We’re a nation of pet lovers, which means our furry friends tend to go almost everywhere we do. Whether it’s for a day trip or a long holiday, if our pet isn’t with us then the experience often feels incomplete.

Travelling by car can be difficult for pets of all kinds, so we have to make sure they are comfortable and safe on every journey they go on. All it takes is a bit of forward-planning and you can avoid any major issues along the way. Here is everything you need to know about driving with pets.

The law on driving with pets

Rule 57 of the Highway Code says that any pets taken on a car journey must be suitably restrained at all times. This is to ensure they do not cause a distraction which could lead to the driver, passenger, pet or anyone else being injured. By not following these guidelines not only could you invalidate your car or pet insurance, but you could face a hefty £5,000 fine. And remember, this doesn’t only relate to dogs and cats but to any type of animal, whether it’s a hamster or even a spider. Aside from the legal and insurance aspects, many animals either don’t like travelling in cars if they suffer from motion sickness or are unnerved when the car is moving. By ensuring they are properly restrained you make the journey safer for everyone, and much more comfortable for your pets.

Pets in hot cars

You must never leave your pet alone in the car on a warm day. Even if it’s parked in the shade, car temperatures can rise up to 47 degrees in less than hour, which can give your pet heatstroke and cause death. You could be charged with animal cruelty if your pet dies as a result of leaving them in the car.

Protecting your car from pet scratches

When you are leasing a car you have to be mindful of how much wear and tear it is exposed to so you avoid having to pay for additional repairs at the end of the contract. This is especially true for pet owners as claws can accidentally cause all sorts of issues that need to be resolved. Here are some suggestions on how you can protect your car from pet scratches.

Cat in front of wheel

Pet seat cover

If your pet is travelling in the front, then a seat cover will be able to protect the interior of the car from scratches. Not only that, but if there are any unexpected toilet accidents, they are water resistant and can usually be machine washed.

Cargo cover

A cargo cover is best used for vehicles with folding back seats or a large open boot. They come in a range of sizes to suit the dimensions of different models, covering the floor and the seat if needed. These are best suited for long trips with big dogs.

Seat belt harness

This will ensure your pet is as safe as you in the car, while also being comfortable for the duration of the journey. It stops your pet from moving around the car and creating any mess or damage, which is ideal when trying to avoid scratches and distractions. Plus, in the event of an accident, a seat belt harness will help to keep your pet safe and strapped in.


When larger pets are getting in and out of cars, this is where their claws can accidentally scrape and scratch the interior. If they can’t be lifted in and out of the car then a foldable ramp will allow them to do so without any issues.

Nail caps

To avoid any rips or tears occurring on the seats, nail caps could provide an answer. They slot onto the individual nails of cats and dogs with a small amount of adhesive, lasting between 4 to 6 weeks. If it seems too tricky, there are pet groomers who are able to do the job for you.

Tips for travelling with your pet

Planning is everything when it comes to travelling with pets. Here are some important tips to remember to ensure the journey is a safe and pleasant one for you both.

Prepare for the journey

Pets need to get used to being in a confined space for a long journey, so take them on shorter trips first, as this allows them to acclimatise to the movement, noises and smells. Go for a long walk so they can burn off excess energy and they can then relax in the car and not cause any issues. Pets usually travel better on an emptier stomach, so try to feed them a couple of hours before going on a long journey. This will help to avoid travel sickness if they suffer from it.

During your trip

If your journey surpasses your pet’s usual meal time, bring along some light food and allow enough time for them to eat and digest it. Place water in a spill-proof bowl in case your animal gets thirsty.

Like humans, pets also need toilet and exercise breaks on a long journey, so be sure to factor this in. Place them back on a lead when getting out of the car so they don’t run into danger.

Once back in the car, keep your pets safely restrained while travelling. If you do not own a harness, you can also use a cage or crate, which allows pets to move around without causing any distractions for the driver. Pet guards are also a popular choice that attach to the backseat headrests and are a good solution for larger, active pets.

Dealing with breakdowns

If you experience a breakdown while travelling it is advised to leave your pet inside the car. If they have to be taken out, make sure they are on a lead. In situations where the car cannot be fixed by a repair service and you have to be transported to another location, using the right restraints or pet carriers will ensure this can be done safely.

Reaching your destination

Your pets will want to stretch their legs once you arrive and you should let them out of the car when it is safe enough. They might not be familiar with the new surroundings and may be nervous, so keep a close eye on them when they first get out. Take them for a short walk where they can also go to the toilet, as it may have been some time since the last stop.

Dog in front of house

Returning home

As you did before you embarked on your journey, try to feed your pet a couple of hours before you leave so the meal can be digested. If you have time, take them for a long walk to tire them out so they can relax in the car. Remember to allow some time to get your pet back into their crate or restraint. They may be a little resistant at first, but as this isn’t the first time they’ve used it, hopefully they won’t be too uncertain.

Equipment checklist for driving with your pet

It can be easy to forget an important piece of equipment needed for your pet’s journey – especially if you have children, as this adds to an already very long list. We’ve put together the most important items you need for driving with an animal:

  • Safety harness/belt
  • Seat covers
  • Water and spill-proof bowls
  • Pet food and treats
  • Waste disposal bags
  • Leads
  • Toys
  • Pet documentation
  • Clothes for colder weather
  • Medication and flea treatments