Travel With a Cat

Tips For Safety and Comfort To Travel With a Cat

While it’s fine to travel with a cat for some, most don’t really care for it. After all, cats are beings of habit. They don’t enjoy changes to their daily routine — and being placed into a carrier and moved through new sights, smells, and sounds is undoubtedly a significant change. Fear not, though. It’s possible to travel with a cat both peacefully and safely by planning ahead for their needs. Here are some things to think about when you travel with a cat.

Is It Necessary to Travel With a Cat?

The first thing to think of is whether or not your cat should go with you on your voyage.

Obviously, if you’re moving to a new location, bringing your furry friend with you makes sense. But if you’re just going to see family over the holidays or a vacation, consider whether staying at home with a professional pet-sitter, a trusted friend, or even staying at an excellent cat boarding facility would be less stressful than traveling.

Your pet’s health is another factor. If your kitty has any medical concerns, ask your vet if they are well enough to travel, especially if traveling by plane. If someone is guarding your cat while you’re away, make sure they feel comfy administering your pet’s medicines and know which symptoms to watch for.

Traveling Internationally With a Cat

If you’re traveling outside of your country or bringing your pet home after being overseas, you could be facing lots of paperwork and regulations. The process begins months in advance for some locations, so it’s essential to check all the terms well ahead of time.

Ask your vet if they do international health certifications for pets or if they can advise someone who does. Or, consider working with a professional pet transport company.

What’s Needed for Interstate Travel with a Cat?

Check the terms of your final destination, as well as any countries you’ll be traveling through. Some require pet owners to carry health certifications and/or proof of rabies shots.

How Will You and Your Cat Reach Your Destination?

Much of the advice in this article applies to any mode of travel. However, trains, buses, planes, and ships have their own regulations, differing by the carrier. Some don’t permit pets at all, and others have significant restrictions, so it’s best to do your research.

Try to have your cat with you rather than with baggage or a separate kennel area if at all possible, and be sure to have your pet’s place in writing.

Special Considerations To Travel With a Cat by Plane

Not all airlines permit pets, and many have limitations on travel with a cat for certain breeds, especially short-nosed races like Persians that are more prone to respiratory problems and heat stroke, or restrictions on pet travel during hot or cold seasons of the year.

Additionally, many airlines define a limited number of pets allowed in the cabin versus the cargo hold on any flight. Book well in advance to ensure your pet has a place, and get your furkid’s reservation in writing. And make sure you’re following the airline’s rules for carrier sizes, weights, and types and whether a health certification is required. In general, airline rules are not flexible.

With all the complexities of air voyages and specific risks, mainly for pets traveling in cargo, it may be worth reassessing to see if driving is a better alternative. If you must travel with a cat by air, try to book a direct flight.

How Can Your Cat Be Identified?

A microchip — a permanent form of identification fixed just under the skin using a small needle, is always recommended for identifying a pet. In fact, many countries want pets to be microchipped before coming.

If you’re not sure whether or not your cat is microchipped — or whether the registered report is up to date — ask your vet’s office for help.

ID tags attached to a harness can also be effective. They can complement a microchip because someone would be able to see your contact information immediately.

Which Supplies are Needed to Travel With a Cat?

For help, here’s a handy preparation list that would cover the essentials of most traveling cats…

  • All necessary health records, certificates, or paperwork.
  • Any prescription medicines your cat takes.
  • A cat carrier. This should be large enough that your cat can easily stand up, sit down, lie down, and turn around inside.
  • A leash and harness.
  • Your cat’s food and drinking water, plus pots for each. 
  • A litter scooper, box, litter, and baggies for waste disposal. Or use disposable litter boxes meant for travel.
  • A comfort object, such as a favorite toy or familiar blanket.
  • Paper towels to wipe up messes such as vomit.
  • Special aids for the weather, such as cold water bottles in a hot climate or extra sheets in winter.
  • A first aid kit for pets.

Take extras of all supplies enough to last for many days longer than you prepare to travel with a cat or enough time to get settled at your new place.

Setting Up the Car for a Comfortable Trip

Place your cat’s carrier in the back seat since the front seat can risk injury from airbags. Ensure the carrier is secured with the bungee cords or seat belt, so it won’t slide or slip during a sudden stop. Inside the carrier, use comfortable padding or a blanket.

