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how to keep dog or cat calm in the car

How to Keep Your Anxious Dog or Cat Calm While In The Car

Like many pet parents, I love having my fur family with me when I go places, whether it’s short car rides running errands, or on longer road trips. But for some pets, just getting in a car sends them into an anxious spiral.

dog riding in care pet care
Chilly, ready for his car ride

Thankfully, my dogs Chilly and Tulip don’t have any specific fears regarding traveling. But they do have other anxieties. Tulip suffers from separation anxiety and Chilly has been diagnosed with noise aversion.

Since they have anxious tendencies, I like to be prepared with the right tools and products to ward off any anxiety surrounding car rides.

Plus, it seems like every dog and cat instinctively knows when they’re going to the vet, which always causes anxiety!

Why It’s Important to Take Your Dog or Cat’s Travel Anxiety Seriously

Have you ever been fearful, anxious, or stressed out? Many of us can relate to the heart-pounding, mind-racing effects of anxiety. Well, just as humans can suffer from anxiety, so can our pets. In fact, some pets experience the equivalent of a panic attack.

Now imagine feeling that way on every car ride. Then, add in all the stimulation from the constant movement, unpredictable road noise, and flashes of light. These stressful conditions can result in odd behavioral changes due to extreme anxiety in our fur friends.

Sadly, some pet parents don’t recognize the behavior as being rooted in anxiety, so they scold or discipline their pet. And at its worst, some may surrender their dog or cat to a shelter because they can’t manage the behavior and don’t know it’s rooted in fear.

That’s why it’s so important to know how to recognize the signs of anxiety in our fur friends. And it’s also important to understand that the signs are different in cats and dogs.

Anxiety Signs in Dogs

Symptoms of anxiety in dogs are varied and may include behaviors you haven’t thought of. Some symptoms may include:

    • Barking or howling
    • Chewing/destroying things
    • Excessive licking
    • Trying to escape
    • Pacing
    • Urinating
    • Trembling
    • Yawning
    • Digging

Signs of travel anxiety may manifest differently. Some dogs feel anxious about getting in the car because they get car sick.

If you’ve ever had motion sickness, then you know how miserable it truly is. We wouldn’t want to endure that awful feeling, so of course, our dogs shouldn’t have to either. Vomiting on car rides can be painful and anxiety-inducing for your dog (and for you).

Here are other signs that your dog may be car sick:

    • Drooling
    • Dry heaving
    • Excessive lip licking
    • Excessive panting
    • Inactivity
    • Pacing
    • Restlessness
    • Shaking
    • Vomiting
    • Whining
    • Yawning
    • Bracing stance

You’ll notice many of the signs of motion sickness and anxiety overlap. So it’s important to visit your veterinarian to determine the true cause of your dog’s abnormal behavior while in the car.

A few years ago, I noticed some of these signs in my dog, Chilly. After consulting with our veterinarian, he prescribed a medication that doesn’t make your pup drowsy or loopy. To learn more, check out my blog post here.

Cat Anxiety Signs

Unfortunately, cat anxiety is much less likely to be diagnosed or recognized than anxiety in dogs. Our furry feline friends tend to be more mysterious in everything they do. So it’s especially important to be on the lookout for the subtle signs of cat anxiety

Symptoms frequently include:

Have you noticed any of these signs of anxiety in your kitty? With a keen eye and a little planning, you can be alert to the signs of anxiety in your cat and take the best steps to keep her calm and cozy while she’s in the car.

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how to keep your anxious dog cat calm in the car pin

How ThunderShirt Can Help Your Anxious Dog or Cat on Car Rides

Tulip in her ThunderShirt
My dog Tulip in her ThunderShirt

ThunderShirt is a must-have in the Levine household! It’s veterinarian recommended and proven to be over 80% effective in calming pets during anxiety-inducing events, such as travel and car rides to the vet. ThunderShirt has helped millions of dogs and cats (pet parents) regain peace and calm. I personally use it to keep my dogs, Chilly and Tulip, calm on short car rides, especially when we go to the vet.

Just like swaddling an infant, ThunderShirt is designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to your dog or cat’s torso.

