Spring has sprung and the Easter Bunny has been and gone! With many of us enjoying a pet vacation at this time of year, this often involves a car ride with our fur-balls. Like our three curious canines, do your dogs jump for joy at the whiff of a road trip? Although, to be honest, we’re not sure if it’s the thought of an adventure, or just the fact that they’re favourite pastime is being glued to our sides! No matter the reason, our dogs Django, Arya and Summer love going out with us in the car, so pet car safety is close to our hearts. On the other hand, our cats ain’t so keen, but there’s no avoiding it when we’re off on a pet holiday.
With Easter vacations in full swing, and Summer holiday season on the horizon, lots of us dog owners will be relishing a drive to the beach, or park, to let our furry pals run free. For others, a fortnight long pet holiday awaits, often meaning a lengthy car ride with a canine or feline. While fun is the name of the game, we need to keep our pets safe in the car. So, while we use various safety precautions to keep our cats and dogs safe in the car, we wanted to thoroughly research any gold standards for cat and dog car safety. As a result, here are our top 12 car safety tips for cats and dogs, including crash tested car seats, harnesses and belts to consider for your next vacation with your prince or princess.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Table of contents
- Pet Safety Organisations
- 1. Dog Seatbelt, Car Seat or Cat Carrier
- 2. Back Seat Pet Canopy
- 3. Highway Code for Pets in Cars
- 4. Travel Sickness
- 5. Pets in Hot Cars
- 6. No Dogs Hanging out Windows
- 7. Drive Carefully
- 8. Pets on Board Sticker
- 9. Water for Long Car Trips
- 10. Pit Stops
- 11. Mesh Car Window Screens
- 12. Calm Anxious Pets
Pet Safety Organisations
No matter in which corner of the world you reside, there’s gonna be a pet charity of some kind. While the International Air Transport Association (IATA) sets rules for airlines & passengers to ensure pet safety on planes, there’s no international standard for travelling with pets in cars.
However, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) began crash testing pet car products in 2011. At the same time, the CPS launched a certification program for pet car harnesses, belts, crates, and carriers. The certification and crash testing programs, carried out by MGA Research Corporation, are voluntary for manufacturers of pet car safety products. A rating is assigned accordingly, with either four or five stars awarded for recommended products. All other ratings are not recommended for pet car safety.
Any items that pass the rigorous certification program, receiving a four or five star rating, are given a CPS seal of approval.
CPS Pet Car Product Crash Testing
To ensure stringent pet product testing, CPS applies the same federal guidelines used to test child car safety seats. For insta, in order to decide if a pet car harness is ready for the dog crash test, CPS performs preliminary analysis by placing the harness on a solid dog shaped form then pulling it until it breaks. If a harness withstands a five second hold period at a specific load, it will progress to the crash testing phase.
For items proceeding to CPS crash testing, a weighted, foam dog replica is attached to the car safety product, no dogs are hurt. You can watch a video to see the end result of the crash impact for every pet car safety product tested by CPS. Some are pretty grim viewing.
So, it’s vital to select the safest products for cats and dogs in the car.
1. Dog Seatbelt, Car Seat or Cat Carrier
If it’s not safe for adults and children to be in the car without a seatbelt or child seat, then pets too also need to be safely restrained.
Options for car safety for dogs are wide and varied, but many products manufacturers make claims that haven’t been scientifically proven.
It’s therefore important as pet owners, that we check the efficacy and testing history of products we purchase to keep our cuties protected while travelling in a vehicle.
While many pet car trave accessory manufacturers make safety claims, it’s really important to seek evidence of crash testing.
You can view the full list of CPS approved pet car safety harnesses, carriers, seats and crates.
We recommend checking out:
- CPS 5 Star Rated Sleepypod Clickit Terrain
Available in different sizes, and crash tested for dogs weighing between 18lbs to 110lbs
- CPS Approved Sleepypod Pet Carriers
The entire Sleepypod line of pet travel carriers has been successfully crash tested by CPS. And as an added bonus, many of these carriers are functional as IATA compliant carriers for pets flying in the cabin! If that’s not enough, some also double up as a pet bed, therefore there’ll be more space to pack your shoes!