If the carrier is big enough, you can place a litter box right inside. If the box doesn’t fit, offer potty pauses every few hours in a confined space (inside the car after you are parked or inside a family restroom that secures).

Leaving food and water inside the carrier isn’t always effective since it can spill and splash while driving. But water and food should be offered at regular periods. For day trips, it’s usually okay to wait till you reach your destination to offer food, but water should be given more often.

Avoid setting the carrier straight to sunlight, and make sure there is enough ventilation and airflow.

Always keep your cat in the carrier while you’re driving to prevent dangerous situations such as distracted driving or a cat going under the car’s foot pedals.

Also, keep a harness attached to your cat at all times. Attach a leash any moment you open the carrier. That way, if your kitty quickly dashes out the door, you can take the leash and prevent them from getting missed. But remove the leash when your cat is inside the carrier so that they won’t become entangled.

In the summer, travel with a cat at more refreshing times of the day, if possible. Use the air conditioner in your car. And never leave your pet abandoned in the car, as the car’s inside can elevate to fatal heat within minutes!

What To Do Before Traveling with a Cat To Minimize Stress

With cats, it’s never too early to begin planning for your journey, beginning weeks to months before time can make travel much more comfortable.

Get your cat used to their harness and carrier ahead of time. For the best results, start ahead with small steps.

For example, leave the carrier in the home. Place treats or a toy inside so your cat starts to view it as a positive spot. Follow the same steps for the harness, leaving it on for a few minutes while giving praise, treats, or toys.

Once your cat accepts the carrier, get your cat (inside the carrier) to the car, then back in the house. Once they’re used to this, take them for a one-minute drive, then a five-minute drive, and so on, all while offering treats and positive support.

While it may look like a lot of effort, these steps aid prepare to travel with a cat on the big day, making the trip much less stressful and smoother for everyone.

If these steps are practiced at a young age, some cats can even grow to enjoy travel! Maybe you’ve viewed some of these traveling kitties on Instagram. While they are the rarity rather than the rule, it is possible to have a cat who enjoys road trips with their human companion!

Veterinary Visits Before Traveling with a Cat

It’s a great idea for cats to be updated on their routine veterinary care before traveling. Rabies vaccination is often needed, and other parasite control and vaccinations can help a furkid avoid picking up several diseases on a road trip. A checkup with routine bloodwork can also ensure a cat is as healthy as possible before travel.

Additionally, you may want to take your cat for a veterinary health certification on a specific, narrow window of dates before your travel with a cat.

Are Sedatives Recommended for Cats Who Are Traveling?

Prescription sedatives supplements may be an excellent option for some cats, especially during long car trips. However, sedatives can carry dangers. In fact, airlines usually don’t allow sedatives since they influence a pet’s ability to control their body temperature.

The best decision is to talk to your vet. They can let you know which medicines are recommended for your cat and travel plans. Additionally, they can suggest anti-nausea medications for pets who get car sick.

Never give supplements or medications without verifying with your vet since many are not secure for cats!

Also, don’t wait till the last minute to ask your vet about sedatives. All kitties react individually to these medications. Some cats become more disturbed! It’s important to do a “trial run” before the trip day. 

Minimizing Stress for Your Cat During Travel

Stress is no joke for you or your furry friend. Additionally, some cats can have health problems secondary to stress.

In addition to the steps suggested above, here are some ideas to try that could keep your cat calm during travel…

  • Use non-medical calming aids, like Feliway wipes or spray or a Thundershirt. 
  • Keep things as quiet, calm, and dark as possible. Place a blanket on the side windows or the carrier (make sure there’s adequate airflow). Don’t slam doors, talk in quiet voices, and keep the radio on low volume. 
  • Try to be calm since pets can pick up on our disturbances.
  • Consider having a travel buddy. In addition to having someone who can stay with your kitty during pit pauses, this person can give your furkid care while you drive.

Traveling Long-Distance with a Cat

Be sure to check all the instructions listed above and to stock up on essential supplies.

Look for pet-friendly restaurants and accommodations along the way. Consider making hotel bookings ahead of time during busy travel seasons, such as holidays.

Research emergency vets along your travel route, too. That way, you’ll know what to do if your cat isn’t feeling well.

While the travel with a cat can be stressful, a little preparation goes a long way and can make your journey as enjoyable and peaceful as possible!

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