Chilly's ThundrShirt helps him manage his storm and noise anxiety
Chilly in his ThunderShirt

Researchers suggest that this type of pressure can release calming hormones like oxytocin or endorphins in both humans and animals. Think about how you feel when you get a warm hug from a loved one! This gentle pressure is helpful for calming all types of anxiety and fear.

Note: ThunderShirt works great for cases of mild to moderate anxiety. But if your pet is showing signs of severe anxiety please consult your veterinarian as they may require prescription medication.

Other Helpful Therapies to Ease Your Dog or Cat’s Travel Anxiety

Photo of a bottle of ThunderWunders Dog Calming Chews

ThunderWunders is another effective natural solution that can ease your cat or dog’s anxiety. These calming chews are vet and trainer recommended, with options for both cats and dogs.

They contain ingredients that promote rest and relaxation. And they’re packed with calming agents like Thiamine, L-Tryptophan, and Melatonin to help your pet remain calm in stressful situations.

Photo of a jar of ThunderWunders Cat Calming Chews

Plus, their cat chews have even been feline taste-test approved. So even if your cat is a picky eater, she’s likely to enjoy the flavor. ThunderWunders chews are a great solution for car rides, trips to the vet, or meeting new pets and new people.

Photo of a ThunderEase Calming Anti Anxiety Pheromone Collar for Dogs

I’m also a big fan of ThunderEase Calming Collar for Dogs. This unique collar is drug-free, easy to use, and over 90% effective. It works by releasing natural pheromones that mimic the pheromones a nursing mother releases for her pups, leaving them feeling calm and protected.

The calming collar is activated by your dog’s own body heat and helps him feel safe and serene just like when he was a nursing puppy.

I’ve used the calming collar on my dogs, and it works wonders at helping them adjust to challenging situations and curbing unwanted stress-related behaviors.

Photo of a bottle of ThunderEase Cat Calming Pheromone Spray

ThunderEase Cat Calming Pheromone Spray is great for when you’re on the go! You can spray the calming pheromones directly onto objects such as your car, your kitty’s carrier, or her favorite blanket. The spray will mimic her mother’s natural nursing pheromones, putting her at ease and reducing unwanted behaviors. Car rides and visits to the vet will be much calmer.

Photo of a ThunderEase Dog Calming Pheromone Diffuser Kit

Even with the best preparation, your pup or kitty may still be a little anxious once you arrive at your final destination. If so, thenThunderEase Diffuser for dogs or cats will help.

Each kit is vet recommended and clinically tested to be effective for 90% of dogs and cats, respectively.

Simply plug into an outlet in the room where your dog or cat spends most of their time. The diffuser releases a drug-free, odorless vapor that can cover up to 700 square feet and last up to 30 days. As your dog or cat is reminded of their mother’s love, their stress will fade away. And so will some of the troubling behavior issues that are common in anxious dogs and cats. I use the diffuser in my house to help my cat, Olivia, when she’s feeling stressed or skittish. 

Can Your Pet’s Travel Anxiety Be Cured?

The short answer is maybe. Most of the time, with the right therapies, a dog or cat’s anxiety can be greatly improved so that it’s almost imperceptible. But it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s anxious behavior because there may be medical reasons that need to be addressed. And some cases of strong anxiety warrant prescription medication.

But with expert help, a variety of calming solutions, and unconditional love from their pet parents, our fur families can have less stress and live happy, healthy lives.

This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions and anecdotes are my own, and I never promote any products or brands I don’t believe in. ~Petfully yours, Kristen

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Absolutely fantastic ideas for relieving anxiety in my rescues. Triscuit, especially, has storm anxiety & tries to hide in places WAY smaller than her. I feel so bad for her & have tried different techniques. I think it’s finally time to give your products a try. Both Triscuit and Cocoa deserve to feel safer than what I alone have tried. (And the whole family can use some rest). Love to win a Thundershirt in the giveaway.

    1. Michelle,
      Anxiety is so common in dogs, and it can be so heartbreaking to see them suffer! Helping anxious pups and their pet parents is something that’s near and dear to my heart, so I’ve written many posts on this site about helpful tips and techniques (here’s a list of all of them). I hope you find something that works for Triscuit and Cocoa – it sounds like they were very fortunate to be rescued by a loving and supportive family!

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