National Pet Month - Motoring Advice For Cat & Dog Owners
We're in the midst of National Pet Month
National Pet Month is an initiative to “help promote responsible pet ownership across the UK”. The aim is to “highlight the important work of pet care professionals and working companion animals and help raise money for the nation's pet care charities.”
Sure. I can get behind that.
“Pets give us so much love and companionship,” reads their mission statement. “Now it's time to repay that kindness.”
Pets & Cars
So how can you, as a driver, honour the spirit of National Pet Month?
Well, that depends on the pets you keep.
The biggest animal you could conceivably (and legally) keep as a pet is a horse. And unless you stole this horse, let's assume that if you're rich enough to afford one, then you're also rich enough to afford all manner of horse boxes and stables and what have you. You wouldn't ever be tempted to stuff a horse into the back of a car, would you? No? No.
So the biggest animal that you could conceivably (and legally) keep as a pet (that you might have cause to transport by car) is a dog.
Dogs in Cars
Dogs can either get scared or excited in a car, but generally speaking they'll probably behave themselves. Nonetheless, there are a few measures you could take to guarantee the safety of driver, passenger, dog and car alike.
Ideally, dogs should be transported in a large window boot which should be sequestered by some kind of wire grid. Line this boot with blankets or place their bed in a corner to allow your dog to nap in comfort on longer journeys. Dogs often use sleep as a coping mechanism for motion sickness.
If the idea of motion sickness bothers you, refrain from feeding your dog just before the trip. Instead, feed him a few hours before. And if it's going to be a particularly long journey, remember to bring some food for your frequent breaks. Bring a waterbowl, too. Many service stations provide facilities for such canine refreshments.
But if your car doesn't have a large window boot, your priority is to ensure that your dog is unable to roam freely in the cabin. To counter this, you can buy pet safety belts, and even dog safety seats.
Finally, dogs die in hot cars, so avoid leaving them unattended. But if it's unavoidable, park in the shade, provide ventilation (wind your windows down a tad) and don't dawdle on whatever errand you've undertaken.
Dogs can become accustomed to cars, but it takes time. It helps to trick them into associating car journeys with fun and enjoyment. So why not make your first few trips in the car with your dog to such places as a big empty field where they can skip and bound? The biggest mistake you can make is to encourage a puppy to associate car journeys with trips to the vet. Good luck ever getting your dog to hop into a car should you make this connection.
Cats and Cars
Nobody takes their cats on holiday (do they?), and cats are creatures who like routine. Most every car journey, then, is going to be a trip to the vets – but your cats would have been stressed out even if you weren't headed to their least favourite place. Cats don't like change. Nor do they like feeling cornered or trapped. Cats, therefore, hate cars.
Don't even think about transporting a cat in a car without a pet carrier. Let loose in a car, they'll panic, flail wildly and it will definitely lead to either torn upholstery or slashed eyeballs – and one very, very terrified kitten.
The cat won't be any less stressed in the pet carrier, but at least he'll be safe. Line the carrier with comfortable blankets and familiar toys and, to the best of your abilities, you should keep it restrained. Nobody wants to be brained by an airborne carrier in the event of a collision.
As for long journeys, the same rules apply as for dogs. Take frequent breaks and make sure you don't leave them cooking in the sun.
Word of warning, though – no matter how short your journey, your cat will yowl mournfully for its entire duration. Be prepared to feel very guilty indeed.
And have a very happy National Pet Month, everyone!