Traveling with your Cat: Tips to Keep it Stress-free
As summer rapidly approaches, many of us are making travel arrangements for vacation and trying to figure out where our kitty will go while we’re away! While petsitting and boarding are certainly options, some people opt to take their kitty with them. Traveling with your pet, whether for vacation or due to a move, can be stressful for everyone involved, but with a few tips and some careful planning it can be done!
For long car trips:
Car travel can actually be easier for you and your feline friend for long trips. While generally speaking a lot of cats don’t like being in the car, you are able to control their comfort and environment more than you are with air travel. Here are a few tips for making the trip more pleasant:
– For safety, keep your cat in its carrier at all times. A panicky cat loose in the car can potentially cause an accident. Wiping the inside of the carrier with artificial pheromones such as Feliway might help make being confined easier on your kitty. If it’s a longer car trip – think more than 6 hours, you can try using a small dog crate or pet pop up tent in your back seat to allow room for a litter box and more comfortable bedding.
– Put the carrier in the back seat of the car. If an airbag goes off while the carrier is in the front seat, it could injure your feline friend.
– Secure the carrier properly by wrapping a seat beat around the front to minimize shifting or falling.
– Do not let your cat stick its heads out the window. Such behavior is extremely risky, as your cat can jump out when the car is stopped, can be injured by debris, or can get sick when hot or cold air is forced into its lungs.
– Let your feline friend out for walks/rest stops, but only if it accepts being put on a leash. Make sure you test this out at home and not for the first time on your trip. Do not let it roam free in unfamiliar places.
– Never leave your cat alone in the car. A car can heat up very quickly in the summer and drop below freezing in the winter, and both can cause irreversible damage to your cat. And you might also be issuing an unspoken invitation to pet thieves!
Though traveling by car is always preferable to flying simply because you’re more in control for your cat, there are times when a plane trip is unavoidable. If you find yourself in such a situation, here are some tips to make air travel safer for your cat:
– If you are allowed, ALWAYS opt to bring your cat in the cabin with you. Flying in the cargo hold can dangerous due to stress, as well as the abnormal temperatures and air pressures. In addition, many felines get lost or injured during the loading and unloading process. Putting your cat below the plane also limits your travel options, as certain times of year are too hot or too cold to allow animals to be put in cargo. Fortunately, most airlines will allow you to travel with your cat on board for an additional fee. But be sure to call the airline well in advance to reserve a spot. Only a limited number of animals are generally allowed in the cabin on each flight.
– Check whether the airline has any special health and or immunization requirements. If so, contact your veterinarian to get the required paperwork.
– Use a soft-sided carrier if possible, as they are more comfortable for your cat. Before traveling, though, verify that the airline allows the brand that you have. Not all soft-sided carriers are allowed inside the cabin and there are typically very specific requirements.
If you do have to put your cat in the cargo hold:
– Take direct flights if at all possible. The more transfers on your itinerary, the more opportunities there are for your kitty to get lost. Similarly, try to avoid traveling around holidays, as the added flights and extra baggage increase the risk that your cat gets lost or injured.
– Try to watch your cat being loaded and unloaded into the hold to ensure that you both are on the same flight. Also, notify a flight attendant and the captain when you board the plane. If they know that there is an animal on the flight, special precautions might be taken – it certainly won’t hurt.
– Take early morning or late evening flights in the summer and afternoon flights in the winter to minimize the risk of temperature-related problems.
– Make sure that your cat’s collar can’t get caught in the carrier door. Add to it a permanent ID with your information and a temporary travel ID with the address of your destination. Put the same information on a travel label and affix it to the outside of the carrier.
– Clip your cat’s claws to keep it from scratching itself.
– Do not medicate your cat prior to travel unless under the direction of a veterinarian.
– Feed your cat no less than six hours before the flight to avoid sickness. Putting ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of its crate will ensure that it has sufficient water throughout the flight. Contact your airline for specific requirements as these can vary.
– Before traveling, have your cat microchipped for extra security. Keep a copy of the chip number and recent photographs with you in case your cat is lost during travel.
– When you arrive at your destination, open the crate and examine your feline friend. If your cat is acting unusual or doesn’t feel well, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Before embarking on a journey with your cat, contact your veterinarian for any other helpful suggestions. It’s also important to obtain a copy of your cat’s medical history in case you need to see a different vet while you’re away. Remember to contact your airline directly for specific information regarding what paperwork and vaccinations will be required for your flight. Additionally, if you are traveling by car between states, you will still need verification of vaccinations and a domestic health certificate from your veterinarian.
Wherever your destination, make sure you know the closest veterinarian office’s contact information and 24 hour emergency center just in case you cat has any issues while you’re on your trip. Keep a copy of any pertinent medical history with you as well.
Whether you travel by car or by air, make sure to set up a quiet and comfortable space for your cat as soon as you arrive to give them time to adjust. Make sure they have access to food, water, a litterbox and a comfy place to sleep in an area that’s quiet. Bring a blanket or something that smells like home to place in that area as well to help them associate it with home. You can also use a Feliway plug in or spray to help make the space feel safe and comfortable for them. With any luck, you and your cat will be vacationing together like pros!