Last updated: August 2023
Before you hop in the car and head off on an adventure with your beloved bulldog or orange tabby, it’s important to be prepared. Because when you’re traveling with pets (whether that’s cats, dogs, ferrets, or birds), you want to be sure they’re safe and comfy throughout the journey. You also want to make sure your trusty companion doesn’t compromise your and any other humans’ safety. So, here are some helpful things to remember when traveling with dogs and other animals.
8 Tips to Improve Pet Safety in Cars & On Trips
1. Prepare your pet by taking them on short drives.
Slowly increase the length of time your pet spends in the car, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). When you’re running to get a prescription or picking up a curbside order for dinner, bring your trusty companion along. These short drives in the car can help them get more comfortable with travel. Just make sure never to leave your pet in the car alone, especially when it’s uncomfortably hot outside. A vehicle can become a temperature trap for your pet.
2. Pack a pet preparedness kit.
Just as you’d pack snacks, drinks, blankets, pillows, and games for your friends and family on a road trip, put together a pet version, says PetMD. Your pet preparedness kit could include your pet’s food, bowl, leash, plastic bags for waste, any medication they might need, a first aid kit, and their favorite toy or blanket. These things will give them a sense of comfort and familiarity.
3. Plan their eating schedule.
The ASPCA suggests feeding your pet three to four hours before departure and not feeding them in a moving vehicle. Feeding them well before the trip will reduce their chances getting car sick. You don’t want to spend any vacation time cleaning up a preventable mess.
4. Invest in quality pet accessories.
To get ready for your friendly new passenger, it’s important to invest in pet accessories that keep them comfortable, keep your car in good shape, and ensure everyone in the vehicle stays safe. Here are some of the best options to buy.
- Dog ramps: While some dog travel accessories are meant to be used while you’re in motion, this one is made for easy loading and unloading transitions once you’ve arrived at your destination.
- Seat covers: Nothing puts a damper on a fun family day out like the scent of “wet dog” seeping into your car seats. Yuck! Keep your ride clean with a removable, machine-washable seat cover. Seat covers can also help keep your car in good shape and your vehicle’s resale value higher.
- Pet car hammock: If you have to step on the brakes suddenly, your best friend could go flying. A pet car hammock can save your furry friend from falling uncomfortably to the floor of the vehicle or into the front seat which could cause a crash.
- Harnesses and seatbelts: A well-ventilated carrier is the ASPCA’s recommended mode of travel for pets, but kennels and carriers can take up valuable space in the car. If you can’t fit a full-size carrier in your car, use a well-reviewed safety harness and seatbelt. Like a pet car hammock, this can help with everyone’s safety.
- Pet booster seat: If your pet is on the smaller side, try a pet bucket booster seat that straps into the backseat of your car. Your pet can sit higher up (which helps pets who get carsick easily), and the curved edges of a pet booster seat make it feel like a comforting, cozy bed.
5. Keep all paws and whiskers inside the vehicle.
Your pet may enjoy riding with their head out of the window, but it isn’t the safest way for them to ride. They could be exposed to flying objects that could injure them or jump out if they’re not restrained. In fact, there has even been a push for laws against this practice in some places. Instead, try cracking the window so they can safely enjoy the breeze while they’re strapped in or inside their carrier.
6. Bring your own water.
We’re not saying your pet is a diva, but drinking water from an area they aren’t used to could lead to an upset stomach. PetMD recommends bringing your own water from home to lower the odds they get sick.
7. Find pet-friendly lodging along the way.
There are plenty of affordable family-friendly hotels checking in pets. Many hotel websites feature the pet hotel option to attract pet owners; however, if it’s not listed, call the hotel to ask. If you prefer short-term rentals, you can search booking sites for pet-friendly options. It is worth noting that you may be subject to certain policies, and you might be required to pay an extra fee.
8. Talk to your insurance company about pet coverage.
Even though you consider your pet a part of the family, some insurance companies consider an animal your property. If you’re in an auto accident and are at fault, your pet’s injuries likely won’t be covered. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other driver’s insurance could help pay for your pet’s injuries under property damage liability coverage, but it depends on the circumstances and the specific terms of the insurance policies in force.