If you own one of the approximately 78.2 million dogs in more than 46 million American households, or one of the 86.4 million cats, you know how to take care of your pet when it’s in your home. But when it comes to taking Fido or Fluffy out in the family car, do you know whether your vehicle is actually accommodating to your pet?
Here are five things every pet owner’s car should have in order to be pet-friendly:
1. Low bumper height – Making it as easy as possible for pets to jump up and climb in the back of vehicles is an absolute essential – unless you want to go to the expense of buying a ramp or endlessly pick them up. Most pets don’t need much encouragement. Dogs, especially, love to jump up and go when it’s time for a ride. Low bumper height is a good idea for the driver and passenger, too, since it makes access easier for your pet’s crate and other items.
2. Flat load floor – Speaking of the crate, as well as cat pet carriers, a flat load floor has to be right up there near the top of the list of must-have features. This means fold-down seats that fold completely flat. Depending on the size of your pet, you might need to transport a large crate. The cargo area of the vehicle has to be able to accommodate the height, width and depth of the crate. Typically, SUVs and crossovers offer the most cargo-area room.
3. Passive lock system – Fumbling with your keys to unlock or lock car doors can lead to your pet jumping up and scratching the vehicle. Passive lock systems automatically unlock the doors as you approach, while a quick touch of the keyfob opens the tailgate or trunk. If available, opt for the hands-free, power liftgate option on some SUVs and crossovers—like the 2013 Ford Escape– to make traveling with your pet a lot easier.
4. Tie-down hooks, loops for leashes, storage space – Dog harnesses and crates have to be properly secured. That’s where tie-down hooks and leach loops come in handy. You’ll also need somewhere to stow your pet’s food and portable water for the trip, along with other necessities, such as pet first-aid kit, favorite toys, and so on.
5. Side curtain airbags – You can feel more confident that your pet (and your passengers) will be protected in the event of a crash if your vehicle is equipped with side curtain airbags. Vehicles such as the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse and Equinox have side curtain airbags that implode for a longer duration than airbags in passenger cars, thus providing even more protection for passengers and pups.
Other great-to-have safety technology features in a pet-friendly car include a rearview camera and reverse sensing system, and lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation systems (to alert you if you’re distracted by your pet and veering out of your intended lane or close to colliding with another vehicle).
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection.