Eventually, they’ll learn that these treats only come out on car rides and will be more excited about hopping in your ride.
4. Practice before you take off.
Don’t expect instant results. Cats, like any animal, can take some time to train. Practice car time for a week or so—even pretending you are taking a car trip. Every day, pack your kitten in his or her crate, bring along the treats, and head out to the car. Let your furry friend roam around the car and claim it as their own—this may help speed up the acclimation process. Then, put him or her in the crate and start the engine. Again, use food and treats as positive reinforcement.
5. Increase car-time by small increments.
Make your very first trip a small one. If possible, just back out of the driveway and pull right back in. Then, let the cat out to show him or her you will be returning home. If your cat cries or shows stress on a longer trip (even if they are well acclimated to your car), you may need to slow down or head back home.
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