Saturday 24 February 2024

Do cats have to be in a carrier in the car?

Your cat must be in a seatbelt harness or carrier when travelling in a car in the UK. In the USA each state has their own laws on restraining pets in the car but I suspect that all the states have similar laws.

I think the best way to restrain your cat inside a travelling vehicle for longish distances is to put them in a seatbelt harness. This is a harness that connects to the seatbelt as you might imagine! The picture shows how it works. For trips to the vet, the carrier is obviously more suitable.

Your cat must be in a seatbelt harness or carrier when travelling in a car in the UK!
Picture: Zooplus. It costs £8.

The reason why cats and dogs need to be restrained? Because in the UK there is a booklet called the Highway Code which provides all drivers with the rules of the road. It's quite a lengthy booklet and when a new driver takes their driving test in the UK they are tested on the Highway Code. If they fail the paperwork part of the driving test you failed the test.

And if you don't restrain your cat in your car when travelling the police can stop you (do they ever!?) And you could end up with a £5,000 fine in the worst case scenario which would be highly unlikely. In fact I think it would be infinitesimally unlikely but technically possible.

Rule 57

The rule which dictates that you must restrain your darling cat is rule 57 of the above-mentioned Highway Code. Or you might keep your cat in a carrier throughout the journey. There are other pet containers to restrain them when travelling in a car.

I mention that the best way to restrain a cat is through a seatbelt harness but the more typical way to do it would be to leave them in a carrier but the issue for me is that on a long journey you don't want to keep your cat in a carrier. The seatbelt harness would be better.

Or you might put them in the back behind a headrest cage. This is a mesh which attaches to the headrest on the back seat and keeps the dog or cat in the luggage area of the car. But I think people like to have their cat in the passenger compartment so they can talk to them and be involved with them (safely!).


When I took my cats to Ireland about 25 years ago with my then wife I didn't give one single thought to rule 57 of the Highway Code. So my two cats were free to move around the car and my little lady cat spent most of the time sitting on a dashboard looking out the front window.

And we smuggled them on to an overnight ferry and then we hired a car in Ireland and drove to my mother-in-law on the west coast. Once again the cats were free to wander around the cabin. Although I don't know whether they have a Highway Code in Ireland. Not that it would have made any difference because as mentioned I totally ignored the Highway Code at that time.


But if you want to abide by the law and be a good driver and a good cat caregiver you should restrain your cat. And there's a genuinely good reason for it because if you have an accident your cat or dog might become a missile thrown forwards. Both you and your cat might be harmed, possibly badly. So Rule 57 is common sense.


Postscript: I have got to make one last point which is that sometimes cats are very nervous in a vehicle and being nervous they might urinate and if they urinate on your passenger seat and it sinks into the foam you are not going to get it out. Therefore I would strongly suggest that you put down some sort of absorbent or protective material on the seat where your cat is travelling. It will pay dividends.

P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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