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How to Move Cross Country with Cats – Everything You Need To Know

Moving cross country with cats can be hard work, but we have perfected the art of making our cat comfortable to enjoy these long road trips.

After three moves within four years, it is safe to say we know how to move cross country with cats. From Las Vegas to Dallas, Dallas to Washington D.C. and then back to Dallas – we have gathered all the tips and essential things to know when it comes to moving cross country with cats. Suffice to say, we also know what it’s like traveling with cats in a car. We have driven long distances with a cat in both a truck and a compact car, we have PURRFECTED the art on how to travel with a cat in a car. From finding the right travel litter box to the comfiest blankets and travel carrier, we know exactly what makes a cat purr.


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Meet Tiramisu

We would not know the first thing about traveling with cats in a car without our lovely companion, Tiramisu. Tiramisu (Tira for short), is our beautiful medium haired, calico cat. Tira has been a traveling cat since she was only a year old. Throughout the past three moves, she has meowed and purred her way to help us find the perfect course of action to move cross country with cats. From understanding what she wants and needs, we have successfully traveled from coast to coast with her. With that said, I think she is ready for us to stop moving and settle down in Dallas.

How to Travel with a Cat in a Car

Whether you are traveling with a cat in a car long distance or just visiting the vet, you need to be able to make your cat feel at home in an uncomfortable environment. Cats are a lot smarter than people give them credit for. Tira always knows when she is about to take a car ride and will quickly try to hide. Mostly because she thinks its time for her annual visit to the vet. So here are some tips we have picked up throughout the years that have helped us travel with a cat in a car.


The Human Touch

When you travel with a cat in a car, the most effective way to make your cat feel safe is to soothe them with the human touch. After we place Tira in her cat carrier, we immediately walk around the room while talking and petting her. Once she relaxes, we will carefully walk to the car and continue to soothe her with our voice and touch until she feels at peace. It honestly does not take long, which is why we highly recommend soothing your cat with the human touch when you travel in a car, especially long distance.


Cat Carrier

The most important item you need when you travel with a cat in a car is a cat carrier! Especially if you are visiting the vet, it is always required. A cat carrier can be anything from the classic plastic kennel to a soft-sided bag or a trendy capsule backpack. We try to help Tira to distinguish when she is traveling in a car long distance versus when she is visiting the vet. We do this by always placing her in the classic kennel for the vet and the capsule backpack for traveling.

Moving cross country with cats can be hard work, but we have perfected the art of making our cat comfortable to enjoy these long road trips.


Kibbles and Snacks

It is always a good idea to pack some food and snacks for your cat when you travel in the car. Depending on the nature of your relationship with your cat, you can give them snacks to keep them calm and nurture good action. Furthermore, for traveling with cats in a car long distance, you will want to make sure you pack enough food for them. With that said, typically Tira always feels out of place and only eats a little. On the other hand, if you have a cat who gets car sick (like my sister’s cat, McLovin), it is best to feed them as early as possible and limit their food intake during the car ride.


Moving Cross Country with Cats

The same tips mentioned above should be repeated when moving cross country with cats. The additional pieces that need to be accounted for are finding proper accommodations, pit stops, and more.

Cat-Proof Your Seats

Cats are very curious creatures. In fact, Tira is probably more curious than George! Therefore, we let Tira out only AFTER we are on the open road for major safety reasons. Cats (especially Tira), need to get acclimated to their new environment for big cross country moves. So to let cats wander the car, you must first cat-proof it. Any cat owner can tell you, no matter how big or fluffy their cat is, they will always find a way to get into the smallest areas. To cat-proof your car, simply stuff bath towels or blankets under the driver and passenger seats. This will help keep your cat from sneaking under the driver’s seat and getting into a very dangerous situation.


Leave Room For Comfort

Tira LOVES to sleep in the dark or on soft, dark-colored blankets. So we make sure to leave two spots for her. One on the floor behind a seat so she has shade and another with a blanket fluffed up on the back seat. Depending on what your cat prefers, make sure to provide comfort to them as best as you can, given the circumstances.

