Tips for Keeping Your Pets Happy and Healthy on the Road

When you travel with a pet, a few simple precautions can make the journey more fun for everyone.

Two happy kids looking over the backseat of an SUV with a Siberian Husky puppy, image
Traveling by car with pets can be safe and fun, with a few simple tips.

Keep pets safe and prevent distractions with these tips.

Rein in cats and dogs.

A pet left loose in a moving vehicle isn't just a distraction: Regardless of whether the animal is calm or active, it can become a hazardous projectile in the event of a sudden stop. Keep your furry companion in a well-ventilated crate strapped securely in the backseat or in a specially designed harness attached to a backseat buckle.

Keep your lap free.

A car is not the place to cuddle. Driving with a cat or dog in your lap is dangerous enough to be outlawed in some states, and you should keep your animal out of the front seat altogether. Tempting as it is to interact by feeding, petting, or snapping photos of your animal, stay focused and leave both hands on the wheel. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash.


Schedule time out.

Pets need pit stops, too. Start by giving them exercise—or at least a little extra time to move around—before you leave, so there's less chance they'll get antsy on the road and distract you. Once you're moving, be sure to pull over every few hours. The break is good for both of you.

Watch the windows.

Dogs and cats can slip through surprisingly small spaces, so be mindful of how wide you crack your windows. Don't let your dog ride with its head sticking out a window. It can be dangerous for the animal and a potential distraction for you. If it's hot outside, run the air conditioner and make sure you both get plenty of water.

This article was first published in July 2016 and last updated in May 2021.