Back to Client Info Index

Fear of Automobile Travel

Fear of car travel is related to several factors. A pet may be anxious because of confinement in a restricted space, the motion of the car or the anticipation of its destination. A pet that goes for car rides only when it is going to the veterinarian's office can easily make a negative connection with the car. Many young animals are instinctively afraid of unfamiliar situations. If they are gradually exposed to driving in the car for frequent short trips, however, most adjust well. Your pet can become well adapted to car travel, using these steps:

Begin by spending time with the pet in your parked car, with the ignition off. Feed your pet a few meals in the car, or simply interact with your pet in some other positive way, such as petting or brushing the animal in the car. It can be helpful to withhold these forms of interaction from your pet until you are in the car. If your pet is so afraid initially that it will not eat in the car, feed it at the most comfortable distance from the car and make each feeding progressively closer. When your pet is relaxed and comfortable in the parked car, turn on the motor without actually driving anywhere. Open the window slightly to keep fresh air circulating. Gradually extend brief trips, to the end of the driveway, around the block and then farther.
If necessary, your veterinarian can prescribe a sedative or tranquilizer to calm your pet for car travel. However, medication should not replace the slow, methodical steps to reduce the phobic response