How to Travel with a Cat Litter Box

Photo via Ben Stiefel (CC BY-SA 2.0)

How do travel with a cat litter box? It’s what you need to know if you’re about to travel with your cat for the first time.

After taking my Chelle on several trips, I know all about how to do cat bathroom breaks while traveling. Your cat can use their litter box during a road trip using a portable travel litter box. I’ll show you how to plan it out!

1. Use a Portable Litter Box or Disposable Litter Box

So you’ve decided what to do with the cat and cat litter situation while traveling. They are coming with you.

You can use either a reusable portable litter box or disposable litter box when traveling with your cat. A portable reusable litter box can be one of two things.

The first is a simple box made of hard plastic that you slip inside your cat carrier. It might just look like a smaller version of the full-sized hard litter box you use at home. I like the Van Ness Pets Extra Small Open Litter Box.

You can also consider making your life a little easier by using a disposable litter box. These boxes are made from disposable cardboard, and I’ve had good experiences with the Frisco High Sided Disposable Litter Box.

The term “disposable” can be a little bit deceptive because these boxes can actually last for several weeks before they need to be tossed out.

The second option is a collapsible litter box. This type of travel litter box should be made of a durable nylon fabric that’s easy to wipe clean. It folds into a perfect square when it’s not in use. I recommend the Necoichi Portable Litter Box.

You can even find cat carrier with litter box combos with everything described above. I really like the Prutapet Large Cat Carrier.

2. Assemble Your Gear for Your Travel Litter Box

You’ll need essentially the same bathroom gear for your cat when choosing either a reusable or disposable litter box. You’ll need enough fresh litter to get you through your travels. You’ll also need a scoop.

I also recommend bringing along some little plastic bags that will allow you to dispose of what you scoop up even if you’re not next right to a trash receptacle.

Pack some gloves and sanitary wipes to keep your hands tidy when you’re changing out a box on the go.

Always place a pee pad in the carrier to ensure a safe, mess-free landing for any solids or liquids. I like these basics:

3. Leave the Travel Litter Box Out At Home

In addition to asking me about the best travel litter box for cats, people also want to know about the best way to use a litter box when traveling with a cat. My advice starts long before the trip begins.

Put the litter box on display in your home in the days leading up to your trip. This will avoid a “freak out” on the road because your cat will be acquainted with the box.

4. During the Trip

During your trip, you need to keep the litter box both clean and accessible for the entirety of your travel experience. This is true even if you think you’re familiar your cat’s bathroom schedule.

If you’ve noticed that your cat has not gone in a while, you might want to intervene. It’s important to note a cat can safely skip the bathroom for about 24 hours. Many cats hold it in due to nerves while traveling.

If you’ve noticed that your cat has gone most of the day without going to the bathroom during a car trip, remove the litter box from the carrier during a stop.

Place the box on the floor of the car to give her a chance to use it away from the carrier’s interior. Make sure that the car doors are fully closed before you let your cat out of her carrier.

5. After the Trip

When you arrive at your destination, remove the box from the carrier. Your cat’s carrier will probably double as her refuge while you’re staying somewhere new. Simply place the box next to the carrier, but not too close.

Tips on Traveling with Cats in a Car Long Distance

Remember that your cat’s safety is in your hands whenever you travel. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Collar and Tag

A collar with a tag that will allow someone to locate you in the event that your cat is separated from you is essential! In fact, your cat should already have one of these even if she’s an indoor cat.

Let Your Cat Get Familiar with the Carrier

The best trick in the book is to get your cat acclimated to the carrier that will be used for the road trip. Leave the carrier out in the open for several days before your trip.

I can almost guarantee you that she will be curling up inside of it by the second or third day. Her familiarity with the carrier will make her feel safe while traveling.

Pheromone Spray

What if your cat hates the travel carrier? One trick I’ve learned along the way is that you can buy pheromone spray, like FELIWAY, that attracts cats. These sprays actually contain the pheromones that mother cats give off to calm their kittens. How sweet is that?

Drive Smoothly

If you’re normally wild on the road, adjust your driving style during your trip. Provide your cat with a smooth, slow drive that won’t jolt her.

Keep the music low to avoid stressing your cat with loud noises. If she likes background noise, a podcast might be good.

Frequent Breaks

Stop once every two hours to let your cat take a breather outside of her carrier. However, never allow your cat to roam without being either secured to the carrier or harness, or confined in some way.

Cats can be unpredictable when they are stressed. Even a cat that never leaves your side may run if you let her out during a break. Breaks at two-hour intervals provide your cat with a chance to eat, drink, and use the litter box.

Never Let Your Cat Out of Carrier While Vehicle is Moving

I know that some people like to play things loose by letting their cats roam while the car is moving. I strongly advocate against this.

First, cats are vulnerable to the same types of accident injuries as humans. What’s more, unrestrained cats can actually create dangers that cause accidents.

A scared cat might dart under the brake pedal or accelerator. A cat that is jumping around can also be a big distraction for a driver. There’s also the danger of a cat falling out of an open window while a vehicle is moving.

Do Cats Do Well on Road Trips?

This is determined on a cat-by-cat basis. I’ve personally had wonderful experiences while traveling with my cat after getting the right systems in place for ensuring the comfort, breaks, and access to food and water.

However, some cats never acclimate to travel.

Do a test road trip before you commit to a long drive with your cat. Start with a short cruise around the block before ramping things up to a 20-minute drive. If your cat remains calm during the 20-minute test, there’s a good chance she’s a car-friendly cat!

How Long Can a Cat Travel in a Car?

There’s no set rule for how long a cat can travel. Experts say that cats need time outside their carriers every four to six hours.

You’re going to be able to extend your maximum travel time if you’re doing everything to keep your cat comfortable.

However, the bottom line is that you can’t force a cat to travel if that cat is under severe duress when traveling. Please put your cat’s health first.

Cats on Road Trips: What Could Go Wrong?

I don’t want to scare you! I am personally a fan of adventuring with cats but I know it’s not for every cat or human paw-rent. However, you have to be realistic about what could go wrong. These are the cat travel dangers to look out for:

  • Your cat becomes car sick.
  • Your cat makes a mess after developing stress-induced diarrhea.
  • Your cat finds a way to push open the carrier to escape. Test the zippers before traveling!
  • Your cat meows excessively due to stress.

Some people assume that they can just sedate their highly anxious cats before traveling. This generally isn’t recommended. Talk with your vet if your cat struggles with travel.

In some cases, feline anti-anxiety medications may help to smooth things over. While there aren’t technically any FDA-approved anxiety medications for cats, some veterinarians will prescribe off-label medications for anxiety that are known to be helpful.

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