Traveling with cats in a car long distance does not need to difficult. Just make sure you know what your cats needs and wants. For us, Tira loves to roam around and look out the window.


Hotel Accommodations for Moving Cross Country with Cats

When you are planning your route for moving cross country with your cat, make sure you find and book your hotel accommodations ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is drive for ten hours and then try to find a cat-friendly hotel. Trust me, finding a decent cat-friendly hotel is not an easy task, especially last minute.

First of all, I say cat-friendly because some hotels will claim they are pet-friendly, but they actually only allow dogs. Once you find a cat-friendly hotel, you also need to check their policy to see how much the additional fees cost. We have seen some pet fees cost as high as $150 for cats, which is outrageous! Typically, a pet fee should not cost more than $20, give or take. If you cannot find a pet fee online, just give the hotel a call.


Pet-Friendly Pit Stops

Every long-distance road trip needs pit stops. Whether it is for a quick rest, to refuel gas or to eat lunch. So when you are moving cross country with cats, you need to find some pet-friendly pit stops. For us, we would find somewhere suitable such as Firehouse Subs. We typically call ahead to ask if we could bring Tira inside the restaurant with her cat carrier. Most times, restaurants do not have a problem with it. However, there were a few times when we would have to leave her in the car. This option is not ideal, but sometimes you have to make the best adjustments when you travel with cats in a car. So we would either eat in the car or park next to a window so we could always see her. Then we would take turns to visit her every five minutes.


Traveling with Cats in a Car Long Distance – Essential Items to Pack

When you are traveling with cats in a car long distance, it is essential to pack everything you need for a successful trip. Through trial and error, we have found that these items work best for Tira when we take her on long-distance road trips.


Travel Litter Box

Of course, a travel litter box is the most important thing you need to pack when traveling with cats in a car long distance. Just like humans, cats need to use the bathroom on long road trips. At first, we used small cardboard boxes as Tira’s travel litter box, but now we have found the perfect one! This travel litter box is made of durable nylon fabric that is not only portable, but also collapsible. You can easily place it behind a car seat without any fuss because it can fold in on itself without spilling any litter. It also comes with a portable, collapsible food/water bowl. Talk about the purrfect travel litter box.


Ziploc Bags

So, a cat using a travel litter box comes with some cleanup. My best recommendation is to pack some Ziploc bags and pick up your cat’s stool like you would pick up a dogs. Or speaking of dogs, you can also buy and use regular dog poop bags to help clean your cat’s travel litter box.


Air Freshener

The last piece to cleaning your cat’s travel litter box is a nice air freshener because nothing is worse than smelling your cat’s nice piece of work in a small, enclosed car. If your cat’s work is anything like Tira’s, not even rolling down the windows can help. So we make sure to pack some air fresheners. Whether they are air freshener sprays or a simple car air freshener, you should definitely pack one when traveling with cats in a car long distance.


Comfortable Blankets or Cat Bed

As briefly mentioned before, we like to make Tira a nice comfortable bed with some of her favorite blankets. So we will always pack at least two blankets for her. You can also pack a small cat bed if that is what your furry friend prefers.


Cat Car Hammock

This is one of the coolest things you can pack for your cat during a long distance road trip. Unfortunately, we do not have wide enough windows on our Honda Civic to buy this for Tira, but we hope you can. This cat car hammock is perfect for cats who love the sun and lounging – so basically every cat. Just make sure you measure your car window. The hammock requires at least a 30″ x 14″ window.



Both paper and bath towels are a great idea to pack when traveling with cats in a car long distance. Just like children, cats can make quite the mess. So it is best to always be prepared for any accidents that may occur on the road. We like laying down a bath towel around the travel litter box and on the nearest seat to make sure any mess does not get on our cloth seats.


Cat Calming Spray

No matter how many times we take Tira on our cross country moves, she is always scared at first. Some cats like my sisters are even worse. They cannot calm down because of the stress. So it is always best to pack some cat calming spray when moving cross country with cats. The calming spray truly helps reduce their stress and does not affect any other animals, children or material. It is also a non-sedating formula that can last for hours. You can spray it within the car, on the cat carrier, blankets, etc and it will work like a charm.


