Traveling With Your Cat

Most cat owners know how hard it can be to take a cat on a short car ride to the vet’s office. Once you’ve convinced your kitty to get in the cat carrier, there’s generally a lot of meowing and hissing until the trip is over.

While short trips can be stressful for both you and your cat, long trips can be even worse. Luckily, however, there are a few steps you can take to make traveling with your cat as easy as possible.

Before You Travel with Your Cat

Before taking your cat on a trip, ask yourself if your cat will be happy and comfortable as you travel. If the answer isn’t a definite “yes,” consider leaving your pet with a friend, family member or cat sitter. Many veterinarians also offer boarding for cats in their offices.

Cat Travel Accessories

Before traveling with your cat, you’ll need to arm yourself with the proper travel accessories. To travel with your cat, you’ll need the following:

  • a leash
  • a disposable litter box and litter, if you will be traveling for an extended period of time or staying in a hotel
  • any necessary medication
  • cat carrier that is clearly labeled with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address
  • cat collar that shows the cat’s name and your name and contact information
  • dry food packed in small plastic bags
  • two small bowls, one for food and one for water
  • water bottles
  • wet food, if necessary
  • your vet’s contact information, in case of an emergency.

Sedation and Tranquilizers for Travel

Some people think using a sedative or tranquilizer prior to travel will calm a cat and make him less stressed. However, many experts believe that these medications can be dangerous, as they interfere with a cat’s ability to balance, increasing his risk of injury when his carrier is moved.

Also, air travel requires increases in altitude, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems in medicated cats.

Always talk to your vet before giving your cat any medication prior to travel.

Cats in the Car

When traveling with your cat in a car, you should keep him in a cat carrier at all times. This will not only keep him safe, but will also keep the driver from getting distracted. Also, it’s a good idea to secure the carrier with a seatbelt so that it doesn’t shift while you are driving.

Most of the time, your cat will meow or hiss for a while before falling asleep in his carrier. To make him as comfortable as possible, place his favorite blanket in the carrier.

If you will be in the car for a long time, make sure to stop frequently to offer your cat water and food. Also, allow him to visit his litter box to avoid any accidents. To keep your cat from escaping from the car, keep him in his carrier as much as possible and avoid opening the windows or doors when your cat isn’t in his carrier.

You should never leave your cat in a parked car for an extended period of time, especially on a hot day. A cat can overheat and die quickly in a hot car. If you must leave your cat in the car for a brief period of time, make sure to crack the windows to provide ventilation and keep your cat in his carrier. Also, keep all the doors locked.

Cats on an Airplane

Before taking your cat on an airplane, call the airline to learn its policy on traveling with cats. While some won’t allow pets on the aircraft, most airplanes will allow cats in approved carriers either in the passenger area or the cargo hold. Before flying, make sure that your cat’s carrier is approved for travel with the airline with which you will be flying.

If possible, reserve a spot for your cat in the passenger area. This will allow you to monitor your cat’s condition and provide him with reassurance. If your cat must fly in the cargo area, contact the airline in advance to make sure your cat will be in a pressurized area of the airplane. If the cargo hold isn’t pressurized, your cat could be exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures.

To keep your cat as happy and safe as possible, book a flight with as few stops as possible. Also, be sure to have your cat’s current vaccination records, as some airlines will ask to see it before allowing the cat on the plane.

Finding Cat-Friendly Hotels

If your travel plans require a hotel stay, call the hotel in advance to find out if it is a pet-friendly hotel. While some hotels will accept feline guests, others will not. Also, it is important to note that some hotels will require a deposit in order for your cat to stay. Most of the time, this deposit will be returned at the end of your stay if the room is in good condition.

When staying at a hotel, it is a good idea to keep your cat confined when you are not in the room. This will prevent him from escaping if hotel staff enters the room to clean, replace linens, etc. To give your cat plenty of space, consider investing in a small wire crate, often used for dogs, or a lightweight pet tent or collapsible shelter. You can find these items at many pet stores.

To keep your cat as comfortable as possible, place a blanket, toys, food, water and a litter box in his cage or tent when you are out of the room.