Traveling With Cats

Everything You’ve Wanted to Ask About Traveling Cross Country With Your Cat

moving long distance with cats

Our cats are strong willed, strong minded, ferocious individualists stuffed into cute little bodies.

As every cat owner knows, they have a mind of their own, and yet are always with us through many stages of our life journey.

When we have to make a long distance move, there is no doubt in any cat parent’s mind that Fluffy is coming along for the ride.

Yet no matter how much you love your cat, you are probably wondering how you can prepare your beloved feline for a long distance move.

How Do You Prepare for Moving Day?

Preparation is key. Since it can take quite a bit of time to get everything prepared, especially in the chaotic run-up to a long distance move, you should start as early as possible.

This will also give your cat a chance to establish a new routine, based on spending time in the car or crate.

According to All Feline Hospital, travel tends to stress cats out and many do not travel well even for short distances.

Generally, cats are very routine-driven and happiest on their familiar territory.

As a result, you should only take your cat on long distance trips when absolutely necessary, such as a one-way move.

Purchasing a Proper Kennel

The first thing you should look for is a proper kennel. Some plastic kennels snap together and can break apart under rough treatment or on airplanes, allowing your cat to escape and become lost or injured.

The advice by Dr. Becker on the Healthy Pets site states that carriers should be well-ventilated and large enough for your kitty to stand, turn around, and sleep in comfortably.

Two cats can share a kennel only if they are well-behaved around each other, otherwise, it is best to keep them separated in case they fight under the stress of travel.

Once you have purchased the kennel, keep it on the floor in your cat’s favorite room. Place food, catnip, and other treats inside so your cat learns to associate it with good things.

The more time they have to get used to the kennel, the less stressed they will become during the trip.

Acclimating Your Cat to the Journey

If you plan to travel by car, you need to start small. You should always strap the kennel with the seat belt to keep it secure in case of an accident or a hard stop.

The first few sessions should be kept to less than five minutes, then gradually work up to short drives around the block.

That way your kitty can get used to the sensation of riding in a car without becoming frightened.

Your cat will probably not like the trips at first and some cats have more trouble adjusting than others. Treats, praise, and toys can all help your cat see the positives of the ride.

If your cat absolutely cannot calm down, you may want to discuss medications with the veterinarian. They can recommend safe sedatives; never give human sedatives to a cat.

Things to discuss with your veterinarian

A visit to the veterinarian can double as a practice drive for your cat and a chance to discuss specific concerns about your cat prior to the move.

If they suffer from anxiety, your vet may be able to prescribe a tranquilizer to help them calm down. The vet will also provide a bill of health, which is required for all cats to fly on an airplane.

Before leaving, you will want to make sure you have adequate supplies of any medications that they need in case it takes some time before you find a vet in your new city. Your vet might even know of related practices or veterinarians in your new area.

Traveling Safely

The safety of both you and your cat should be paramount on the trip. Make sure that your cat has a collar, microchip, and ID tags in case they get lost during the journey.

If your kitty is not used to being halter trained or on a leash, you may want to get them started on leash training before you go.

For more information, this video breaks down several tips on everything from how to halter train your cat to calming a cat down while he or she is in the car.

How To Assemble A Kitty Travel Kit

Once you and your cat are mentally and physically ready to hit the road, it’s time to pack their belongings on the road.

One thing that really helps, according to the ASPCA is to have a travel kit with all the essentials.

  • Familiar food and bottled water, ideally from the same source as home.
  • A bowl, leash, and scoop
  • Medication, first aid, and all documented medical history
  • Disposable litter boxes, especially for trips longer than six hours
  • Favorite toys, blankets, and familiar objects
  • Place a towel with your scent in the bottom of the crate so your cat can have something familiar while sleeping in it.

How Do You Drive Cross Country with a Cat?

With the Kitty Kit in hand and after weeks of practice, it is time to drive to your ultimate destination.

Generally, cats are fine for around six hours in a crate before they need to be let loose for the litter box.

A disposable litter box works best because you can park your car at a rest stop, keep the doors closed, let the cat use the bathroom, then close the cat back into the crate and dispose of the dirty litter box. Never leave a cat unattended in a hot car.

If you have a harness, you can let your cat walk around on the leash for exercise, but be aware that they are probably stressed and might try to run away.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, keep your cat in the car or crate until you reach your hotel or destination each night. Your cat will also feel safer in the familiar confines of the car.

Stay relaxed and calm throughout the trip. Your cat can pick up on your feelings and if you act stressed, they are more likely to become stressed. You also should be prepared for your own needs.

According to Catster.com, when on a multi-day trip, locate pet-friendly hotels in advance and book rooms so you know exactly where you will be every night.

You also should make sure you have plenty of food for yourself since you will not be able to leave your cat alone in the car while you shop for groceries.

What if you are flying in an airplane?

For airline travel, much of the preparation will be the same. You will still need a sturdy, airline approved kennel, medical records, and a few favorite toys to help your cat stay as relaxed as possible during the flight.

Each airline will have its own rules and regulations for pet travel, so make sure to speak with them in advance and get as much in writing as you can, preferably via e-mail.

Obviously, there are certain risks to air travel. However, in a study by AirCargo World, the incidents are low compared to the hundreds of thousands of pets who safely fly by plane every year.

Most incidents occurred when the animals were older, had prior medical issues, or were in sub-standard crates which broke apart during transport.

That is why purchasing the right crate and checking with a veterinarian is so important.

How can I help my cat settle into its new home?

So, you have successfully crossed the country with your beloved Fluffy, and are now settled into your new home.

The final stage of a successful long distance move with your cat is to enjoy the destination together. Since cats are so routine-driven, the new territory will take getting used to.

The best thing to do is be understanding if your cat needs time to adjust and try to give your cat as many familiar hangouts as you can.

Some simple steps which you should do right away would be taking the time to set up their favorite cat condo or making an inviting spot in the sun on your balcony.

You should also keep as close to the old routine as possible, feeding at the same times of day and other habits to give them a sense of familiarity.

Summing It Up

Moving long distances with cats can be challenging, but with the right preparation and some groundwork, you can find success.

The most important thing is to be understanding of your cat’s feelings during the journey and find ways to lower their stress by preparing them in advance for long car rides, making sure their health and medicines are checked out by a vet, and investing in a quality kennel that will keep them safe en route.

Once you have made it to your new home, your cat will soon settle into a new routine and you can enjoy many happy adventures together in the years to come.

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