Cat Backpack

How to travel with a cat in a car? Pack a cat backpack as a cat carrier. It is a great alternative to the kennel because you can easily take your cat out during pit stops.

For the cats who love to travel and see the world, a cat backpack is essential. If you plan to do some traveling to National Parks or unique destinations during your move across the country with your cat, this backpack will be perfect. We have even seen people go camping with their cats using this exact backpack! The capsule cat backpack has plenty of space to allow cats to be comfortable while also providing plenty of airflow and an astronaut dome for them to see the world. We wouldn’t say Tira “loves” her backpack, but she doesn’t hate it either. You definitely need to slowly get your cat acquainted with the backpack before taking them on a big road trip.


I hope these tips on how to travel with a cat in a car and/or moving cross country with a cat have been helpful. Moving across the country is hard enough and when you have to also do it with a cat, it can be intimidating and stressful. Just recognize your cat’s needs and prepare accordingly.





  • Dani Gill

    OMG my cat hates even leaving the house so can’t imagine another move with her. We moved in 2014 from another province in Canada and I sure could’ve used some of these tips back then! Very comprehensive post on how to travel with cats.

    • oursweetadventures

      If you ever have to move again now you have my tips and I hope they help your cat 🙂

  • Jenn

    I have no words to describe how life-changing this post is for me! I know that sounds crazy…but I mean it. I have 2 cats that I love more than anything…but I also have dreams of moving out west. I always thought it would be impossible until they passed away, but now I know it’s not!

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww that makes me SO HAPPY to hear! With two cats you might need to just use the entire back seat for them!

  • sam topping

    Cats are so funny! Not sure any of my previous cats would have sat still for any of these though!

    • oursweetadventures

      Cats are always so much fun 🙂

  • Amy

    These are some great tips! I can’t imagine moving that far with a pet more than ONCE! 🙂 We moved from Florida to Virginia with a Golden Retriever and a Yorkie-Poo. Our Golden traveled well, the Yorkie-Poo, not so much! Both of them have passed since our move, but now we have a Goldendoodle that’s bigger than any dog I’ve owned and doesn’t travel very well!! And it’s highly likely he’ll have a move at some point in his future so I will definitely remember to employ these comfort tips!

    • oursweetadventures

      I am sorry to hear about their passing. I hope everything goes well when the time comes for y’all to move again with your Goldendoodle.

  • umiko Silalahi

    This is really helpful although I’m a dog person myself. I never imagined how you travel or even moving cross country with a cat. Now I know! I wonder what to do with a pit stop until I found the litter box part. That cat backpack is really cute!

    • oursweetadventures

      Yes, the travel litter box is crucial for moving cross country with cats!

  • Yukti Agrawal

    I never had a pet so do not have much experience of cross country moving with animals. Your post is very helpful as you have listed all the points about what to do and how to plan your move with cats. It is great that you kept space for your cat by making two spots with blankets in your car and pit stop in between is also a great idea.

    • oursweetadventures

      Thank you. Glad to hear you enjoyed the post.

  • Lindsey

    These are fantastic tips! I didn’t honestly realize they made traveling litter boxes – that’s great to know. I also am so excited to see someone using the cat backpack! I’m so intrigued by them!

    • oursweetadventures

      We did not know they made travel litter boxes either until this year and it was a total game changer! I hope your cat enjoys being in it more than Tira. She basically just tolerates it for us.

  • Jennifer

    Oh what a sweet kitty! I have to say, I couldn’t imagine traveling cross country with my two knuckleheads. They get mad enough just going to the vet’s office. These are great tips that I can definitely use in the future!

    • oursweetadventures

      Haha well if you ever have to move with them, you have some tips on what to do now 🙂

  • Josy A

    Lol I love the photo of Tira in that backback, she is like “hooman, I may be a space cat, but why did you put me in this teeny space!?”

    This is a really helpful post! My family used to move 3 cats, a dog (and four kids) to Ireland every summer. The roads were terrible, so it would always tale 36 hours-ish (including the ferry) I have to admit, I do not miss that long journey!! The worst part was near our home in Connemara, the roads were full of pot holes. There was one section of road where all three cats would vomit. Luckily it was by a lake (and there was a lay-by) so we could stop and wash them off. At least once we made it home, they were always sooo happy to arrive!

