Cats in Cars: Motion Sickness or Anxiety?

cats in cars

Many dogs loves car rides, it’s not an uncommon to see a dog with his head out the window cruising down the street, a big smile on his face and the wind blowing his ears. Why is it, then, that cats in cars often become so stressed?

Why So Much Anxiety For Cats In Cars?

According to, cats are not immune to unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations, so their fear of car rides may be a result of that uncertainty.  Cats prefer daily rituals and would much rather maintain their territorial boundaries than crossing the threshold into the scary and intimidating outside world.

Some cats may exhibit vomiting tendencies or incontinence issues when riding in the car. Moving away from the home turf can be frightening.

While you and I think nothing of driving all over the place, a cat’s world is primarily contained within the four walls of your home.  That is his world.  Anything outside of that would be akin to launching you into space, and I have a feeling that would make you somewhat anxious.

A cat’s instinct to survive rests in marking his territory and burying his feces…. all of which can be done in the comfort of his own home. Plus, it’s a matter of survival to him. Now imagine the distress it would cause to remove him from that familiar arena.

And even though some cats may legitimately suffer from motion sickness), many may simply develop sick-like symptoms as a result of the fear and anxiety associated with riding in that four-wheel beast of yours.  Just as we get clammy skin, heart palpitations and a wave of nausea when we are nervous, cats can exhibit similar symptoms.

Reducing Stress For Cats In Cars

So, what is a cat lover to do when it is necessary to transport cats in cars?

  • First of all, be sure to maintain your own sense of calm. If you are relaxed, you will convey that feeling to your cat.
  • If someone else is driving, consider sitting in the back seat with your cat and talk to him.  Any fun and loving distraction can greatly alleviate your cat’s fears.
  • Leave the carrier open in your living space.  If you only bring out the carrier when it’s time to travel, your cat will become stressed right away. Allowing your cat to explore the carrier at his leisure will help him become comfortable with it and not get stressed right away when he sees it.
  • Take your cat on very short rides, then gradually increase the distance.  Begin by literally going around the block, then home.  This will get your cat accustomed in being in his carrier, and give him a chance to get comfortable in a moving vehicle.
  • Consider a different “type” of carrier.  Cats often like a bed with sides to lie against since that sides give them a sense of safety.  Some carriers, like the SleepyPod, serve as a pet bed and carrier to give cats a feeling of security and comfort.


As with most activities, if you start taking your cat in the car with you when he’s a kitten, there’s a much higher likelihood he’ll be ok with it as he grows up.

For those cats that are terrified at the thought of being in a car, try the steps laid out above.  There’s no guarantee the experience will be stress free, but the trip may be much easier for you and your cat.



Written by Ann Butenas

Ann Butenas

An internationally-recognized author and writer, Ann began her professional writing career at age 12 and began speaking while in college. She has been published thousands of times over the past three decades in all media forms, was former editor and publisher of KC Metro Woman magazine, and has also hosted three talk radio shows in the Kansas City area.