You might not think of taking your cat on a trip, but sometimes you might need to travel with your cat. If you are relocating temporarily or permanently, you will want to bring your furry family members along.
Some cat owners choose to bring their cats on a variety of excursions, adventures, and vacations rather than leaving them at home.
By nature, cats usually don’t like to travel. They are used to their routines and don’t adjust well to change.
But if you plan well and pack everything you need, traveling with a cat can become tolerable or even enjoyable. Whether you are flying, driving, or camping, being prepared is the key to a successful trip.
Why don’t cats like to travel?
Cats are territorial creatures according to Catster. They work hard to establish their territory. Therefore, moving them to an unfamiliar place can make them feel like they are trespassing and don’t belong. As a result, they might feel uncomfortable, defensive, and on guard in a new place.
Cats’ sensitivity to motion and movement causes other problems for traveling with them. The movements of a car or plane can confuse or disorient cats or result in motion sickness.
If your cat gets motion sickness, you can ask your vet for medications that will help. For cats that are anxious, a sedative can be prescribed if you must travel with your cat but you might want to consider leaving her home.
If you do use a sedative, you will need to monitor your cat for side effects and be sure not to exceed the recommended dosage.
How should you prepare for a trip with your cat?
If you decide to bring your cat on a trip, you will want to make her feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible by creating a familiar atmosphere.
Bringing along comforts from homes such as your cat’s favorite toys, food, bedding, and litter box will help to reduce her anxiety and put her at ease in new surroundings.
A high-quality cat carrier is essential whether you are traveling by car or air. In a car, a carrier restrained with a seat belt keeps your cat safe and secure. It can also serve as a bed for your cat to sleep in at your hotel.
If you are traveling by plane, be sure to choose a carrier that is high quality, secure, and approved for air travel, to review the airline’s pet policy in advance, and to pay attention to breed restrictions. Certain breeds are not allowed on some airlines.
According to the Humane Society, putting your cat in the cargo hold is stressful and less safe for cats and should be avoided. Most airlines will allow you to bring your cat into the cabin, but you should be sure that your carrier is high quality, secure, and approved for air travel.
If you will be staying in hotels during your drive or at your destination, you will want to plan ahead and book hotels that are pet-friendly.
During a long drive, be sure to make frequent stops to let your cat out of the carrier to stretch and to use the litter box.
Don’t forget to have an emergency plan and to bring a copy of medical records and a first aid kit in case your cat gets sick. Getting your cat an ID tag and microchip and having clear, recent photos on your phone can help you find your cat if she escapes or gets lost.
What items should you pack for your cat?
The key to successful traveling with your cat is packing the right items for all of your cat’s needs. As you prepare for your trip, create a cat travel checklist so you will be sure not to forget any essential items. This list of basic essentials will help you get started.
A Suitable Cat Carrier
A secured hard shell carrier is the safest way to travel with a cat in a car. Before your trip, get your cat used to the carrier. Keep your cat in her carrier whenever you are driving and before you open the doors or windows.
The carrier should also be used to bring the cat from the car to the hotel room, according to prevent escapes.
Some cats prefer that the carrier face the window so they can look out and see the world. Anxious cats might feel safer with a towel or blanket over the carrier.
Choose a carrier that is large enough so that your cat can sit, stand, and move around, but not large enough to roam in. A carrier that is too large can cause injuries should the car stop or turn abruptly.
When flying with a cat, look for a durable carrier with lots of air vents, a zippered top, a side exit door, a soft, removable bottom pad, and flat pockets.
Put something familiar in the carrier to make your cat feel more comfortable. Include a label with your name and address, a copy of your itinerary, and a copy of your pet’s medical records.
Food, Water, and Treats
Bring a supply of your cat’s food that will last for the whole trip in case you can’t get the same brand along the way. Don’t substitute another brand because this can cause stomach upset.
If your cat is on a special or prescription diet, it is especially important to bring enough for the entire trip. Avoid feeding your cat on the road, but offer food and water at rest stops.
If your cat eats a frozen, raw diet, you might consider switching to a freeze-dried raw diet for convenience during travel. Just mix the freeze-dried food with warm water according to Julie McAlee of Catsgoingplaces.
While you can probably get water along the way, bringing along some bottled water or ice cubes might help keep your cat well-hydrated between stops.
Bowls and Utensils
If your cat eats wet food, be sure to bring along can toppers, plastic utensils, and a can opener if needed. To save space, consider investing in collapsible travel bowls for food and for water. Silicon pop-up bowls are a convenient and healthy choice. Some travel bowls fit onto the doors of cat carriers.
Favorite Toys and Bedding
Bringing along familiar toys, blankets, and bedding will help keep your cat comfortable and calm, and a few new toys might help keep your cat entertained.
Wand toys can help your cat get some exercise after being cooped up in the car. Playing with her at rest stops will get her moving and release some of her energy.
Litter Box and Supplies
Disposable litter pans are great for travel, but some cats might prefer that you bring the litter box and litter type that they are familiar with. Be sure to bring enough litter, waste bags, and a scoop to keep the litter clean.
Plastic grocery bags are great for keeping kitty litter clean on the road and large trash bags are necessary to throw out disposable litter boxes when you are done with them. A hand broom and dustpan are useful for sweeping up messy litter in hotel rooms or in the car.
You might also consider bringing litter liners, newspaper to put under the litter box, stain and odor remover, wipes, and paper towels to keep things from getting messy and to clean up accidents.
Medications, Medical Records, Vet’s Contact Information
If your cat is on medication, be sure to bring a sufficient supply and some extra in case you have delays. Bring a cooler for any medications that require refrigeration.
Prepare a list of emergency veterinary clinics along the way and at your destination including phone numbers and addresses to save time in the event of an emergency. This VetLocator website will help you find the emergency vet nearest to your location.
Important paperwork should be placed in an accessible folder so you will be able to find it easily. This folder should include a health and vaccination certificate, medical records, your vet’s contact information, and printed reservations showing your pet is included.
First Aid Kit
Whether you decide to buy a commercial first aid kit or to create your own, you should be sure to bring one along. Sid Kirchheimer of PetMD provides a list of items to include in your first aid kit.
On his list are gauze, medical tape, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, blunt-end scissors, towels, sterile saline solution, milk of magnesia or activated charcoal to absorb poison and the poison control center number, a rectal thermometer, petroleum jelly, ice and hot packs, a syringe, and an eyewash.
Collar, Leash, and Harness
Be sure to fit your cat with a collar with an ID tag and a vaccine tag in case she gets lost. A leash and harness are not necessary but they will allow you to take your cat for walks at rest stops.
If you plan to use a leash and harness, be sure to train your cat before you leave and to check that the harness is secure.
This YouTube video will show you how to teach a cat to wear a harness and to walk on a leash.
These additional items might be useful
Car seats for cats allow your cat to see out the windows, keep her safe, and prevent her from disturbing the driver. Don’t use a car seat in the front passenger seat due to the danger of airbags.
If you travel frequently with your cat, consider a three-in-one carrier, car seat, cat bed or a three-in-one carrier, backpack, rolling luggage option.
Cat backpacks that function as carriers and have handles and pop out wheels and strap into seat belt system of your car.
Cat Bed, Sling, and/or Stroller
A cat pod or cat bed will give your cat a comfortable place to sleep in a hotel room. A pet sling is great for comfortable hands-free mobility while traveling. A collapsible stroller is handy to have along to go for walks and get some fresh air.
Feliway spray mimics the facial pheromones that cats secrete when they rub their faces on objects and furniture in order to give them a familiar scent. It can be used to help relax your cat and keep her calm and quiet during travel.
Bringing along some disposable corrugated cardboard scratchers or a familiar scratching post will help keep your cat from scratching car upholstery or furniture in hotel rooms.
If your cat should have an accident or tends to need help with grooming, having grooming supplies such as a brush, cat shampoo, and cat-safe wipes is a plus.
Bring a lint roller along to clean cat fur from your car, clothing, and hotel rooms. Cats tend to shed more when stressed.
Additional Packing Tips
Place your cat’s food in easy-to-access containers rather than carrying a large bag of kibble. Put just a small amount of food in the carrier in case your cat gets motion sickness, and bring plenty of treats to reward your cat and to console her if she gets upset.
Get a lightweight kitty litter to keep litter boxes from being too heavy and difficult to lift, and don’t forget to bring a litter scoop. Bring the litter in a travel-friendly jug with an easy-to-pour spout.
Pet sunscreen can be used to protect cats from excessive sun exposure. Apply the sunscreen to your cat’s ears and nose.
For hot weather, consider getting a small fan that attaches onto your cat’s carrier. Be sure your cat is up to date on flea, tick, and heartworm treatments, bring along tweezers or tick key.
If you will be traveling with multiple cats, bring a separate carrier for each of them. This will keep them safe and comfortable.
While many cats find travel to be stressful, sometimes it is necessary or desirable to travel with your cat. Preparing and packing the right items will help your cat feel more comfortable on the road.
With enough patience and good preparation, traveling with your feline companion can be done.
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