    We always found cats were better at travelling if they went on a long journey at least once while they were still kittens. Once they are fully grown, they’d HATE the first trip.

    • oursweetadventures

      Hahaha yes, she is not very enthused to be in there. Wow, that sounds like a very daunting task and your poor cats. There probably really is no method to helping a situation like that!

  • Samantha

    We have traveled cross country with our dogs many times, but I cannot imagine doing it with a cat! It takes a lot of extra planning to travel with pets, so I can empathize with the long list of things you’ve used to make your cat comfortable!

    • oursweetadventures

      I don’t think we can imagine moving cross the country with dogs! After three moves with Tira, it’s a piece of cake now 🙂

  • Heath Streak

    If you’re not just going on a trek so your puppy can potty, but instead heading out to enjoy the fresh air during rainy or cold weather, a backpack pet carrier is a great way to take your friend along. Your pup’s paws stay dry and warm, and he’ll stay warmer in the carrier so close to your body. You’ll stay warmer, too. Especially in the wintertime, carrying your pooch keeps his paws and pads from being exposed to the snow, ice and salt.

    • oursweetadventures

      Thanks for the tips!

  • Deven Carley

    Useful tips you share on this blog. Moving with cat it’s a really advantages task. Thanks sharing great tips.

    • oursweetadventures

      Thank you, glad to hear the post is helpful!

  • Susan

    Tiramisu is just gorgeous 🙂 And she’s so lucky to have such thoughtful and caring travelling companions. Love her little face in the backpack – just like a little astronaut! x

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww thank you so much! You just made Tiramisu and I smile from ear to ear.

  • Anna

    My worst fear when traveling with a cat would be at stops. How do you keep her from bolting out the car in search of a hiding place, when you open the car door ? I’ve never had to travel with a cat, yet. However, that time may come.

    • oursweetadventures

      We have never had that problem with Tira, but that’s not to say other cats are as you described. When we need to take her inside with us to eat though, we always put her in her cage when we stop before we open any doors. I hope that helps!

  • Laura

    I’m the lucky one who gets to drive 1100 miles over 2 days with 2 cats…We bought a small dog crate/kennel that we could set up with a shelf so they have bunk beds with cozy blankets! Plus room for a disposable litter box. They will not be let out at all for our safety and theirs during the ride though. We’ve had the kennel out for a bit and our chill cat naps in it. The other one takes some coaxing and will loaf for a minute before leaving, but doesn’t fight it too much–for now! I’m also packing one of their standard carriers in case the one won’t settle down or needs her own space. It helps if she’s in the front and I can give scritches through the grate. We went with the crate because I read some cats are better if they can see more, plus it’s different than their vet carriers, so there’s that. We’re packing subs to eat in the car as usual (we’ve made the trip sans-cats a couple of times). Oh, and using big contractor trash bags on the seats just in case 😉

    • oursweetadventures

      Hi, thanks for sharing your story and tips! We love hearing how other cat owners travel with their cats 🙂 So many unique ways for every cat’s personality 🙂

    • Laura

      Update…we made it! It went way better than I could have ever hoped. No issues getting them in the crate or the car at any time. The first hotel night my scaredy-cat hid under the chair but was fine after that (super-cuddly the second night even). There was one “code brown” shortly after leaving the first hotel but we had to stop for gas anyway, so it wasn’t too bad to deal with. And then the last day, there was some complaining from the other cat, but once I was able to get her some water she settled right down. They did sleep most of the time. So grateful for how well they did!

      • oursweetadventures

        Aww yay! Thank you for the update. I am sure the “code brown” was from the anxiety of the unknown environments they had to keep going through but it sounds like your cats made it through safely! Our cat mostly sleeps during our car rides too but after a while, she will start to get cranky and we just have to feed her with love and attention. Again, I am so happy to hear your cats did so well 🙂

  • Marina Lavender

    Moving is very stressful. Including a cat in your moving plan changes the whole concept of moving itself. Pets can easily get aggravated when exposed to new environments, traveling for long hours or even being confined in a small space during the move. Thank you for your tips and experience.

