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Why Do Cats Hate Car Rides? 7 Interesting Reasons

If you’ve ever had to take your cat somewhere in the car, you know felines aren’t the biggest fan of car rides. But why exactly is that? Dogs seem to enjoy riding in the car immensely, so what’s the difference for cats?

Your kitty doesn’t like car rides for a variety of valid reasons, from the sensations they experience to the associations they make with getting in a car. Are you ready to learn in detail what these reasons are and how you can make car rides more pleasurable for both of you? Here are seven interesting reasons your cat gets upset when put into a car!

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The 7 Reasons Why Cats Hate Car Rides

1.  Negative Associations

Possibly the biggest reason your cat hates getting into the car? Because it has negative associations with the vehicle. Think about it—there’s a good chance that the only reason your cat goes on car rides is that you’re taking it to the vet, groomers, or boarders, and none of those places is very fun for kitties. So, it’s no wonder your cat freaks out when it’s put into the car. You’d probably be unhappy, too, if every time you took a car ride, it ended with getting poked, prodded, or left behind.

And felines form short and long-term memories, much like we do (although our memories last longer), so your cat definitely remembers what happened the last time it was in a car!

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2. Sensory Issues

Your cat’s senses far surpass your own. So, while you enter the car and smell air freshener, your cat is able to smell the scents of every person or animal that’s been in the car recently, as well as every crumb that’s been dropped. Add to that your kitty’s excellent hearing, which enables it to hear everything from the tires rolling on the pavement to the garbage truck down the road, and it’s not surprising that your pet gets overwhelmed by all that sensory information.

The cat sits in the car on a seat`
Image Credit: dimmitrius, Shutterstock
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3. Motion Sickness

Humans aren’t the only ones who can experience motion sickness; our feline companions can, too! If your cat is dealing with motion sickness while in the car, it will likely experience one or some of the following—drooling, vomiting, urinating, or defecating. And if your kitty is prone to motion sickness, car rides won’t be an enjoyable experience for it.

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4. Movement of the Car

Or your cat might not get motion sick but simply hates the movement of the car. The sensation of a car moving won’t be overly familiar to your cat, so it could find the ride disconcerting or feel as if it’s going to slip and slide around in its carrier. Add in bumps in the road and the occasional pothole, and it’s easy to see why kitty might put up a fuss at getting in a vehicle.

cat wearing fabric collar looking out the car window
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock
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5. Unfamiliar Space

Since your cat likely doesn’t ride in the car often, the car is an unfamiliar place, and felines aren’t fond of those. Being somewhere unfamiliar could very well result in a stressed-out kitty. Hence, all the meowing and crying (and occasional vomiting from nerves). Unfamiliarity just isn’t fun for our cats!

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6. Anxiety

Unfamiliarity isn’t all that can make our cats stressed and anxious. Your pet can become anxious because it’s out in the big, wide world rather than safe in its home. Or because it hates the cat carrier it’s in. Or because the radio in the car is too loud. Or for any number of reasons, really. The point is car rides can make kitty anxious, and no one likes experiencing anxiety, cats included.

cat inside the car
Image Credit: Raindom, Pixabay
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7. Change in Routine

Finally, felines absolutely hate any change to their routine. Listen, your cat had big plans that included napping for half the day, eating, and perhaps watching birds out the window. A car ride was not a part of those plans, so now that it’s happening, your cat is going to express its displeasure at this interruption to its routine!

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How Can I Help My Cat Hate Car Rides Less?

Like it or not, your cat is going to have to occasionally ride in the car. That means you need to find some way to help it dislike car rides at least a little less, for both your sanity. Luckily, there are some ways you can do just that.

Purchase a Good Carrier

Because your cat will most likely be in its carrier during any car rides, it’s crucial to find a carrier that your cat is comfortable with. Hard carriers are a bit safer but less comfortable. Soft carriers are great for shorter trips, like to the vet, and are much more comfortable than hard carriers.

Once you have a carrier your pet likes, you need to get your cat comfortable with it. A good way to start is by leaving the carrier out in your home all the time. Think about it—if the only time your kitty ever sees the carrier is when it’s about to get in the car and go to the vet, it will definitely have negative feelings about the carrier. But if you leave the carrier out in your home and place a cozy blanket, treats, or toys inside, your cat could come to see it as a safe space.

Anxiety-Reducing Products

If your cat hates riding in the car so much that every trip to the vet is a struggle, you might consider using anxiety-reducing products. There are several out there you can try, from pheromone sprays to vests that apply pressure to CBD and hemp products. You might even try tiring your kitty out with catnip 15 minutes before the start of the trip; it’s not a guarantee, but if your pet has some crazy cat time, it might be tired enough to be relaxed on a car ride.

Devon Rex cat is travelling on owners lap in a car
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

Change the View

Some felines may feel more comfortable on car rides if they can see out the window and view what’s going on around them. You can either position the cat carrier in a way that allows the kitty to see outside or try out a booster seat instead. (Just be sure you’re using seat belts in either scenario!)

Other cats might need the opposite of a view and would prefer not to see anything at all. If that’s your pet, you can toss a towel or blanket over its carrier to make things dark and cozy.

Slowly Get Cat Used to the Car

As you’re working on getting your cat used to its carrier, you may also want to help the kitty get used to the car. You can start by taking your cat out to the car when you aren’t going anywhere just to let it sniff around and explore. Then, when your pet is used to its carrier, you can place the cat and carrier in the car and close the door. Wait a minute, then take the cat out and reward it with a treat.

After your cat gets used to sitting in its carrier in a car going nowhere, you can try doing the same thing, but with starting the vehicle. Once kitty is okay with that, you can begin taking short drives. Eventually, your pet should be a bit more relaxed while on car rides!

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Your cat has a few good reasons to dislike car rides. A car ride often ends with a trip to the vet to get poked and prodded, the groomers where there are scary clippers or a boarding facility where it gets left behind. You likely wouldn’t enjoy the car if that’s what happened every time you got in, either!

But there are ways you can help your cat learn to relax while on car rides. Slowly getting the kitty used to its carrier and the car is probably the best way (though that will take time). You can also try anxiety-reducing supplements or just let your cat see out the window while you drive.

With enough time, car rides with your cat should be a happier adventure for you both!

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Featured Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock