We know you’d rather have your pet by your side at all times, but traveling with an animal isn’t as simple as just herding it into the car. There’s a befuddling array of information to consider, from safety issues to useful ownership documents, so allow us to break it down for you. Here are our top three ways to make your next road trip as pet-friendly as possible.
Pet safety starts with the living, of course, but we think it should extend to cars as well. Although domesticated animals certainly mean well, they can quickly destroy your vehicle’s interior if you don’t take precautions. Probably the easiest and most effective measure you can take is to install rubber floor mats throughout the cabin, as rubber’s a whole lot easier to hose down than carpeting. If you’re using the barrier method, Consumer Reports suggests putting a familiar pet bed in the cargo area to encourage the animal to stay in one place. Finally, don’t forget to bring cleaning supplies. Accidents happen, and there are numerous reasons why it’s best to mop them up as soon as possible—so we recommend putting together a cleaning kit that’s powerful enough to neutralize anything your pet might produce.
Top Tip: ASPCA advises that you can minimize the mess by refraining from feeding your pet while the vehicle is moving.
If you’re planning to cover some serious distance with your pet, we recommend bringing a travel kit to deal with both planned and unplanned events on the road. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA
), a documented history of your pet’s vaccinations is a must for interstate trips, as some states may require proof of rabies and/or other shots at the border. You’ll also want an ID collar with contact information—maybe even a fancy one with a tracking microchip. That’s in addition to the usual pet-care supplies, including food, water, medication, waste-removal materials, and perhaps a pet-specific first-aid kit
You can’t drive far in this country without seeing an unsecured dog poking its head out of a car window or truck bed. It’s a slice of Americana, right up there with rugged cowboys and greasy fries. But here’s the thing: in the event of a collision or simply a sudden stop, the safety of both the animal and people in its general vicinity will be in jeopardy. Just like unbelted human passengers, unsecured animals fly forward under such circumstances, and whether they hit a hard surface or another living being, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen. Same goes for cats; although they tend to be smaller, a ten-pound cat can still turn into a dangerous projectile. And even while driving normally, airborne objects like bugs and debris can cause harm to your pet if its head is exposed.
So how best to secure your pet? Consumer Reports
lists a few excellent options. If you’ve got a wagon-like vehicle (including SUVs and hatchbacks) and don’t mind that your pet might skid around a bit, a pet barrier could be just the thing. Designed to seal off the cargo area from the passenger compartment, these barriers give the animal room to roam in the way-back while solving the projectile problem in the event of an accident.
If you’d rather have your pet closer by, there are harnesses—like this one
, for example—designed specifically to secure pets in the back seat.
Top Tip: Make sure, by the way, that you never put an animal in the front seat of a modern car, as airbags can be harmful or even fatal in a frontal collision.
Finally, there’s the traditional pet crate
solution, which, while restricting the pet’s freedom, will certainly prove its worth if the unthinkable occurs—provided you’ve secured the crate properly, of course.
Moral of the story? Pets are too lovable to leave at home when it’s time to hit the highway, but a successful road trip requires pretty thorough preparation. So keep these three tips in mind; both you and Fido will be glad you did.