These days, cars come with lots of amazing accessories. Automatic seatbelts, GPS units, hooks for anchoring infant car seats and a host of other safety features provide a sense of security. Luxury accessories like seat-back televisions and multizone temperature controls make driving a little easier. Some cars even come outfitted with outlets for powering computers and other electronics.
It should come as no surprise, then, that humans aren't the only creatures to benefit from great car accessories. More pet owners are updating their cars to accommodate their favorite critters. Whether we're road tripping with Fido or simply shuttling kitty to the vet, today's broad range of pet travel accessories make your best friend's ride more comfortable while minimizing any potential distractions.
First up, let's talk about accessories designed keep the car clean. Read all about pet seat covers on the next page.
Pet Seat Covers
It's happened to all pet owners: One minute your car is immaculately clean, the next it's the covered in pet hair. You can't put the windows down on a nice spring day without choking in a swirling cloud of shed fur. If you're tired of arriving at your destination studded with pet hair, the answer is simple: Cover your seats.
Animal seat covers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Vinyl or cloth covers clip around the rear headrests and tuck underneath the seat's edge for a snug fit; they're super lightweight, and simple to unclip, shake clean or machine wash. You can often purchase custom-fitted seat covers from automobile manufacturers. These fit your seats like a glove and trap animal hair so that it doesn't fly around in the air too much. For hatchbacks, station wagons and SUVs, another great option is to place durable, washable rubber mats in the cargo compartments.
Now that you've prepared the car for your pooch, let's talk about helping Fido into the car. Pet ramps are up next.
When you think of pet ramps, you might imagine a pampered socialite coaxing her teacup poodle up a ramp while a white-gloved butler patiently holds open the rear door of a stretch limo. While pet ramps might seem like an indulgence, to the elderly pet owner or the creaky-kneed Great Dane, they're a lifesaver.
For pets that are too large to be lifted into the car, too elderly to jump on their own, or too tiny to spring into that tall SUV, pet ramps are essential accessories. Ramps also save pet owners the backbreaking work of having to lift reluctant animals into the car. There are several varieties, including folding ramps, telescoping ramps and fixed ramps. Look for one that's lightweight and convenient to store, but sturdy enough to bear the weight of your pet. A good pet ramp will have a nonskid surface and is easy to clean. Another great pet accessibility accessory is a seat extender, "backseat bridge" or pet hammock, which give large animals more room to stretch out. A hammock can also double as a seat cover.
Once your pet is in the car, it's important to keep him from rocketing around while you drive. Next, we look at pet seat belts and restraints.
What says happiness better than a pooch standing head and shoulders out of the car window, ears flapping and tongue lolling? Though your pet may love this freedom, it's not the safest way for him to travel. In the same way that people benefit from seatbelts, pets benefit from harnesses. Not only will a pet harness keep your companion from flying through the windshield in a wreck, it may also prevent the wreck itself by minimizing the considerable driving distractions a pet can cause.
Pet harnesses generally fit animals that are 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) or larger. Most consist of a padded chest plate that slips over the front legs and buckles to a standard seatbelt, strapping pets comfortably in place for the duration of a car trip. Other harnesses work for dog walks, too, making it a snap to go from car to trail.
If pet harnesses aren't your thing, another way to minimize pet-related driving distractions is to confine your companion to a designated area of the car. Find out about our next amazing pet accessory, the pet barrier, after the break.
Left to their own devices, pets will wander all over your car, creating all kinds of distraction. Anxious animals may paw at you or even try to jump into your lap. Mischievous pets may knock over coffee cups, or startle you with loud mewling or barking. While pet harnesses are a great way to tether your animal companions to one spot, some pets don't adapt to them well, and you might want to allow your pet a little more mobility, especially on long trips. In these instances, you can turn the cargo bay of your hatchback, station wagon or SUV into the perfect kennel-on-the-go with a pet barrier.
Pet barriers come in many varieties -- adjustable metal tubes, wire gates or soft fabric mesh. Many car manufacturers offer pet barriers custom-made for your station wagon or SUV. Adjustable aftermarket varieties are just as effective, and fabric "backseat" models are also available for drivers of sedans and sports cars. Using a pet barrier keeps pets from jumping into the front seat and minimizes mess by confining pet hair to a single area of your vehicle.
Think you're totally prepared for pet travel now that you have your seat covers, pet ramp, harness and barrier? There's one last amazing pet accessory you shouldn't leave home without. Discover what belongs in a pet travel emergency kit next.
Pet Emergency Travel Kits
Unexpected things happen when you're on the road. Paws sometimes get injured on pit stops in unfamiliar places. Hot sun pouring in through the rear windows dehydrates your furry friends. Some animals, especially cats, will get carsick.
One way to combat the unknown is to follow the Boy Scout motto and "be prepared" by packing an emergency travel kit for your pet. Some shops advertise rugged nylon totes with matching collapsible dog bowl, collar and lead, as well as basic first aid supplies. Survivalist shops even offer military-style pet travel kits with MRE-like emergency water and food rations for your animal.
Think of a pet emergency travel kit as a diaper bag. You'll want to pack the essentials: a water dish or collapsible bowl, water, pet waste bags, treats, and food. Basic first aid supplies -- antiseptic, gauze, tape and any medications your dog might be taking -- are also handy.
No matter whether you're traveling hours into the tundra or toting your pet along on errands, pet travel accessories provide a safer, cleaner travel experience for both you and your pet. Find related articles and lots more information after the jump.
We live in a sharing economy. And a pet-loving economy. So what happens when the two collide? Learn more about pets and carsharing at HowStuffWorks.
- Armstrong, Dawn. "Taking Your Pet On a Road Trip." Tahoe Daily Tribune. April 13, 2011. (May 22, 2011) http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/article/20110413/NEWS/110419968
- KMVT. "Pet Protection Part 2." May 19, 2011. (May 22, 2011) http://www.kmvt.com/news/local/Pet-Protection-Part-2-122239609.html
- PetAutoSafety.com. "Pet Auto Travel Safety Supplies for Your Dog's Travel Safety." (May 22, 2011) http://www.petautosafety.com/
- Roberts, Mark. "Health Care and Summer Pet Safety." Cypress Times. May 9, 2011. (May 22, 2011) http://www.thecypresstimes.com/article/MedicalHealth/Medical/HEALTH_CARE_AND_SUMMER_PET_SAFETY/44892
- West, Mia. "What Travelers Should Know When Sharing a Vacation with a Pet." Petco.com. May 17, 2011. (May 22, 2011) http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=222209