Driving Ms. Kitty

We secure everything else in our car ? why not our cat carriers?

By Sandy Robins | Posted: July 21, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Pet Experts at Toyota Museum
Promoting pet safety. From left to right: Stacy Mantle, me, Megan Blake, Harrison Forbes, Greg Kleva (kneeling) and Kirsten Levine.
Vintage Toyopet
The Toyopet – the first car imported into America by Toyota from Japan. Now they have a new pet project.

Call it serendipity. This week, along with several other pet people, I was invited to a two-day event hosted by Toyota to promote safe travel for cats and dogs whether they are traveling with you on vacation or taking a dreaded trip to the vet. We’d been sharing ideas about cat carriers for cars, when suddenly a gentleman appeared at the door of the conference room holding the cutest calico kitten. He’d seen a sign in the lobby that indicated that there were pet experts in the hotel and decided to come and show off his kitten.

He’d found her on a curb starving and frail, instantly adopted her and taken her off to a vet for a checkup. And now, it appeared that he was taking his kitten everywhere with him. Sadly, we didn’t have a cat carrier on hand to give him to keep his kitten secure in his truck. But his sudden appearance reinforced exactly why Toyota executives had called for the meeting in the first place!

It’s wonderful to rescue a pet and essentially save its life. But the next step is to protect that pet for the rest of its life. We secure our kids, shopping bags, luggage and even our bicycles in cars, yet the majority of pet owners don’t restrain their pets in vehicles. Letting a kitten run loose in a car, or any pet for that matter, is a huge distraction and an accident waiting to happen. Even at 10 mph in a sudden breaking situation the cat becomes a moving projectile that could kill her and harm the occupants of the car.

It’s not that pet lovers don’t care; many simply haven’t thought through the consequences until they are pointed out to them.

During the visit to the Toyota campus, we got to tour their car museum and saw the first car imported to America from Japan. Interestingly, it was called the Toyopet. Now, 50 years later the company has a new pet project underway. Apart from designing special pet-friendly features for their fleet, some of which are already on the road, the company is committed to promoting pet safety. It’s a huge undertaking and one to be applauded. The handful of states with buckle-up laws for pets don’t really enforce them.

Unrestrained pets are the third biggest distraction on the road after cell phones and dashboard dining. I’m on board to help promote this change. Besotted pet people are without doubt a driving force, so please help spread the word too.

Stupidly, I forgot to ask the gentleman with the calico kitten his name and address to send him a carrier. But I left word at the hotel to contact me if he shows up again.

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