Is there anything you can do to keep your pet entertained on a long car trip?

A good dog can make a road trip complete. Check out these pet pictures.
©iStockphoto/James Blinn

­If you're one of those big-hearted souls who loves your pets so much you can't imagine leaving them at home while you're on vacation, you may have encountered the dilemma of keeping your dog or cat entertained during a long trip. Pets can be very much like children, with short attention spans that cause them to get bored quickly. If you have a pet and a couch at home, you've probably seen what kind of damage this boredom can bring about.

Your car's upholstery is even more expensive to repair than a chewed or scratched couch. When you bring your p­et along on a road trip, though, your car seats are in imminent danger of being destroyed if your pet gets bored and decides to entertain itself. There are some ways you can keep your pet entertained on long road trips, however, which can make the trip more enjoyable for you both.

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­First and foremost, you must make acclimate your pet to life on the road. It's a bad idea to pack your dog or cat in­to your car for its first ride ever and head out on a cross-country trip. Spend some time taking short car trips with your pet. Get it used to riding in the car, especially in a crate or carrier, which (along with a pet seat) is the safest way for a pet to ride. Be sure your cat or dog is leash trained, which will come in handy during rest stops. Now that your pet's ready, let's blow this pop stand!

An Entertained Pet Equals an Enjoyable Trip

Cats are pretty lazy animals.
Cats are pretty lazy animals.
Michael Westoff/iStockphoto

Cats can be fairly easygoing creatures. Cats spend about 80 percent of their lives (around 16 hours per day) sleeping [source: Animal Planet]. So a relaxed cat that's used to traveling by car in a crate may make little fuss during a road trip. This is especially true when the cat's crate is a comfy one, with plenty of room to move around, fluffy bedding and lots of toys. Don't forget about your cat during rest stops, however. Experts suggest that you stop every two hours to let your pet relieve itself, stretch its legs (on a leash, of course) and have a little play time [source: BusinessWire]. This is also a great time to feed and water your pet.

­You should consider purchasing a scratching post for your cat to play with in the car as well. Be sure to introduce your cat to its post and any other toys you plan on bringing on the road trip before you leave ho­me. This will get the cat accustomed to the toys, and they'll provide a familiar reminder of home on the road.

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The same goes for keeping dogs entertained. Bring only familiar toys along for the ride, and be sure to make your dog's crate comfortable. You can also keep your dog's interest in its toys piqued by purchasing the variety you can insert treats into. Your dog's attention will be focused on getting to the treats rather than thoughts of "Are we there yet?"

It's here that the habits of dogs and cats diverge. Dogs generally have more energy to burn than their feline counterparts, and will likely demand more attention from you on a long road trip. Toys and sleep should burn some of that energy, but you'll want to stop frequently to play with your dog and expend even more. There are plenty of places to play with a dog along the open road. Municipal reservoirs offer great swimming for water dogs like spaniels and Labradors; just make sure you follow local laws. Some areas are restricted to dogs. Parks can provide large, open expanses for dogs to frolic. Many parks feature areas where dogs can be let off their leashes as well. Several amusement parks in the United States have on-site kennels where you can leave your pet and visit throughout the day.

While it's important to keep your pet entertained, this shouldn't interfere with your driving. Keeping your dog or cat in its crate or pet seat during the trip will not only keep it safe, it will keep everyone in the car safe by preventing your pet from finding a nice place to lay down between your brake pedal and the car floor. Your pet should also ride in the back seat or cargo area of the car, so you shouldn't have any need to split your attention between petting your dog or cat and steering. Remember, playtime between you and your pet on a road trip is only for when the car's parked.

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Sources

  • Robbins, Sandy. "Pet-friendly theme parks." MSNBC. April 30, 2008.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24355317/
  • "Indoor exercises for pets." WALB. Accessed January 6, 2009. http://myweathercontent.myweather.net/webhd/pkg/v2/template2.html?host=walb&section=2&page=9&story=106
  • "Pet butler offers useful tips for holiday travel with your pet." Business Wire. November 2, 2006. http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20061102005105&news>
  • "Road trip safety for dogs." Consumer Reports. Accessed January 6, 2009.http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=435580
  • "Sleep." Animal Planet. Accessed January 6, 2009. http://animal.discovery.com/guides/cats/training-new/behavior/sleep.html