Traveling with your beloved cat can be both exciting and challenging. Whether you’re taking a short trip to the vet or embarking on a cross-country adventure, it’s important to ensure your feline companion’s comfort and safety throughout the journey. Here, we will provide you with valuable insights on how to make your travels with your cat as enjoyable as possible.
Traveling with Your Cat in a Car: A Cozy Ride
When it comes to traveling short distances with your cat, be it a car ride or public transportation, the principles remain the same. To ensure a smooth journey, invest in a travel cat crate or a soft-sided carrier that will provide both comfort and security to your feline friend. Soft carriers with shoulder straps are particularly convenient as they make transportation easier. On the other hand, travel crates offer more space, although they can be bulkier and heavier.
For short trips, there’s no need to worry about setting up a litter box or providing food and water. In fact, it’s best for your cat not to eat or drink before or during the car ride, as the motion and anxiety can upset their stomachs. Remember to always crate your kitty when you travel to ensure their safety and to keep them from disturbing you while driving. Placing the carrier near you or a family member, where they can see you, will provide reassurance during what can be a stressful experience for them.
Traveling with Your Cat by Air: An Elevated Adventure
Before you embark on an airborne journey with your cat, it’s essential to check with your airline regarding their specific regulations. In many cases, your furry friend can travel in the plane cabin with you, fitting snugly underneath the seat. To comply with airline cabin baggage specifications, opt for a carrier that is soft-sided, as they are usually more suitable.
Inform the airline in advance about your plans to travel with your cat and pay any necessary additional fees. Contrary to what you might expect, cats often adapt well to flying due to their ability to naturally relax within the carrier. The drone of the engines can even lull them into peaceful slumber, much like humans. Additionally, certain airlines may require proof of vaccinations and a “fitness for travel” certificate from your veterinarian, so it’s always good to double-check their specific requirements.
Traveling Long Distance or Across Country with Your Cat: A Well-Prepared Journey
Traveling longer distances or embarking on cross-country adventures with your furry friend requires some additional considerations. Let’s explore how you can make the experience more pleasant for both of you.
Kitty’s Toileting While Traveling
If you have enough space in your vehicle, consider getting a large cat travel crate with a litter box or placing a smaller litter box inside your existing larger plastic crate. Choosing an odor-absorbing litter will help create a more pleasant environment for your cat and fellow travelers. In case a larger crate with a litter box is not feasible, line the bottom of the crate with disposable, absorbent puppy training pads. Bring extra pads, cleaning wipes, plastic bags, and paper towels for any cleaning emergencies or accidents that may occur.
Kitty’s Identification and Certification
To ensure your cat’s safety during travel, take the necessary steps to prevent them from getting lost. If your cat isn’t already microchipped, it’s advisable to make an appointment to get that done before your trip. Additionally, your cat should wear a collar with an ID tag or a secure harness with ID information. Attach a luggage tag containing your contact information to the carrier for added precaution. It’s also advisable to carry a copy of your cat’s medical information, including vaccination certifications and recent lab work results, as well as any necessary medications.
Verify that Your Accommodation Allows Cats
Before setting off on your adventure, ensure that your overnight accommodations are cat-friendly. Booking ahead will save you from unnecessary stress and ensure your furry friend has a comfortable place to roam, eat, drink, use the litter box, and snuggle up with you for some well-deserved rest. Remember to bring extra trash bags for litter disposal and be prepared to pay any necessary pet deposit fees.
Kitty’s Comfort Items: Bringing Home on the Road
Traveling can be a strange experience for both cats and humans. To help your cat feel more at ease, consider the following suggestions:
- Place their favorite blanket or cat bed in the carrier or bring it along to your destination.
- Pack their usual treats and wet and/or dry food to maintain familiarity during the trip.
- Bring their regular cat litter to fill the litter box at your destination.
- If possible, take their food and water bowls, ensuring they are unbreakable.
Creating a Larger Space for Your Cat
If you’re traveling in a station wagon, hatchback, or SUV, you can transform the back area into a cozy cat space. This setup allows your cat to be outside of the crate, providing more comfort during longer journeys. Set up a litter box, a cat bed, and, if your cat is accustomed to it, some food and water. However, it’s crucial to install a barrier such as netting, a baby gate, or a commercial car divider to prevent your cat from roaming the entire vehicle or interfering with your driving.
While crating your cat for travel is generally considered the safest option, it may be challenging for them during extended periods. If your cat shows signs of discomfort, such as excessive meowing or restlessness, consider finding a compromise that ensures their well-being while still keeping them confined to a designated area.
Acclimating Your Cat to Travel: A Positive Approach
If you plan to travel frequently with your cat, it’s advisable to train them to enjoy or at least tolerate the experience. While it’s easier to acclimate cats to travel when they are kittens, it’s never too late to start. Follow these steps to help your cat become a seasoned traveler:
- Introduce the cat carrier to your home with the door open, allowing your cat to explore and familiarize themselves with it.
- Make the carrier an appealing and comfortable space by adding soft bedding, toys, or treats.
- Gradually close the carrier door while your cat is inside, and take them for short walks around the house. This will help your cat get used to the sensation of being transported.
- Once your cat is comfortable being carried in the carrier, introduce the car. Start by placing your cat on the front seat, ensuring they can see you. Idle the car for a few minutes to familiarize your cat with the sound and vibrations before progressing to short trips.
- Take your cat on their first car ride, starting with a brief excursion. Observe their comfort level and gradually increase the duration of the trips. Always reward them with praise, cuddles, playtime, and treats to reinforce positive associations with travel.
Calming Your Cat for Travel: A Soothing Experience
Before embarking on any journey, consult your veterinarian for advice on calming your cat, especially if they tend to be nervous or anxious. Here are some strategies to help alleviate your cat’s stress during travel:
- Consider using pheromone sprays or wipes, such as Feliway®, to create a more welcoming environment in the cat carrier.
- Try using a pheromone calming collar to help reduce anxiety. Introduce the collar to your cat before your trip to allow them to acclimate to it.
- Some cats find comfort in wearing a swaddling shirt like a Thundershirt®, which provides a sense of security.
- Look for calming cat food or treats that contain tryptophan, which can help induce sleepiness.
- In certain cases, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for your cat. Test the medication at home before traveling to ensure your cat’s well-being.
Making a Plan: Enjoying the Journey Together
Traveling with your cat can be an incredibly rewarding experience if you plan ahead. If you have multiple cats and they get along, consider using a larger carrier where they can travel together. Alternatively, provide separate carriers for each cat to accommodate their individual preferences or logistical constraints.
Remember to gather all the necessary supplies, including suitable food, required documents, the right crate, and an ample supply of litter, before you embark on your adventure. By doing so, you’ll ensure your cat’s satisfaction and contribute to their role as an ideal travel companion.
Traveling with your feline friend opens up a world of possibilities. Enjoy the journey and cherish the memories you’ll create together!
* For public transportation in the United States, most buses do not allow cats or dogs, with the exception of service animals. However, cats are permitted on subways in several US cities, such as New York and San Francisco, as long as they remain in carriers. On Amtrak trains, cats and dogs weighing under 20 lbs. and in carriers that fit under the seat are allowed. It’s important to check the regulations of your local public transportation before traveling with your cat.
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