Taking a much-needed vacation with Kitty and Fido by your side? Here’s what you need to know before you hit the road.

By Arianne Cohen
Updated May 30, 2019
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Traveling comes with its fair share of stressors, especially when you're tasked with packing a bag and bringing along your closest four-legged friend. It's true that no pet travels lightly, either—a proper carrier and a substantial amount of treats are always necessary to keep your pet comfortable throughout the duration of your trip. Because no vacation is relaxing when your pet is stressed, we rounded up useful car travel tips to keep cats and dogs calm no matter where your journey takes you.

1. “Take the pet for a few short rides before your trip so it gets accustomed,” says Greg Hammer, a veterinarian and the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “You can’t take your pet on a four-hour trip if he’s never been in the car before.”

2. Make sure your cell-phone number is on the pet’s collar, in case he gets lost. Put it on his tags or write it on the collar in permanent marker. And have your vet inject your pet with a tiny microchip implant (it’s about the size of a grain of rice). If he loses his collar, rescue organizations will scan the back of his neck, see his personal identification number, and contact you.

3. It’s safest for passengers and your pets if cats ride in a carrier and dogs in a car harness or a crate, depending on what makes them most comfortable. “Pets that are out of their comfort zones can have behavior problems in the car, which can be dangerous while driving,” says Hammer.

4. Reward good behavior—or entice pets who are new to car trips—with treats (Purina One and Purina Beyond, for example, make packable treats made from high-quality ingredients).

5. Try not to let your dog ride with his head out of the window. Beyond the danger of getting hit, “particles of dirt or debris can enter the eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or infection,” says Hammer.

6. Make regular stops―every two hours for a puppy, every three to four hours for a cat or an adult dog―so your pet can take a walk on a leash (some cats enjoy a little leash walk).

7. Feed your pet only lightly before getting in the car―pets can become carsick. Once you’ve stopped driving for the day, feed normally.

8. Plan your pet’s typical feeding and walking schedule into your travel time. If your pet eats at midday, stop and give him a quick walk and a small meal.

Want to leave your pet at home? Use the Pet-Sitter Hiring Checklist.