A Complete Guide to Making a Car Safe for Pets

Published by on . Updated on 18 May 2020

dog hanging head out of the car(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Pets and cars aren't always an ideal combination, especially if you're going on long rides. But sometimes there's no one available to pet-sit, or you have to take your pet somewhere, or maybe you just can't bear to be parted from your baby.

In that case, you want to make sure your vehicle is a safe place for your pets! Having to handle a pet while you're driving is more dangerous than you might imagine—It's definitely more than just dumping them in the backseat and hoping they behave. Here are some measures you need to take to keep you and your furry passenger safe!

1. Clear up the Car

dirty old car(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The first thing to do is definitely clear up any small items you have in the car. If you've been a pet owner for a while, you probably have a similar policy at home—no choking hazards or toxic materials lying around where your pet can reach them. You should definitely do the same for your car before bringing your pet in, especially since you'll be driving and might not see if they swallow something off the ground.

2. Lock up Your Doors and Windows

Car door handle (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Have you seen those adorable pictures where a dog hangs its head hanging out the car window and just enjoys the cool wind rushing past? Sadly, this isn't something that can happen in reality. Hate to be a spoilsport, but it's actually extremely dangerous for your dog, or any pet, to stick their head out the window of a moving car. They could easily get distracted by something outside and jump out of the car, or get sideswiped by a passing vehicle.

Make sure to get childlocks for your windows and doors so that your pet won't accidentally open them. It's easy for an animal to press down on a lever or button without knowing what it does, and you don't want to have any unfortunate accidents.

3. Use a Pet Harness/Crate

dog in car(Photo Credit: Flickr)

As tempting as it may be, it's a very bad idea to let your pet just wander loose around the car. There's a lot of sensitive equipment in the car that your pet might step on, and having to keep them still will definitely be a bothersome task. Even the best-behaved pet is unlikely to sit still in a small, moving environment like a car, and their movements might distract you or block your view of the road at the wrong moment. It's important to get some kind of restraint that will keep your pet still and safe, while still allowing them to be comfortable.

One option is to get a pet harness—they're available for both cats and dogs. These are designed to restrain your pet, but still keep them comfortable and able to move about a little. A good pet harness will allow you to connect it to the car's actual seat belt, keeping the pet safe in case of accident.

Another way is to put your pet in a pet crate or pet baskets. These crates have been designed to keep them comfortable for transport, and a proper crash-tested crate will definitely keep them safe if anything happens. This may be a better option for cats, which are likely to be more reluctant than dogs to enter the car and might make a fuss getting into the harness. The important thing is to make sure that your pet stays relatively still during the drive, and has crash protection in case of trouble.

4. Do Some Car Training

dog sniffing car(Photo Credit: Coast Guard Compass)

No matter what measures you take, being in a car will be an alarming and unfamiliar experience for your pet, and they might act up the first time they're shut into the vehicle. It'll help if you bring them down to the car a few times to let them familiarise before the actual drive. If they get used to the car environment, they're much less likely to cause trouble while you're driving, and they'll be much happier in the car as well!

5. Bring Food and Water

Cat food bowl (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

This is important especially if you're going for a long drive—your pet is used to getting water and food whenever they need it, so you should keep them well-supplied on your trip. Bring water and maybe some snacks for your pet, and don't forget their bowl as well! Animals aren't like humans, they won't drink out of a bottle as easily as you. If the need arises, you can stop the car and allow them to drink before going on the road again.

6. Pay Attention to Your Pet

Stroke cat(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Make sure your pet is constantly attended to. Never leave your pet alone in the car, not even for a short period of time. Animals are more prone to overheating than humans, as they have thick coats of fur, and many pets actually do die or get severely ill from the heat when they're left alone in vehicles.

Plus, your pet is likely to get very anxious if they're suddenly abandoned in an unfamiliar environment—they need you for reassurance. So be sure to take them with you if you're leaving the car! It's also a good idea to talk to them while you're driving, and give them what attention you can. Being able to hear your voice is comforting for your pet, especially in a new environment.

7. Take Breaks (If You're on a Long Drive)

corgi dog by a lake(Photo Credit: Pexels)

This last step is more relevant to those taking your pets on long rides (over two hours). If you've been driving for a long time, it's good to take rest stops for your pet to get out of the car and stretch their legs. No animal enjoys being cooped up for a long period of time, and it's natural for them to get a bit restless. Some fresh air and space will help them to feel better and get them (and you) through the ride! The interval between breaks is dependent on your pet, but a good guideline would be about two hours.

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