Best Way to Travel With a Cat

Pet-parents know cats are actually very attached to their human family and surroundings. If given the choice, they’d prefer a regular routine rather than change.

That said, we all miss our pets when we’re away, and if there is the option to take them with us, we’d love to have them as our companions for the love and compassion they provide us. The question is how to make their travel experience a happy one.

What do you need to know before you go?

According to the ASPCA, if you’re going to take your cat on a trip you must work to minimize the stress of travel.

That means creating an inventory list for the essentials and adhering to it. Before departure, it is vital to consult your vet about where you are going and what, if any conditions could affect the health of your pet.

What are other resources available for tips on traveling with a cat?

YouTube has informational videos on traveling with your cat. Watch the video for practical, useful, and easy to understand travel tips from a veterinary behaviorist.

What documentation do is needed?

It is important to carry the proper papers, including medical records and proof of rabies vaccinations that USDA confirms many states require.

Animals traveling to another country, to Hawaii, or by air must have that proper documentation. Please note that depending on your destination, there may be a quarantine period that you want to consider before bringing your pet on a trip.

Why is the proper transport carrier important?

Like us, our pets do better on a trip if they’re comfortable. For cats, comfort begins with a cat carrier that provides plenty of space to move, thereby avoiding stiffness. The carrier should allow the air to circulate and be certified for travel use by the USDA.

How can I familiarize my cat with a new carrier?

Alley Cats Small Animal Hospital confirms it is better to use a carrier that is familiar to your pet. Allow the cat free access to the carrier, and try taking your cat on a few short trips in the carrier before embarking on a longer journey.

An added suggestion is to line the carrier with blankets that smell like home so that the cat connects the carrier to a safe place.

The leash is the most important item.

If you’ve ever tried to catch a cat that’s gotten out of the house you know how difficult it can be. No pet-parent wants their cat to lose and worse, stressed.

For the safety and security of the animal, always use a leash to give your pet a chance to get some exercise or relieve themselves.

What about accommodations on the trip?

When traveling by car, depending upon the length of the trip you’ll need to stop overnight. Make sure that there are pet-friendly hotels on your route and that you know the policies concerning additional fees for keeping pets in hotel rooms and how many animals are allowed per room if you are traveling with your cats!

What other things should be considered for a road trip?

If traveling by car, feed your cat 3 – 4 hours before you leave to give the animal time to digest and eliminate before departure, and minimize the chance of vomiting.

On the trip, have a supply of your pet’s favorite food and containers of water from your home to which the cat is accustomed. It’s all about familiarity.

What are some details that pet-parents might overlook?

Cats are well-known escape-artists and no carrier is foolproof in protecting your pet. Keep the vehicle well-ventilated and comfortable for the animal while keeping the cat in the carrier.

However, the ASPCA warns NEVER to leave an animal in a vehicle for any longer than a few minutes due to the effects of extreme heat or cold on the temperature inside the vehicle.

What concerns must pet-owners consider when flying?

Ensuring your pet can be identified is a must when traveling. Make sure to include the attached tag and/or collar the name, address, phone number, destination and if applicable, the microchip number in case the cat becomes lost.

While your cat can travel by cargo, the ASPCA highly recommends your cat board the plane and be placed under the seat to decrease the anxiety of the trip.

Inform the flight crew so that they may better serve you and your pet.

For the benefit of your pet, let the flight crew know you’re traveling with your cat so that they can assist you in making the cat’s trip as easy as possible.

Help the crew by clearly labeling the carrier with all ID and contact information, plus arrows that say which side of the carrier is up. A photo of your pet (in case of escape) and the words “LIVE ANIMAL” should be affixed to the carrier.

What about using cargo?

If your pet must travel in cargo it is best to book a non-stop flight or one with the fewest hops. Transfers are very dangerous due to extreme temperatures and loud noises that can be traumatic or fatal to the animal. To repeat, it is always best for your cat to remain right next to you.

Can I sedate my cat?

Since animals are very sensitive to sedatives, a cat should never be sedated unless the animal will stay at all times with the pet-parent.

Never use tranquilizers on cats that are traveling by airplane. WikiHow clarifies what to consider before sedating and the best options for sedation for your pet.

However you travel, maintain the normal daily regimen for your pet that includes feeding times, walks and quality (play) time for you and your cat. By ensuring the health and happiness of your pet, the trip will be a good one.