Traveling With Cats

How to Bring Your Feline Friend With You By Car, Sea, or Air

how to travel with a cat

In our busy world of long-distance communication, traveling is unavoidable and can be very stressful and hectic.

Pet owners have the added challenge of trying to decide what to do with their animals while they are away.

When this happens we pet-parents must make the decision of what is best for us and our furry friends.

You can hire professional pet sitters or you may want to consider kenneling to be the best option.

However, sometimes, these options are not feasible: professional care may be too expensive, neighbors or close friends may not be available, or you may be moving and leaving your cat behind is obviously not an option.

That being said, here are some tips for traveling with your kitty so that you know what to expect.

Where Should You Start?

When you are traveling with your pet, it is best to start trying to prepare (even in small chunks) about a month ahead of time.

This gives you enough time to do your research, gather supplies, and make any necessary reservations.

Before you make the solid decision to bring your cat along for the trip, make sure you have a place that is cat-friendly.

If you stay with friends or family, you are probably already aware of their tolerance for the four-legged.

If you need to stay in a hotel – or even places such as those that you find on sites like AirB&B – make sure you find one that specifically says they are pet-friendly.

Once you’ve booked, it is also sometimes helpful to double and triple check that they are pet (and more specifically cat) friendly.

Additionally, make sure you know your cat. Traveling can be very stressful cats in a way that is not so for dogs.

If your cat has any medical problems, you should double check with your vet that your kitty is well enough to travel.

The stress of travel can sometimes make these conditions worse. Sometimes, especially if the stress provides a medical risk, your vet would be willing to provide assistance in the form of medication that can make things easier and less painful for the both of you.

How Should I Pack for A Kitty Companion?

When packing for your trip, make sure to pack the basics: food, a litter box, and litter. Also, don’t forget to bring bowls of food and water as well as a scoop of litter.

If your kitty loses their appetite or does not use their litter box as regularly as they do at home, do not be alarmed, oftentimes it is the stress of traveling.

If his problem persists longer than a few days to a week, you may want to consider seeking the advice of a vet.

Additionally, make sure you bring toys for your kitty. They won’t necessarily play with them during travel, however, you may want to have things they are familiar with to amuse them once you reach your destination.

For the actual travel, you will want to purchase a kitty carrier. This will keep your cat safe and may act to alleviate some stress for your kitty as they can observe the world from the safety of the walls of a carrier.

There are both soft and hard carriers that you can consider. Soft carriers are easier to fit places and may (or may not) be more comfortable. On the other hand, hard carriers provide significantly more protection.

Soft carriers may be better for things like air travel where you can sometimes have your cat under your seat in the cabin with you.

Despite the fact that they are bulky, hard carriers are better for car travel considering their protection value.

Treats and a blanket may also be helpful. Sometimes when traveling I will put one of my t-shirts in the cat’s carrier so that she has something familiar-smelling to lay on. When it comes to the treats, make sure not to overdo it, though it may provide a small and immediate distraction.

According to PetMD, it is essential for your cat to have a collar with an I.D. tag that clearly displays your most current contact information.

Should your cat get loose, it is the more likely someone will try to approach him or her and that your cat will find his or her way back to you.

If you plan on taking your cat out of their carrier at any point during your trip, put your kitty in a harness and leash.

It is exceptionally easy for a kitty to pull out of a collar and it will be easier to catch them should they get loose.

Finally, you may also find it helpful to have a few extra Walmart bags, baby wipes, and paper towels so that you can easily clean out your litter box and clean up in case any unpleasant accidents happen on the road.

How do I Take Car Trips with My Cat?

I’ve had cats that love road trips as much as your average dog and I’ve had cats that probably believed the open car door was a portal straight to hell.

If you haven’t already, try to figure out which end of the spectrum your cat falls on. This will give you a more solid starting point. Most likely, either way, your cat will get stressed.

As I mentioned earlier, a carrier will keep your kitty safe in the car and will also keep your focus on the road.

When putting the carrier in the car, secure it with a seat belt for an added layer of stability and security.

According to All Feline Hospital, if you are taking a relatively short trip – defined as six hours or less – then your cat will be just fine staying in his or her carrier the entire time.

If you are taking a longer trip, particularly if you are expecting it to span over several days, consider letting your feline friend out of their carrier to stretch their legs, get some water, and use the litter box.

When you let your cat out of his or her carrier, the first rule is to only let them out if you are parked.

They will be tense enough in a moving vehicle, it will be safer – and certainly easier – to only let them out when parked

Additionally, should the unthinkable happen and you should be in a car accident, you don’t want your kitty to be anywhere but safe in their carrier and you certainly don’t want to run the risk of them causing a car accident.

When you get them out of their carrier, keep the car doors shut unless your feline is wearing a harness and you have a firm grasp on a leash.

Even though most cats object to walking on a leash, it is much easier to step on or catch a trailing leash than to catch a darting cat.

How Do I Fly with My Cat?

Sometimes, it is either too long or better to fly instead of drive. If this is the case, and you can’t leave your cat at home, make sure you start by doing your research on airlines.

Sometimes airlines don’t allow cats in the cabin and they require you to check them like luggage.

