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How to Keep Your Pets Safe While Driving

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

A special thank you to Natalie from Mr. Wood's class for suggesting this blog topic!

Travel season is here, and as pet owners gear up for their next vacation, it's important to prioritize the safety of our furry friends during car rides. Simply allowing your pet to hop into the passenger seat isn't enough. With the right preparations and supplies, you can ensure your pet's safety and make the drive an enjoyable experience for both of you. In this blog post, we'll discuss how to familiarize your pets with riding in the car, the importance of treating them like passengers, selecting safe pet restraints, and what to bring on your journey. Let's dive in!

1. Familiarize Your Pets with Riding in the Car For many animals, the movement of a car can be stressful and confusing. It's crucial to introduce your pet to this new environment before embarking on a long road trip. Here's how you can familiarize your pets with riding in the car:

  • Exercise them before drives: Take your dog for a 15-minute walk or engage in play sessions with their favorite toy to reduce stress responses and help them stay calm.

  • Bring familiar toys or blankets: Having their favorite toys and blankets with them will provide comfort and familiar scents of home, helping keep your pet calm during the drive.

  • Start with short drives: Don't immediately take your pet on a long drive. Start with short drives down the street and gradually increase the distance to build their comfort with driving.

  • Play light music: Playing light music or white noise can help reduce your pet's anxiety during the drive. Choose calming music at a low volume to create a soothing environment.

  • Praise your pet: Similar to training them for other tasks, praise your pet and provide positive feedback while driving. If you have a passenger, they can give treats or pets to reinforce positive behavior.

2. Treat Your Pets Like Passengers To ensure the safety of everyone in the car, it's important to treat your pet like a passenger. Follow these steps:

  • Engage child locks on doors and windows: Just like children, pets can accidentally engage electric windows or open car doors. Use child locks on rear doors and windows to prevent such accidents.

  • Avoid sticking heads out the window: Although it may seem like a fun and quintessential road trip image, allowing your pet to stick its head out the window can result in injury from debris or other hazards.

  • Don't let pets sit in your lap: Avoid letting your pet sit in your lap while driving. This can lead to distractions, potential injuries, and is often illegal in several states.

  • Avoid the front seat: It's safer for your pet to sit in the back seat or a designated pet area. Pet injuries and fatalities are more common in car accidents when pets ride in the front seat.

  • Don't keep pets in pickup beds: Never let your pets ride in pickup truck beds as they can't be secured, and the bed can heat up to dangerous levels in warmer temperatures.

  • Plan pit stops and breaks: Just like humans, pets require breaks during road trips. Stop every hour or two to allow them to walk, use the bathroom, and eat.

  • Don't feed them while the car is moving: Feeding your pet while driving can lead to choking or stomach aches. Wait until you're safely parked to offer them food or water.

  • Don't leave pets in an unattended vehicle: Leaving your pet in an unattended vehicle, even with the A/C on, is dangerous and can result in legal repercussions. Never leave your pet alone in a car.

3. Select Safe Pet Restraints Using a pet restraint or harness is crucial to keeping your pet safe and preventing distractions while driving. Look for restraints with high ratings from the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) to ensure their crash-safety. Here are some options to consider:

Harnesses: Choose a CPS-approved harness that wraps around your pet's midsection and connects to the car's seatbelt. These harnesses evenly distribute force in case of an accident and often have handles for easy removal from the vehicle.

  • Car-specific pet beds: For smaller pets, car-specific pet beds can provide a safe and comfortable driving experience. Look for beds that have a zip-up pod for the animal to rest in, which can be secured to the seatbelt for added safety.

  • Barriers: Consider installing a pet barrier in your car, especially if you have a larger pet. Barriers create a screen between the front and back seats, reducing distractions for the driver and preventing your pet from climbing into the front seat.

Choosing the right pet restraint will depend on your pet's size, behavior, and your vehicle. Ensure that the restraint is properly installed and adjusted to provide maximum safety.

4. What to Bring When traveling with your pet, it's essential to pack a kit of important supplies and information. Here's a list of items to include in your travel kit:

  • Microchip information: Make sure your pet's microchip information is up to date, as it can be crucial if your pet gets lost during the trip.

  • Vaccination records: Carry copies of your pet's vaccination records, especially if you plan to stay in hotels or cross state lines.

  • Health certificate: Some states, airlines, and hotels may require a health certificate for your pet. Check the specific requirements before your trip.

  • A crate for overnight stays: If you're planning to stay overnight during your road trip, bring a crate for your pet's comfort and safety.

  • List of veterinarians: Research and compile a list of veterinarians along your route in case of any emergencies or unexpected health issues.

  • Pet first aid kit: Pack a first aid kit specifically for your pet, including essential supplies like bandages, antiseptic ointment, and any medications they may need.

  • Temporary information tags: Attach temporary tags to your pet's collar with your contact information and the contact information of a friend or family member in case they get separated from you.

  • Water and snacks: Bring plenty of water and pet-friendly snacks for the journey. Keep your pet hydrated and provide them with nourishment during pit stops.

  • Mats, liners, or potty pads: Bring mats or liners to protect your car seats from accidents or spills. For cats, set up a litter box in the car for their bathroom needs.

  • Potty bags: Don't forget to bring potty bags for walks and clean-up during pit stops.

By being well-prepared with the right supplies, you can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for both you and your furry friend.


Q: Why can't I leave my pet in the car?

A: Leaving your pet in a vehicle unattended, even with the A/C on, is dangerous. Pets can experience panic, suffer from extreme temperatures, and face the risk of illness or death. Moreover, leaving pets in cars unattended is illegal in several states and can result in legal consequences.

Q: Is it illegal to have pets in the front seat?

A: In many states, it is illegal to have pets in the front seat of a vehicle. To ensure compliance, contact the local Department of Transportation in your home state or any travel destination to check the specific regulations.

Q: Do hotels have special pet requirements?

A: Yes, most hotels have specific pet requirements, and not all hotels allow pets. Before your trip, check with the hotels you plan to stay at to verify any fees, rules, or information you need to know in order to stay there with your pet. It's important to book accommodations that are pet-friendly and understand any restrictions or guidelines they may have.

Q: Do pets get motion sickness?

A: Yes, pets can experience motion sickness during car rides. To reduce the likelihood of motion sickness, limit their food and water intake before trips, ask your veterinarian about anxiety and nausea medications, provide fresh air through slightly lowered windows, keep the car cabin cool, and consider using pet-specific pheromones to reduce stress. When it comes to traveling with your pet, prioritizing their safety while driving is of utmost importance. By taking the necessary precautions and following the guidelines mentioned in this blog post, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable journey for both you and your furry companion. Familiarize your pets with car rides, treat them like passengers, select safe pet restraints, and pack essential supplies for the trip. Remember to follow the laws and regulations regarding pets in vehicles, and always prioritize their well-being. With these tips in mind, you can embark on your next adventure with the peace of mind that your beloved pet is safe and secure throughout the journey. Happy travels!


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