Traveling With Your Pet

Traveling with your pet is as American as owning one.

According to the 2011-12 National Pet Owners Survey, 72.9 million own a pet, mostly cats and dogs. Compared to a parrot or piranha, it's relatively easy to take a cat or dog for a car ride, but there are a few steps you can take to make the trip safer for your pet and easier on you.

Securing Your Pet
A divider is one way to keep your pet secure during a car ride.

A divider is one way to keep your pet secure during a car ride.

Just as it's necessary to make sure passengers are buckled up when riding in a car, it's important to make sure your pets are secure when you take them on a trip.

"The No. 1 thing that you have to do when you transport your pet is have them restrained," said Lisa Peterson, spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. There are different ways to do this, including a pet crate, a dog harness connected to a seat belt, or a divider to keep your pet in the cargo area of a wagon or SUV.

"You don't want to let an animal roam loose in the car," said Kelly Connolly, an issues specialist with The Humane Society.

Even if your dog is secured by a harness, make sure his head remains inside the car, Connolly said; if it's hanging out the window, his eyes and head are at risk of being injured by debris. It's also inadvisable to leave your dog wandering loose in the bed of a pickup truck, Peterson warns.

However you secure your pets, always take them with you when you park. Do not leave them in the car.

"Even if the windows are rolled down, a car can get up to 120 degrees in the summertime," Peterson said.

Keeping it Clean

Besides protecting a pet when traveling in a car, a pet crate can also help keep messes from spreading around the interior of your car, Peterson said. If you use a harness instead of a crate to transport your pet, covering the seats with something that can be easily removed and washed, like an old blanket, is a good idea, Connolly said.

Luxury options can also appeal to pet owners concerned with keeping their interiors clean.

"Leather seats are obviously much better" than cloth ones, Peterson said. Leather's smooth surfaces make it easier to remove fur and hair, as well as less, shall we say, appealing substances.

Yes, pets get carsick, too. One way to deal with the problem: Take increasingly longer trips with your pet to make them more comfortable, Peterson said.

Where your pet sits in the car can also play a role.

"The closer your dog is to the front of the vehicle, the less motion there is, [making it] less likely to get carsick," she said. Your pet's veterinarian may also be able to provide medication to make traveling easier, Connolly said.

Carry Proper ID for Your Pet

When traveling with a pet between states, Connolly recommends carrying the pet's health and rabies certificates, available from your veterinarian. You should also carry contact information for someone who can pick up your pet in case you're in an accident and can't care for it, Peterson said. The Humane Society recommends bringing photos of your pets when you travel so you can show them to others if they get lost.

The Best Vehicles for Carrying Pets

While most cars can carry pets, some are better at it than others. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the vehicle, the better.

"Minivans are really popular because you can put crates in the way back," Peterson said. SUVs and wagons are also popular choices.

Additional information on traveling with your pet is available from the American Kennel Club and The Humane Society of the United States.

© Cars.com 06/1/2012