Cats are typically homebodies, but they can learn to enjoy travel, or at least tolerate the experience. If you want to take your cat on your next trip, a few preparations will ensure they remain content during the adventure. Our team at Just Cats Clinic offers these tips to make travel with your cat stress-free.
#1: Acclimate your cat to their carrier
For their safety and yours, your cat should remain in a carrier while in a moving vehicle. Before the trip, encourage your cat to spend time in their carrier, so they identify the carrier as a safe zone. Acclimate your cat to their carrier by following these suggestions:
- Introduce the carrier to their environment — Place the carrier where your cat comfortably spends most of their time, and if possible, always keep the carrier accessible. To ensure your cat continues to eat and appropriately use their litter box, place the frightening new object away from your cat’s food dish and litter box.
- Make the carrier an inviting place — Make the carrier a comfort zone by putting your recently worn clothing or your cat’s favorite blanket inside. You can also spray the items with Feliway to help send positive, calming pheromone messages. Another way to entice your cat to explore this unfamiliar object is by placing treats and toys in the carrier, as well as catnip, if your cat is responsive.
- Do not disturb your cat — Most cats will start to associate the carrier as a safe zone and may settle in for a nap. To validate their feelings of security, do not disturb or startle your cat when they are sleeping in the carrier.
#2: Acclimate your cat to the vehicle
Help your cat become accustomed to being in the vehicle well before your trip. A vehicle acclimation process is time-consuming, but the results are worth it. The steps include:
- Introduce your cat to the vehicle — When the temperature is not too hot or too cold, put your cat inside their carrier, and place them in the vehicle’s safest place—secured to the seat or on the floor. Sit in the vehicle with your cat for several minutes, and feel free to pet them, give them treats, and play with them.
- Rev your vehicle’s engine — With your vehicle outside, gently rev the engine and determine how the vibrations affect your cat. In addition, turn on the radio at a low level to see how various noises affect them.
- Take a short trip — If your cat has remained calm after sitting in the vehicle and feeling the engine’s vibrations, take them on a short trip around the block, gradually increasing the driving distance as long as they remain calm. If possible, include a driving companion who can comfort your cat during these drives. Continue practicing every day or so for several weeks to ensure your cat becomes fully acclimated to riding in the vehicle.
#3: Ensure your cat is healthy for the trip
Traveling is stressful for cats, and you should ensure they are healthy for the trip. When you begin your travel planning, schedule your cat’s wellness exam with Just Cats Clinic so we can evaluate them from nose to tail to ensure they are travel-ready. If you are crossing state lines, you will need your cat’s health certificate dated within 30 days of departure. If you are planning to bring your cat on a flight, remember that some airlines stipulate that the health certificate be dated within 10 days of departure. If your cat is likely to become stressed during travel, we can also discuss calming medications, such as gabapentin, to help them relax during the trip.
#4: Ensure your cat carries your contact information
Despite your best efforts, your cat can get lost while you are traveling together. Ensure your cat has your current contact information, especially your cell phone number, so the person who finds them can easily and quickly reach you. Your cat’s best permanent identification is a microchip that includes your up-to-date contact information filed with the microchip registry. In addition, your cat should wear a collar and tag that includes their name and your current contact information.
#5: Bring your cat’s litter box
Cats can be particular about their litter box, and being in a strange place may make them less inclined to use an unfamiliar litter box. Bringing their home litter box on the trip encourages them to do their business appropriately in a familiar box. If you are taking a road trip, ensure your cat has the opportunity to relieve themself regularly by stopping every two or three hours and letting them out of their carrier to access their litter box inside the vehicle. Remember to always keep the vehicle’s doors and windows closed when your cat is out of the carrier.
#6: Pack your cat’s familiar and necessary supplies
In addition to their litter box, your cat will need other supplies to ensure they are comfortable during the trip. Items to pack include:
- Food — Bring your cat’s usual food to help them avoid gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.
- Water — Bring water in the vehicle, and stop frequently to offer your cat a drink.
- Bowls — Bring food and water bowls to ensure you can easily serve your cat.
- Litter — Bring extra litter to keep your cat’s litter box clean and fresh.
- Scoop and plastic bags — Bring a litter scoop and plastic bags to easily clean their box.
- Toys — Bring your cat’s favorite toys to keep them entertained during the trip.
- Treats — Bring your cat’s favorite treats, and offer them frequently to help make the traveling experience positive.
- Cleaning supplies — Bring cleaning supplies in case your cat vomits or has a litter box mishap.
- Pet first aid kit — Bring a pet first aid kit in case your cat has an emergency.
#7: Identify appropriate veterinarians along the route and at your destination
If your cat needs emergency veterinary attention, you do not want to lose precious time trying to locate an appropriate veterinarian. Before you leave home, find veterinarians and 24-hour emergency clinics along the route and at your final destination. Keep their contact information handy.
Before leaving on a trip with your cat, make the necessary preparations to ensure traveling will be stress-free, and contact our Just Cats Clinic team so we can evaluate your cat’s health, and ensure they are travel-ready.