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The Ultimate Road Trip- Taking the Dog and Cat

By: Marzena Czarnecka

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Routine is King

As you're traveling, keep in mind that your pet thrives on routine. Carry over as many facets from the stay-at-home routine to the on-the-road routine as you can, and fashion as consistent a new routine as possible. For your cat or dog, boring is good. And, following a routine isn't just good for your pet - it's good for you too. It'll also keep you from forgetting your pet at a gas station.

We changed very little in our first-thing-in-the-morning procedures, regardless of where we stayed. First, Anya went out to do her business. Next, everyone was fed. Then, some cuddling for the quadrupeds while the bipeds took turns showering, dressing, and having that second cup of coffee.

We also quickly established an unloading routine when we were ready to settle for the day. Pets stay in the car until the tent is set up or the motel room/guest room is pet-proofed. Then, a Kicia corner, complete with litter box, and an Anya corner, complete with her blanket and favorite toy, is established. Only then are the pets put in the room, and given a few minutes to explore and acclimatize before we begin unpacking our things.

We were a little slower setting up a loading routine. As a result, poor Kicia almost got left behind twice - once at a gas station picnic table and once under a tree at Grandma's house.

Keeping the Car Clean

Pets smell. Admit it - even yours. Not badly, necessarily, but they do have that pet smell. There are certain precautions you should take before loading up. In preparation for our trip, we covered the van's entire bottom with old (but clean) carpet scraps. We covered the bench (where the animals would use) with a blanket. We put in three time-release air fresheners.
The van still smelled. The first day on the road, I spilled a can of salmon-flavored wet cat food on the carpet. Anya and Kicia devoured everything but the smell. We laundered the carpet that night, thankful it was removable, but the smell lingered another week.

Every time we had a stop prolonged enough that the van was totally unpacked, we'd vacuum, Lysol and Windex the interior. We frequently aired it out, and we were very conscientious about throwing any and all garbage out ASAP.

The van still smelled when we got into it in the mornings, a stuffy, stale, fur-and wetness kind of smell. But, by the end of the summer, we didn't really notice.

Lessons Learned: There Is No Good Spot for the Litter box

For the most part, our travels went very smoothly and we quickly found solutions to challenges, such as where to keep the food, how to arrange things within the tent, or what to do when Anya started telling us she had to go pee and we were on a highway with no shoulders and no turn-offs. But, there are some problems to which there are no solutions. For example, there is no good place for the cat's litter box. If we put it in a place that was easily accessible, Anya would root in it and Kicia would not use it. If we put it in a place that was harder to get at, Kicia would get trapped in it. If we put it too far back in the van, something would invariably fall on it.

We finally settled on keeping it behind one of the seats, where Anya could not get her snout into it and where nothing could fall on it. However, Kicia still had a hard time getting at it. Whenever we stopped, I'd pick her up and put her in the litter box (she could get out herself). By the last two weeks, she'd jump into my lap and ask to go, even when we were moving.

We loved traveling with our pets. Sure, it would have been easier had we been alone. We would have spent less time on the road and more time sight-seeing, visiting and eating in restaurants. But then we would have been away from our furry family for most of the summer. And, by spending so much time in such close quarters with each other, our cat and dog actually bonded. Upon our return, Kicia, who has been a cranky cat most of her 16 years, is actually almost friendly now.

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