If you don’t like the idea of leaving the furry members of your family in a cattery while you’re on vacation or relocating long distance, you’ll need to make sure you properly plan how to travel with a cat.
If you fail to prepare correctly, your journey can quickly descend into one full of stress and anxiety – both for you and your kitty. You need to consider a lot, but if you are organized, your trip with your cat can go smoothly.
How To Travel With a Cat in a Cat Carrier
However you’re planning on traveling with your cat, you’ll need a carrier – this is how you’ll keep your cat safe during the journey.
Cats will respond differently to travel. They may enjoy the sheltered experience of the carrier, or it could cause them to worry if they can’t see the surroundings since it means they can’t perceive threats. So a suitable carrier has areas a cat can see out of, but that can be covered up if your kitty needs some quiet time.
More importantly, a cat carrier should be large enough for your cat to fit inside comfortably. Make sure you buy one suited to your cat’s breed and individual size. If you’re on a long journey, you’ll also want one with space for a travel litterbox. After all, a cat can’t ask you to pull over during a drive, nor can they use the bathroom on a flight!
One of the biggest mistakes some cat owners can make with a cat carrier is waiting until the day of travel before introducing their cat to the carrier. Owners may sometimes assume that it’s best to minimize their time inside because a cat is unlikely to like the carrier.
That’s the worst thing you can do because if the carrier stresses out your cat, you’re putting them through that anxiety on the same day you’re making them travel with you.
Instead, if it’s a new carrier, ensure your cat has time to adjust to it. Leave it open in your home, and place some of your cat’s favorite items inside, so they’re inclined to explore and get used to it.
You could also use a pheromone spray like Feliway to help them adjust.
You may find that they enjoy climbing in and relaxing in a cozy spot, making your travel much easier on departure day.
It’s also a good idea to add comforting items to the carrier when you travel – a blanket from your cat’s bed or a favorite toy – so your feline friend feels more secure and relaxed on the trip.
Tips for Traveling With a Cat by Car
If you’re taking a road trip, you’ll want to ensure your cat is as comfortable as possible during the drive. There are some essential things to consider both before you set off and while driving.
Firstly, a long road trip should never be the first time your cat has been in your car. So if they have yet to experience driving, make sure you get them in their carrier and take them for some short trips first. Give them the experience of the smell of the car, the sights, and the movement as the car hums and vibrates.
Next, make sure the environment in your car is relaxing. This means carefully using the heater or air-con and ensuring you’re considerate with the radio. Don’t have music at a high volume, as it could distress your kitty.
Another thing which may upset them could be an air freshener. Cats often don’t like unusual scents, so if you use an air freshener in the car, consider removing it a few days before your long car journey and leaving the windows open as you drive to air out the smell before you take your cat into the vehicle.
On the day of travel, you’ll want to use a seatbelt to strap the carrier into place so it doesn’t slide around. And, of course, you should try to drive with consideration, avoiding cornering at speed or sudden braking. Put the carrier on the back seat so that you don’t get distracted by them while driving.
When it’s time for a rest stop, never let your cat out of the carrier if you have a window or door open. Even if your cat has seemed relatively calm, it may be quietly anxious, and it could bolt if presented with the chance. At a rest stop, cars and trucks moving around could be extremely dangerous.
But do still take the time to check on your cat during rest stops. Let them out if you’re happy to, and you know the car doors are closed. Give them cuddles, reassurance, and maybe a treat so they don’t feel too worried.
How To Travel With a Cat by Plane
If your journey with your cat is via plane, you won’t be able to do any ‘test runs’ as you would with a car trip. So instead, you’re just going to have to make sure your kitty is as comfortable as possible within their carrier.
You’ll take your cat on as a carry-on, and the carrier will sit at your feet in the cabin. It’s very rare for pets to travel in the cargo hold of an aircraft.
Depending on the airline’s rules, your cat carrier will probably replace your regular carry-on luggage allowance. However, do check, as airlines all have different policies.
The same applies to buying a ticket – typically, you’ll pay a fee for bringing a cat onboard a flight, but how much that is can vary. You may also be asked to pay this fee when you check in rather than when you purchase your flight ticket, though always check the policy of your specific airline.
Can You Cruise With a Cat?
Only one cruise line allows you to travel with your pet, and that is only on specific itineraries. The traditional British cruise company, Cunard Line, permits cats and dogs on Transatlantic sailings between New York City and Southampton in the UK.
The ships have their own pet area with 24 spacious kennels and an exercise area. There’s also an owner’s lounge where pet owners can spend some quality time with their feline as the sailing goes on – and bearing in mind a Transatlantic cruise takes around a week, you’ll want to visit them regularly to keep them from feeling lonely.
Remember that most pets taken on a Cunard cruise will be dogs, so if your cat isn’t too comfortable around dogs, you should avoid this travel option.
Finding Cat-friendly Accommodation
If you’re traveling for work or vacation, you will need to find accommodation for your trip, which will need to be pet-friendly if you’re bringing your cat along with you.
Not all accommodation welcomes pets, but depending on your destination, you should have some options available. Some chain hotels are willing to accept pets, and some motels too, but with apartments or B&Bs, it will depend on the owner.
Only book accommodation that advertises as welcoming pets on the assumption that your cat is calm and relaxed, and you can convince the owner if they try to refuse your entry.
Check websites such as booking.com and call the hotel to ensure they still accept pets. Some booking websites can be inaccurate or have outdated information. Airbnb is another option if you need accommodation that states pets are accepted.
General Tips for How To Travel With a Cat
It can be daunting to learn how to travel with a cat for the first time, and there are a few things you’ll always need to remember.
Firstly, don’t pack light; instead, make sure you have everything your kitty could need when you’re at your destination. You’ll want a bed for them, ideally with their blankets from home, so they’re used to the scent, or just a towel you’ve placed in their bed a week or so prior.
You’ll also want food and water bowls and a litter box with your cat’s usual litter – be sure to bring enough with you for the duration of your trip or know a place that sells it close to your accommodation.
Toys and treats can help your kitty feel more settled too. Taking a cat harness and leash can be a good idea if you let them out of the carrier to stretch their legs in a place where they aren’t too familiar.
You should have all your cat’s regular medications with you and your usual veterinarian’s contact details. Make sure you’ve scouted ahead to find a vet in your destination in case of emergencies.
Also, check whether there is a specific vaccination needed for the destination.
Avoid feeding your cat just before you depart for the drive or to the airport. This will help to minimize the need for a bathroom break and can stop your kitty from being sick while they travel.
Finally, if you’re traveling to another country, you’ll need to check the immigration policies for cats. You might need to complete a health certificate before you travel, getting the help of a veterinarian to prove your kitty is free from dangerous diseases.
Other countries may instead prefer to inspect your cat upon arrival, or quarantine regulations could be in place. Every country is different, but remember to check pet policies for returning home. Restrictions and rules can vary on a state level.
If you make sure that you’ve planned in advance for your cat’s comfort and spend time reassuring your cat throughout the trip, your journey with your cat will be successful.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.
Jenny is the founder of Floppycats.com, a website dedicated to uniting (Ragdoll) cat lovers worldwide. Since 2008, Jenny’s no bull-crap and honest approach to cat care helps cat owners live more harmoniously with their kitties.