Whether you’re bringing your pet down the street to the veterinarian or on a cross-country road trip, they need to be restrained in the car just like you and me.
In the event of a car accident, unrestrained pets are much more likely to be injured or killed. They’re also more likely to distract you while driving by moving around or even trying to climb into the front seat.
Seat belts are made for us, and we have car seats for children—but how do you secure a pet carrier in the car?
Place your pet’s carrier in one of the back seats closest to the doors of your car (not the center seat) or the boot of an SUV. Secure it by wrapping a seat belt around the front and through any straps made for this purpose or by using safety straps secured to the boot.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to secure a pet carrier in the car using various methods, why you should keep your pets secure in the car, and where your pet should sit in the car for their safety.
Table of Contents:
How to Secure a Pet Carrier in the Car
How to secure a pet carrier in the car depends on where you are keeping your pet. Cats and small dogs do best in the back seat, while larger carriers should be strapped down in the boot of an SUV.
We strongly recommend never allowing your pet to ride in the front seat. Not only will they present more of a distraction for the driver, but they can be injured if the airbags in your car go off (see also ‘What Is The Safest Way To Transport A Dog In A Car? [Explained]‘).
How do you Attach a Pet Carrier to a Seatbelt?
Pet carriers in the back seat can be secured in various ways, but the most popular is to strap the carrier in with a seatbelt, like so:
- Place the carrier in one of the side seats (do not place it in the middle seat).
- Pull the seatbelt all the way out until it locks. This is so that it cannot loosen later and allow the carrier to slide out of place.
- Wrap the seatbelt around the front of the carrier. If your carrier has straps the seatbelt can weave through, utilize these to keep the seatbelt in place.
- Buckle the seatbelt in and pull it taught around the carrier.
- Gently wiggle the carrier to ensure it holds in place.
Another option is to use safety straps to hold the carrier in place. This is better for larger carriers in particular.
These straps have one end that buckles in like a seat belt. The other end looks like the end of a leash. Attach this end to the top of your pet carrier.
Moving the seat in front of the carrier back until it’s snug against the carrier can secure your pet further after you’ve strapped them in.
How to Secure a Pet Carrier in the Boot of a Car
If you have an SUV, you can keep your pet carrier in the boot instead of the back seat. This is sometimes necessary, especially for large dogs.
Never put pets in a standard, enclosed trunk, as there isn’t enough ventilation for them in that area.
To keep the pet carrier secure, use bungee rope or anchor straps. These can attach to both your carrier and to the cargo tie-down hooks on the floor.
Make sure they’re tight so that the carrier cannot move around as you drive.
Why Should you Secure a Pet Carrier in the Car?
84% of dog owners don’t secure their dogs in the car at all. They simply let them sit on the seats unrestrained or even in their laps.
Cat owners seem to restrain their pets more, likely because taking most cats in a car without a carrier would be a disaster (see also ‘How Do You Trick A Cat Into A Cat Carrier? – A Guide‘). (Mine once escaped a carrier and, scared out of his mind, tried to claw us up during a move!)
The problem with letting your pet move freely in the car is that it’s very dangerous. If you get into an accident, your pet is less likely to come out alive and uninjured.
They might be thrown from the vehicle, be injured by airbags, or even collide with you—causing both of you pain.
After the accident, they might try to fight first responders who are trying to help you or even run away from the scene.
Everyday driving can also be unsafe for unrestrained pets. They’ll have to scramble to keep their footing during turns or if you have to slam on your breaks. If they fail to do so, they can fall or even be tossed around inside the car.
Pets in carriers fare better, but even unbuckled carriers can slide around or be thrown from the vehicle in a crash.
How do you Keep a Dog Crate From Moving in the Car?
Keep a dog crate from moving inside of your car by tying it down with either straps or a seatbelt, depending on the size of your carrier and where in the car it is placed. Never place your pet in the front seat, in an enclosed trunk, or in a truck bed.
Before driving, be sure to tug on the restraints to ensure everything is tight and your carrier won’t move once you’re on the road.
Where Should a Dog Sit in the Car?
A dog should sit either in the back seat of a car or the boot of an SUV. Never allow your dog into the front seat, as they could be injured by the airbags. Never place your dog in an enclosed trunk, as they won’t have enough ventilation.
Large dogs are better off in the boot if you have an SUV and crate for them, but they can be restrained in the back seat with a doggy seatbelt if you prefer.
Smaller dogs typically do best in the back seat, though you can also place their crate in the boot if you’d like.
So long as your dog is restrained, which area you choose is up to you.
Do Cats have to be in a Carrier in the Car?
Cats do have to be in a carrier in the car unless they will tolerate being in a harness and strapped into the seat. Place your cat’s carrier in the back seat or trunk and strap it down using the seatbelt or anchor straps to keep it secure.
Allowing your cat to roam freely in your vehicle could cause an accident due to distracted driving. Your cat is also more likely to be injured or killed in an accident if they aren’t strapped in.
Tips for Driving with Pets
One reason many people are reluctant to restrain their pets in the car is because of the animal’s comfort. I know I’ve worried about this as well!
Related article: Best Dog Seat Covers
Ultimately, though, it’s better that your pet is safe than that they get their way when it comes to where or how to sit in the car.
After all, people are sometimes more comfortable without a seatbelt too! We wear them because we know they’re potentially life-saving.
Here are some tips and tricks to keep your pet comfortable in their carrier:
Choose the Right Size
Your pet should be able to stand up and turn around easily in their carrier. If they cannot do so, you need to buy a bigger one.
Measure your pet from the base of their shoulders to the ground, and then from the shoulders to the base of their tail. Add 2-5 inches to each of these measurements and look for a carrier of that size.
Provide Comfort Items
Your cat’s favorite catnip toy, your dog’s favorite chew, a t-shirt that smells like you—all of these are great items to put in their carrier for comfort.
Think about what your pet likes and can use safely while unattended. For instance, strong chewers might be better off without anything they can break apart.
If the temperature in your car is comfortable for you, it’s likely comfortable for your pet too. However, there are some things to keep in mind.
A covered crate will become hotter, as well as a crate with thick blankets on the bottom. It’s crucial to ensure your pet carrier is ventilated on multiple sides. This will help your pet breathe and ensure that heat doesn’t become trapped inside the carrier.
If your pet is in the boot of your SUV, make sure the air or heating reaches them enough to keep them comfortable.
Remember that pets can suffer from heatstroke in temperatures as low as 68 degrees Fahrenheit, so keep an eye on them if it’s hot.
Lining your crate can serve various purposes. You can use a puppy pee pad to soak up accidents or vomit from a nervous traveler.
Blankets or pet beds can be used at the bottom of a crate for extra comfort, especially in the winter months or if your crate has a grid at the bottom that can hurt your pet’s feet while uncovered.
Some pets prefer sitting on hard surfaces, and might rather have no lining on the bottom of their crates. Others like sitting on soft, plush surfaces—the fluffier the better!
Go with their preferences to keep them happy during your travels.
If you’re on a long trip, make sure to make multiple stops for potty breaks along the way!
Simply take your pup out on a leash and let them do their business. Be sure to bring bags with you to pick up their poop.
Traveling with a cat may be more difficult. If your cat is leash trained, you can try putting a harness and leash on them and taking them out to do their business.
Otherwise, you might need to keep a litter box on hand and pull over so that they can use the bathroom.
If this isn’t an option, try lining the carrier with a puppy pee pad. A layer of plastic beneath it will stop urine from leaking into the carrier or your car.