Tips for driving with pets in the car

Monday 7th September 2020

driving with pets

Got a staycation booked that accepts pets? Or perhaps you’re travelling to see friends or relatives, and want to bring along your canine companion? Whether you’re travelling with dogs or travelling with your cat on a road trip, learn the best ways to keep your pet both safe and happy during car journeys from our guide.

Driving with animals: challenges

Whether you’re on a road trip down to the seaside or you’re simply taking your pet to the vet, it’s likely you’ll experience some challenges on your car journey when driving with a pet in the car:

  • Car sickness – car sickness is very common in animals, especially if they are disorientated and not used to the motion of a vehicle.
  • Restlessness – animals can become restless quickly in a new surrounding, and could actually become quite distracting for the driver – especially if they are jumping and moving around.
  • Discomfort – depending on the way the animal is secured in the vehicle, this could lead to them being uncomfortable.
  • Temperature – pets may become hot quite quickly as they may be distressed in their new environment.
  • Toilet – if they are especially nervous, or haven’t been provided enough comfort breaks, they may urinate (or worse) in the vehicle.
  • Noise – meowing or barking if they are unsure or nervous of their surroundings can be common in car journeys which, again, can be distracting for a driver.

How to keep your pet safe during car journeys


Before you get into the vehicle, here is a list of preparation tips to make your pet as happy as possible during the journey:

  • Play or walk – burn some of your pet’s energy by either playing with them or taking them for a long walk. That way, they’re more likely to rest and relax in the car if they’re tired.
  • Feed 2 hours before – pets travel better on an emptier stomach, so feeding them two hours before may mean you save them from car sickness.
  • Pet carrier – if you’re securing your pet in a carrier, use encouraging positive tones to coax the pet into the carrier, and relaxed body language – and they’ll feel more comfortable being secured.

Secure your pets

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that “drivers are responsible for making sure dogs (or other animals) are suitably restrained in a vehicle so they can't distract or injure you - or themselves - during an emergency stop”.

Ways you could secure your pets while driving with dogs or cats can include using a seat belt harness, a pet carrier, a dog cage or dog guard. If the dogs are puppies (or smaller dogs), they may be able to travel in the cabin area of the car – but they must be harnessed around the chest, and then attached to a seatbelt.

Not only does securing your pets protect them from heavy braking and crashes, but it prevents distraction to the driver. It also stops dogs being able to hang their heads out of the window, as this can lead to debris or dirt from the road injuring their eyes, nose or mouth.

During the journey

  • Keep pets hydrated – pack a large bottle of water and a spill-proof bowl, and ensure you take regular comfort breaks.
  • Keep temperature regulated – keeping your pets as cool as possible during car journeys -especially long ones - is important. This could involve fitting sunshades, driving with the windows down or the air conditioning blowing cool.
  • Keeping pets in parked cars – it can very dangerous to leave animals unattended in parked cars, especially on a warm day. If passers-by spot your animal in distress in a parked car, they can call the RSCPA to report a concern for their welfare.
  • Regular breaks – as well as having breaks to keep your pets hydrated, it’s important to factor in regular toilet trips. If you break down on the motorway, keep your pets inside the car but, if you need to take them out, keep dogs on a lead and cats in a carrier outside the vehicle.  

Now you’ve learnt some of the best tips for driving with pets in the car, ensure your vehicle is prepared and properly maintained for a road trip or long journey. Check your tyre pressure, ensure your car has been serviced in the last 12 months and it has a valid MOT certificate. Find out how to prepare for a long car journey from our detailed guide. 

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