    • oursweetadventures

      I could not agree with you more which is why we try to prepare Tira and give her love and attention as much as possible. I am happy to hear my tips have been helpful!

  • Chris

    So funny pictures and yes…. moving with pets s very stressful for both. The cat and the owner. I remember when I was moving. My three cats started to explore the entire two story house.

    • oursweetadventures

      Reaching the final destination and watching Tira explore is my favorite part!

  • Melissa

    If the move is about 10 hours, do you think it would be okay to leave my cat in a large crate the whole time?

    • oursweetadventures

      I am not a vet or expert, but we drove 12 hours in a Honda Civic and Tira was just fine. We let her out to roam around the car (safely) though. Most times, she just stayed laying down in her bed or inside her crate. I hope that helps.


    I’m moving but I can’t take my cat and this is going to be very hard for me I found a home but I’m still sad ? I really hope he can adjusted I’m gonna keep in touch with the lady that’s taking him it’s hard been crying a lot ?

    • oursweetadventures

      I am so sorry to hear that. My condolences are with you through this hard time.

  • Lacey

    I once drove from Texas to Washington with 3 cats, 1 litter box and no air freshener. So yeah, these are some good tips… I’ll never do that again!

    • oursweetadventures

      Haha thank you – I am glad to hear I have provided good tips for any future moves with your cats again.

  • Amanda

    Oh my gosh! You have no idea how much this blog has helped ease my mind! My husband and I are planning a move to Florida from Ohio in the next year or so and I have been having major anxiety over how to move with our cats. Thank you for all of the wonderful tips, we will definitely be using them when we finally move.

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww I am so delighted to hear that! Every cat reacts to moves differently, but I hope my tips and product recommendations help. Once you get passed the first hour, they tend to sleep most of the way 🙂

  • AnneMarie

    I’m Loving all of your tips!! We’re planning a very long road trip from NJ all the way to AZ? we’re moving in September!! I have 2 huge scaredy cats for sure and they hate the car!!! I’m so very nervous . My husband will be driving the U-Haul and lucky me will be driving my Saturn VUE with just the 2 cats!! I treat them like there my babies lol there very spoiled. So any tips and information is GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!

    • oursweetadventures

      Hi, thank you so much for reaching out! I am glad to hear my tips are helpful for you during this moving process – I know it is never easy to move. We did it with our cat, Tira, three times within 4 years. Vegas to Dallas, Dallas to D.C. and D.C. to Dallas. So she was exposed to the moving process and always seemed to adjust fairly well. I would test drive with your cats implementing some of my tips in the post because you are having to drive by yourself and letting cats roam in the car unsupervised can be dangerous. I would place barriers/towels under the front and passenger seats, so there is no way for the cats to get stuck or sneak into the driver’s leg space (that is the most dangerous). I would also spray your car with the calming spray, give them comfort by adding a bed, blankets, whatever they like. Then have you and your husband drive for an hour or two (hopefully there is something you want to see locally in that distance) and see how they react. I say to drive at least one hour because they are most likely going to cry for the first 30 minutes. Best case scenario, if you are able to drive with someone, that would be the best so someone can provide attention to the cats while the other drives. I hope all of this helps.

  • Jess

    We’ll be moving from Florida to Oregon in 5 months with 2 cats, one husky and a leopard gecko lol! Should be an interesting adventure but I’m excited for it nonetheless. The only issue I have is that my older cat has always gotten nauseous and thrown up during car rides. I’m worried about him and how he will be able to eat and keep his food and water down, since we will be on the road for 8 days (stopping at a different hotel each night along the way). Definitely going to try the calming spray you mentioned though and hope it works!

    • oursweetadventures

      Hi, that does sound like a great adventure! My sister’s cat is a lot like yours – throws up in car rides. My recommendation would be to talk to a vet and look into pills for your cat that helps with car rides. I believe they help sedate the cat in a healthy and safe way.

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Pingback: Traveling with pets: Everything you need to know – Traveldery on February 13, 2019

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