A happy pug dog enjoys a ride in a pet-proofed car.

How to Pet Proof Your Car Like a Pro


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Unless you’ve figured out how to pet proof your car, car rides with your furry buddy could get messy (and smelly). In the lead up to school holidays we’re sharing our best car pet protection tips so you can start spending more time with your pet, stress-free. You’ll learn about choosing suitable pet car seats, how to prepare for dog car sickness and much more in this article…

New Zealand has the second highest rate of pet ownership in the world. Many more households than not share their space with a furry or feathery friend. If you’re in this group, you know firsthand the physical and psychological benefits that come from their companionship. That’s why we’re sharing our best tips to pet proof your car like a pro.

Considering there are more than 5 million motor vehicles in New Zealand, you can assume a huge number of people are wanting to take their pets on driving holidays. Or at least include them in their everyday on-the-road activities and errands.

Assume no longer – our latest pet ownership research reveals that more than half of our respondents include their fur babies on holiday adventures. 62% make it a ‘full’ family holiday, with more than one in three of these people (38%) having paid extra for pet-friendly accommodation in the past.

Of course, pets and cars don’t always mix. Read on for our top car pet protection tips…

How to pet proof your car

Pet ownership might have a positive impact on our health, but that’s not to say it’s always easy. When travelling in the car with a dog or cat we often learn the hard way that our cars aren’t designed with our pets in mind.

So, here’s how you can make driving a more pleasant experience for your car and your pet!

Pet proof your car so this Siberian Husky dog on a blanket doesn't make a mess.

Protecting your car seats from pets

There are so many things to see and smell on the road, that sometimes the thrill (and fear) of travelling in your car can cause even the most well-trained pet to forget their manners.

All of a sudden, you’re cleaning up vomit from a carsick cat or wee from an excited puppy who couldn’t stay still to ‘go’ on your planned pit stop.

Yet toileting isn’t the only thing to consider with your car interior. Pet hair has the uncanny ability to embed itself in your car seats – and your clothes. The great news is there are heaps of inexpensive ways to avoid the pet hair on your black work pants.

So, rather than wondering how to get dog hair out of car seats, use these suggestions to tackle the problem before it occurs:

  • A felt blanket is a cheaper, hair-attracting alternative to a pet car seat cover. It’s easy to install (remember to tuck it into the creases to avoid it moving around) and quick to remove and wash. Simple.
  • Having said that, a waterproof pet car seat cover will keep both your back and front seats hair (and dirt) free, protect it from slobber and accidents. Plus, they are made to be super comfy. We love this convertible pet car seat cover that doubles as a pet hammock and has openings for your seatbelts so you can attach a harness.
  • Boot liners and padded cargo covers will protect the floor of your boot from any nasty surprises. We recommend one with a raised back, sides and a fold out flap to protect your material and surrounds from scratches too.

How to protect your car from slobber and scratches

While a boot protector with an apron is a great way to protect your bumper from scratches as your pooch as gets in, another worthwhile option is a pet ramp.

Let’s look at these and other types of protectors to pet proof your car.

  • Pet ramps are perfect for small pets or those who are older and might have trouble jumping into your car without using your bumper as leverage. Sure, they’re more expensive, but how much will it cost to repair those scratches?
  • Car door covers prevent pets from damaging your car’s trim with their nails and teeth as well as from dirt, slobber and hair. And they’re easy to remove when you don’t need them.
  • Magnetic window shades are the perfect way to protect your glass from scratches and slobber while protecting your pet from the heat of the sun. Remember you should never leave your pet in the car, even for just a few minutes. Our pets can’t regulate their body temperature like humans and a few short minutes in a hot car can be fatal. Read our article about dogs in hot cars.
  • A spill-proof pet bowl (or two) keeps your pet fed, hydrated and happy during your trip, without the water sloshing all over your car.
A felt blanket like this spaniel dog is resting on is a cheaper, hair-attracting alternative to a pet seat cover.

