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Driving with Pets

| In Motoring Advice

Driving with pets

There are some things we know about pets and cars. Cats like sitting on cars, especially the warm parts on a cold day, but they don’t like travelling in them. Dogs love travelling in them! Is there a better sight than a dog with its head out of the car window, tongue and ears flapping in the breeze with a look of sheer joy on its face?

What is it about car rides that fills dogs with so much joy and cats with so much fear? Well, obviously we’ll never really know, but there a number of theories out there.

Taking your cat in for a ride in your car can often be a particularly unpleasant experience. There is a chance of motion sickness, but most cats simply hate the car. The characteristics of a car ride seem overwhelming for cats; the noise, movement and confusion are just too much. It’s not unusual for cats to spend the whole journey howling to escape. Virtually all cats will require a carrier in order to get them into the car. The initial challenge is obviously getting the cat in the carrier in the first instance.

Whilst cats don’t like car rides, their level of anxiety can vary dramatically. Some cats will accept the journey whilst not being happy, whereas others can show physical signs of stress including shaking, vomiting or hyperventilating. If your cat shows these serious signs of anxiety there a number of things that can be done to calm them down. Firstly, try acclimatising your cat to the car prior to the day of the ride. Put your cat in the car, provide food and treats and then bring them back inside. Try another visit and this time start the engine. You may also then try a short ride.

Anxiety is likely to reduce as the cat realises it is safe and secure in the car. If the anxiety continues past the training exercise there are a number of herbal remedies that can help pets relax, and in severe cases vets may prescribe medication to ease you cat’s nerves. Your cat is very unlikely to enjoy a car ride but implementing the techniques described above can them adjust and make the ride more bearable for everyone.

Dogs on the other hand, enjoy car rides as things of pure delight. There a number of plausible explanations for their joy at car rides; the first one being that there is an amazing array of smells in the air. Dogs have one hundred times more olfactory receptors compared to humans; 3,000,000 versus 30,000, and their sense of smell is from 10,000 to 100,000 stronger than ours. The world of smell opened up by car travel and fresh air through a car window must be truly amazing for a dog.

As well as new smells, there are new things to see everywhere. Dogs are easily stimulated by visual cues and there are almost endless things to see every moment of a car journey. Dogs are also happy to feel close to their ‘pack’. On a car ride, the pack stays together; no one runs off to another room or leaves the house – the dog can see, smell and be close to ‘the pack’ whilst still getting all the sensory stimulation of a car trip.

He may also sense that you are a pack on an adventure together – just the way you would be in the wild. Dogs may see car rides as the best kind of adventure with new things all around, unfamiliar territory to view and smell, plus it lasts longer than a normal walk. Whilst some dogs are timid and prefer the comfort of the known, most dogs are very curious and any enjoy any kind of adventure.

Some experts believe that car rides trigger a dog’s hunting instincts. Car rides may produce the same euphoric sensations of a hunt. The car’s motion causes synchronised movements between the ‘pack’ – they move and sway together with bumps, twists and turns of the road. This may trigger a sensation of moving in sync with their pack as they hunt. Also, the appearance of outside objects moving at speed, triggers the instinct to give chase.

Even though your dog may be having a great time, it’s important to bear in mind safety as the number priority during travel. Your dog’s head and paws should stay inside the car at all times. Your dog should be restrained in such a way as to not cause any distractions to the driver. They’ll still see the sights, sniff the wind and enjoy the excitement of a new adventure and you’ll enjoy the trip even more knowing that he and your ‘pack’ is so happy and safe.