Traveling with an Anxious Pet in the Car: How to Make Things Easier for Both of You

Pet dog in car

Dogs, cats, and all sorts of our furry friends can make great traveling companions, and, to be honest, it is always hard to leave them behind when you head off on a road trip. However, it’s not always smooth sailing (or driving) when traveling with a pet. Even the most laid back and well adjusted animals can find long-distance travel disturbing or uncomfortable, and if your pet is already prone to nerves or anxiety, their stress will only be exacerbated.

The last thing you want to do is make things worse for your pets, and the physical side effects of having an anxious animal in the car with you can make for a fairly unpleasant traveling atmosphere! Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do when planning a holiday to make life better for your pets, both short-term alleviation of things like motion sickness or travel anxiety, and for your animal’s long term mental health as well.

Read on for a few of the best ways to make traveling with your pet in the car easier for both of you!

Know what symptoms to look out for

Knowing the signs of distress in your pet can give you a huge head start in helping them get through it. Obvious things like crying or shaking are easy to spot, but there are a number of other symptoms and warning signs that can indicate anxiety or motion sickness.

If your pup or cat has a glazed-over look to their eyes, if they are licking themselves excessively, pacing, or constantly shaking themselves as if they were wet, then it’s likely that they are distressed in some way. Comforting them, speaking calmly and soothingly, and keeping them from looking out of the window can go a long way towards helping, particularly if you catch the signs early.

Keep the air conditioning on and the windows closed. A stable environment will make the changes around them less intimidating for your pet.

Get them traveling early

In the long run, getting your pets used to traveling from an early age, as part of their early training, is the best way to help you and them. Long-term conditioning will help ward off anxiety, and make traveling just another comfortable part of their lives! So travel early, and travel often.

Initially you’ll want to go slow, as the longer you can give young animals to adapt the better. Get them used to sitting in a parked car, then with the engine running, then on short trips and finally on a genuine night away from home. Bringing familiar objects, smells or toys with you to make a holiday feel more comfortable and normal is a great way to desensitize and condition your pet.

Choose the right holiday

If you know your pet is prone to anxiety, there are still ways you can make traveling more comfortable for them. It goes without saying that picking the right sort of vacation, and the right sort of transportation, is key. If you know they are happy in your car, but can’t handle the stress of air travel, go for a road trip!

You might need to research things like doggy daycare in a new city when you travel. If you’re cruising from Fort Lauderdale, for example, be sure to look up places your pet can stay while you’re off on your cruise adventure. You’ll rest assured knowing your pet is in safe hands while you set off on the high seas, and catch a bit of sun without exposing your furry friend to stressful airports, constant changes, or bumpy roads.

Pick the right accommodation

Finding somewhere to stay that doesn’t disturb your pets is another consideration. Picking pet-friendly hotels, or finding an Airbnb that can accommodate them without fuss or bother is well worth a little extra effort. If they are used to outside space, make sure your accommodation has a garden, or a park nearby. If they aren’t used to tower blocks or elevators, ensure you stay on the ground floor. A little research and a little foresight goes a long way.

Try aromatherapy

Aromatherapy and calming scents can have a huge impact on your pet, and it’s kind of a lovely thing for you too! If you accustom your pet to something like heavily diluted lavender oil, with its relaxing and soporific qualities, in the weeks leading up to your trip, things may go a lot smoother. Make sure your pet doesn’t digest lavender oil, however. Try rubbing the oil on your hands before feeding or playing with your cat or dog. They’ll associate the scent with good things, and when you pet them during your trip with lavender-scented fingers, that should do the trick!

Traveling with an anxious pet is always going to be tricky business, but there are a load of things that you can do to make it go more smoothly. Most of all, make sure you are always calm and relaxed – if you aren’t having a good time, what hope does your pet have? Enjoy yourself, and pamper your little buddy a little, and they’ll be an intrepid traveler in no time!

Andrea Barnhill is the Founder and Editor of Weekend Wander Club, a travel blog for young professionals. She loves sharing her tips on how to make the most out of only a few days out of office to explore the world.


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