If this is the case, approach that airline very cautiously. When you use airlines like this, you have little control over the treatment of your kitty.

It is almost always better to find an airline that allows you to have your cat under your seat in the cabin with you.

This only works, if you make note of and follow the carrier guidelines the airline gives you.

In my experience, attendants are not fond of dealing with the situation when a customer brings their cat and some of them look for any and every error so that they can have them put in cargo.

This is not to scare you, I have had many successful flights with my kitties as well.

However, I have also made the mistake of having a carrier that is too big. When this happens, the flight attendant gives you a metal crate to assemble and then has your cats taken to cargo.

Should everything go smoothly and you have successfully gotten your cats on the plane, your cat (airlines usually only allow one animal per person) go under the seat in front of you.

Sometimes the airlines allow you to interact with your cat briefly out of their carrier while in flight.

According to this tip list, it is advised to keep all of your relevant travel documents with you and your cat. I usually have a folder that fits in a backpack or in my carry-on.

These documents are rarely necessary but can be helpful. At the minimum, these documents should include any flight information, a photo of your cat (preferably full-body and in color), a medication list, and your most recent shot records.

These documents are helpful when traveling even after you get off the plane. If your kitty should get hurt, for example having these documents with you can help the vet help your cat. Additionally, should be a problem involving your cat, they can help a lot.

What Do I Do if My Cat Gets Hurt Traveling?

If, while traveling, your cat gets hurt or sick, it is important to know what to do. Do your best to keep self-diagnosing to a minimum and seek veterinary help when it seems the problem is either too severe or has escalated beyond your control.

However, sometimes the injury is minor or you are not near professional help and you need a “band-aid” fix (pun intended) until you can get to a vet.

This is also useful information to have even when you aren’t traveling in case an accident happens at home.

First, I would advise assembling a small first aid kit to keep with you in the car or in a duffle bag or backpack.

You can buy a pet first aid kits or you can customize them for a specific pet and assemble them yourself with items you can buy in the first aid section at a local supermarket or drug store

The Humane Society has a great first aid checklist for things to put in these kits. You will find that they do not differ widely from first aid kits for humans.

These kits should include things like gauze, medical tape, vet/doctor’s tape (the rubbery kind that sticks to itself), medical scissors, and tweezers as well as sterile gloves to protect both you and your pet.

You may also want to include copies of recent prescriptions and/or a recent medication list.

Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with over the counter medications for humans that are also safe to use for both cats and dogs. PetMD also has a list of these medications and their uses.

These medications include allergy medications like Zyrtec and Benadryl, first aid creams like Neosporin and Hydrocortisone, and other miscellaneous medicines like Artificial Tears, Asprin (for pain), and various medicines to help with stomach problems.

Another thing you should include in these kits is important to phone numbers. You should have a number for both a regular and emergency or after-hours vet, as well as the number for a poison control center (for example ASPCA’s poison-control center, whose number is 1-800-426-4435).

Having these numbers on hand can save you even a few minutes and, depending on the emergency, a few minutes is enough to save your pet’s life.

Lastly, when approaching an injured cat, regardless of the amount of time you have known him or her, approach from the front with caution. A stressed cat in pain may lash out at their owner out of instinct.

When carrying an injured cat, carry them so that you support their entire body securely.

Familiarize Yourself with Pet CPR and Choking Procedures

Minor injuries and illnesses are relatively easy to treat. Broken bones and deeper cuts, though you can’t treat them yourself, are easy fixes that any vet can fix in a relatively short amount of time.

However, if your animal should fall unconscious or choke on something, you do not always have time to get professional veterinary assistance. Therefore, it is important to familiarize yourself with pet CPR and Choking Procedures.

The most important thing to remember in any of the endless scenarios that might occur is to not panic.

If you panic, you will function less efficiently which does nothing to help your pet. Try to take a deep breath and calm down.

If you suspect your pet is unconscious, first check for signs of breathing. Look for typical movement an check their gums.

If their gums start to turn a bluish color, you should start CPR and call your emergency vet.

In the following video, a vet will explain and demonstrate how to perform CPR on your animal.

If done correctly, you may be able to save your cat’s life. However, if you try to do it without instruction, you may make the problem worse.

While traveling, it is important to keep an even more vigilant eye on your cat than you do at home. They will be around new things that they may not normally be around and they may get curious.

If your cat gets ahold of something that they should not have (which happens at some point to all pet owners) and they swallow it, they may end up choking. If that happens, it is important to act quickly.

This video again explains and demonstrates what you should do if your cat is choking on a foreign object:

First, try to get a look in their mouth. If there is a string or something that you can get ahold of, try gently pulling on it to see if it comes out. If it does not easily move, do not pull harder.

If this happens, follow the instructions in the video. When you get the problem solved, depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to seek veterinary assistance to double check that everything is okay and that there is no long-term issue.

Now for Some Concluding Remarks

Overall, traveling with your cat is a trial and error process. Doing research and preparing can expedite some of the processes but each pet will react to each scenario differently.

A lot of traveling with a cat is common sense. Be familiar with your cat’s body language and use your best judgment.

Do not let one bad experience deter you from ever traveling with your pet again, rather, use that experience to get to know your pet a little better. Ultimately, it just helps you be more prepared for the next trip.

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