It's a welcome trend for pet owners, that of trucking companies allowing pets to be on board as furry stress-reducers. And of course, for owner/operators, having Fido or Fluffs aboard, aside from the health benefits, simply makes the truck feel more like home. Here are lots of ideas so you and your pet can have an enjoyable life together out on the road.
Your dog or cat can be a great trucker too!
First, plan to have an adjustment period of several days or even weeks for your pet to be aboard the truck. The inside of a truck cab has many different smells and surfaces, and your pet will have to get used to sudden noises and movements. Fido or Fluffs will have to learn to walk, eat, get a drink of water and ask for a bathroom break (or use the litter box) while the truck is underway. Be extra patient during this 'settling-in' time, and try not to yell at or scold your pet too frequently. Most cats and dogs adjust readily to being on the road because, after all, being with you is the whole world to that little critter. And who doesn't enjoy being someone special to another living being? (Even if your pet seems to be determined to hide every one of your socks or insists on sleeping on your company jacket.)
While there are some truckers who've taken everything from a pot-bellied pig to a small goat to a boa constrictor on the road, most of us are happy to have a dog or cat with us as friend, confidant and companion. Be sure to take your pet's inborn characteristics into account while traveling too. The smaller breeds of dogs are certainly more 'portable,' but they also tend to bark or yap more than the larger, more easy-going breeds. Siamese cats are extremely territorial and also quite vocal, and the long-haired Persians are going to present a bit of a challenge to keep that luxurious fur brushed daily. Some truckers insist a 'middle-aged' pet is best to take along, while others swear training one from a puppy or kitten makes it easier all the way around. An elderly pet is probably best left at home, particularly if it has health problems, as dealing with a sick or stricken pet can't be allowed to interfere with pickup or delivery for a shipper.
In order to be a good 'neighbor' at a rest area or truck stop, your pet needs to be easily taken in and out of the truck cab on a leash and quiet-no howling, yowling or whining-when other folks are trying to sleep. You need to be a good neighbor too, and clean up after your dog. Some dogs learn to use a litter box just like a cat, but most prefer to be outside to do their business. And please don't just dump a cat's litter box on the ground in a rest area, either. Shake the used litter into a plastic bag, tie it closed and put it into a trash container. The disposable litter box can also be tied up in a plastic bag and put in a dumpster.
Your pet will certainly enjoy sharing meals with you! And doctors have found that most humans eat better when they have companions at mealtime. Try to keep enough food on hand so you don't run out and have to buy an unfamiliar brand out on the road, because it can really cause problems for both of you, if Fido's digestion is not working correctly. And the same goes for Fluff's digestion too-although hairballs will still be a fact of life, even on the road. See if your pet will eat some of the nutritionally-balanced dry foods, so you won't have to worry about trying to grow 'salad greens' in a dish on board, or else trying to tug a stubborn pet away from some delicious grass (which may have a fresh dose of weed-killer on it). Treats can range from the foil pouch of soft, moist treats to hard or chewy dog biscuits. Your cat may be one of the rare ones who doesn't like catnip, but there are treats available for cats too, with tartar or even hairball control baked right in.
As for dealing with mishaps and accidents on the road, take along the same first aid kit you have for your pet at home. The triple-antibiotic cream that you use for your kid's skinned knee can be used on your cat or dog. A weak (no more than 3%) solution of ordinary hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning a cut foot pad or scratches from brambles or tree branches. Gently press clean, folded gauze to a small wound to stop it bleeding, but for larger wounds, find a pet health clinic on the road. Also, if your pet is very restless, or lying still and not moving, or has refused food and water for more than 24 hours, find a clinic. You know, more than anyone, what your pet's normal behavior and habits are, and you're also your pet's dearly-loved companion. Stay calm while taking Fido or Fluffs to the vet, so your pet doesn't get more upset than it is at being ill or hurt. Remind yourself that with good food, good care, and your love, many pets live happily to a ripe old age--logging many enjoyable miles as you travel together.
Try to set aside a few minutes each day to play with your pet Speak to your pet whenever you enter or leave the truck, and reassure your dog or cat that you will be back Keep fresh water available at all times If your pet prefers sleeping on your bed rather than in its own, just wash your bedding more often Keep your camera handy for those great shots of your pet on the road with you
Never, never give your pet chocolate. If you have to leave your pet on board alone for extended periods of time, make sure any chocolate is either inside the refrigerator or stored somewhere deep in a cupboard. Pets have been known to have seizures or die from eating chocolate. Please don't risk your pet's life. Also, check to be sure that your pet can't accidently activate the windows if you're out of the truck. A trucking magazine alerted readers to several dogs and cats which were strangled because they'd stepped on the control buttons, rolling up the windows and catching their necks.