2. Back Seat Pet Canopy
We love these! Not only do they add an extra safety feature, but they also protect car seats from dog hairs, mud, and sand! Pet Seat Canopies hook to the two front seat headrests , as well as two at the back. Ours has gaps so that the pet seatbelts feed through nicely. You can add a fleece blanket too, for extra comfort and to stop your pooch sliding around in the back.
These also stop your dog sticking their head and paws through the gap between the two front seats in the vehicle. Not only does that prevent the designated driver being distracted, but it’s also a pet safety aspect in preventing dogs being propelled forward due to sharp sudden braking.
There’s lots of different colours and materials available, check out this popular pet back seat cover on Amazon.
3. Highway Code for Pets in Cars
If you’re gonna be driving in a foreign country, check out the Highway Code Pet Section to make sure you stick to the law. Each pet friendly destination defines suitable restraints to protect cats and dogs in cars. Not only that, but in the event of an accident or sudden braking, safety restraints on pets keep human passengers safe too.
For example, Section 57 of the UK Highway Code states that ‘When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.
In the Portugal, Decree Law 315/2003 states that “the transport of animals must be carried out in vehicles and containers appropriate to the species and number of animals to be transported, taking into account space, ventilation, temperature, safety and water supply, in order to safeguard their protection and the safety of people and other animals.’’
So, always check out the laws for driving with pets in your vacation destination when travelling internationally.
4. Travel Sickness
Have you ever experienced travel sickness? If you have, you’ll know it’s pretty unpleasant. And it’s the same for pets too. Check out our tips to avoid pet car sickness . And be sure to do a series of short trips to help your pet get used to the car.
If you’re a dog owner, you can rejoice in the news that most puppies grow out of travel sickness once they’re over 12 months old.
By the way, if your cat or dog is sick in your car, the pet canopy mentioned above is a godsend, and makes the yucky clean up slightly more bearable!
5. Pets in Hot Cars
This no doubt isn’t new to you, but unfortunately, pet owners across the globe continue to leave their dogs in the car ‘for 5 minutes’. The truth is, in many cases, the dog is left for longer than is bearable.
Also, if your cat or dog is sailing in your vehicle on a pet friendly ferry, be sure to have plenty of air circulation in the car.
6. No Dogs Hanging out Windows
Yep, they love it, there’s something about feeling the wind in your hair for humans and pets alike. But, we need to be the fun police on this one, as it’s just too dangerous.
7. Drive Carefully
Even for pets wearing safety belts, sudden braking can send them crashing forward. Not only could they hurt themselves, but if this happens repeatedly, your pet will become an anxious passenger.
Take corners and roundabouts extra carefully too, so that your dog or cat carrier isn’t sliding around on the back seat.
8. Pets on Board Sticker
While this might seem a bit OTT, it’s a proven method of letting other drivers know they should keep a safe distance from your vehicle.
9. Water for Long Car Trips
If your pets are going to be in the car for a while due to a cross country adventure, make sure they keep hydrated. This will help keep them cool too, and will reduce panting.
In addition, hydration is an important factor in avoiding pet travel sickness. Not too much though, just enough to stop their mouths from being too dry. Too much water, and you’ll be on the pit stops at a rapid rate!
10. Pit Stops
A bathroom break for dogs to stretch their legs is a definite must for long car journeys. Be sure to give them the chance to relieve themselves before getting in the car, then plan a pet pit stop around every 3 hours.
11. Mesh Car Window Screens
These are another purchase you won’t regret! When driving in warm countries, the heat of the sun can be directly aimed at your pets in the back seat. To reduce direct sun rays, these car windows grids are highly effective.
When used on the two side rear windows whilst driving, the mesh window grids really make a difference in keeping your pet out of direct sunlight.
Keep a dashboard sun reflector in the car too, and use it on your parked vehicle.
12. Calm Anxious Pets
If your furry friend is an anxious traveller, give Feliway Friends for Cats, or Adaptil Transport for Dogs a go. Just spray them in your pet’s carrier at least 15 minutes before your pet goes in. We’ve used both, and found them to be super effective.
Not only will it ease pet stress, but it’s for a much more pleasant, and safer, driving experience if your cat or dog isn’t continuously crying. A double victory!
Keep us updated on your pet travel adventures!