Car pet protection 101: harness your pet

Is your pet getting up in your grill while you’re driving? These products will help you reduce the driver distractions, chances of being fined, and unwanted damage from your roving pet:

  • Install a pet barrier to prevent your dog from roaming through the car and scratching the interior while you’re on the road.
  • Buckle your pet in with a safety harness (like this crash tested dog harness) – secured with a seat belt. Or keep your cat from clawing your car (and your lap) with a seatbelt safe, crash tested carrier. We love how these feature a water repellent cover and machine washable padding that’s easy to clean. Safety and protection? What’s not to love.

Remember that as the driver, you won’t be covered if you’re traveling illegally with your pet. Securing them safely will help you ensure you’re driving within the law, so you’re covered in an accident.

Read our tips for keeping you and your pet put of crash statistics.

Keep an emergency pet care kit in the car

If the unforgivable happens in your car, it pays to be prepared (and minimise the lasting stains or smells). We recommend you keep this list of essentials in the boot to help you clean up quickly and safely:

  • Portable vacuum and lint remover to remove any excess hair on cushions, blankets, seat covers or clothes.
  • Cling wrap to shield unprotected windows from unwanted dog snot or slobber (if you’ve resisted buying magnetic window shades). Just peel away when finished and recycle.
  • Disposable poop bags for those in-car accidents, but also for those times when you’re walking your pet.
  • Pet nappies (machine washable of course) for long trips.
  • Wet wipes for wiping dirty paws. Want a more environmentally option? Keep a filled water bottle and washer instead.
  • Three towels. One for cleaning of dirt, one for drying wet fur and one for mopping up accidents.
  • Grooming supplies and brushes to remove excess hair during warmer months.
  • Chew toys or familiar blanket that smells like home to reduce your pet’s stress (and the results of that) during travel.
  • Extra leads in case you need to take your pet out of the car and secure them so you can clean up safely.
  • Pet odour spray or baking soda to help remove stubborn smells.
  • Portable litter tray and their normal litter in case your furry friend just needs to go.
Pet proof your car with an emergency kit like this.

Do dogs get car sick?

Dog car sickness, aka motion sickness in dogs, is a common problem. Dog car sickness can easily cause your doggo to become nervous about car rides, which can be stressful for both of you.

Did you know that young dogs are more likely to suffer from dog car sickness than older dogs? The reason being that the parts of the inner ear responsible for balance aren’t fully developed. By the time they’re about one year old, puppies will usually have outgrown dog car sickness.

How can I prevent motion sickness in my dog?

If every car ride ends with a very unhappy dog and a stinky car, here are some ways you can prevent motion sickness:

  • Place your dog in the back middle seat so they’re more likely to look forward.
  • Keep them safely in place with a doggie seat belt, safety harness or secured crate.
  • Lower the car windows for some fresh air.
  • Try to keep the car cool and well ventilated.
  • Your dog will love something that smells like home, whether it’s a beloved toy, a favourite blanket, or even an old shirt.
  • Restrict your dog’s food intake before the car ride, but don’t restrict access to fresh water.

Interested in learning more about dog health? Here are some articles to get you started…

  1. Heat Stroke in Pets: What It Is and How to Avoid It
  2. Dog Poisoning 101: Symptoms and Signs
  3. Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
  4. How to Safeguard Against Arthritis in Dogs
  5. Karaka Berries and Dogs: Be Aware!

Stress-free car travel with all the creature comforts

We hope these car pet protection tips take the stress out of sharing your car with your furry friends. Now you should be able to spend more time with them while avoiding the mess that follows!

Speaking of protection – have you done the responsible pet parent thing and looked into pet insurance?

Watch Video: Why Vets Recommend Pet Insurance, with Dr Cath Watson

Take a couple of minutes to read about cat insurance and dog insurance. PD Insurance provides both, and they can cover a range of treatment for illnesses, accidents, allergies, third party property damage and more.

Why not take a minute to get a quick quote?

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