Cat Travel Tips
Cats traditionally do not love to travel, although there will be some exceptions as cats are very individualistic and they love proving their humans wrong. Learning how to travel with your cat means learning how you can best adapt new environments to be safe, at best, and as familiar as possible.
Air Travel For Your Cat:
Most major airlines will accept cats as passengers. Cats under 15 lbs. can travel in the cabin. Larger cats or pairs of cats must be booked in cargo in larger traveling cat carriers and there are some seasonal restrictions. When booking your flight, book your cat as well and be sure to get a locator number associated with your seat for your cat. This is an important security precaution. It is better for your cat to fly a short distance for his first flight.
To ask a cat to travel in a carrier or a cargo crate for eight hours the first time is asking a great deal. Make sure your cat enters the airport having had a final visit to the litter box and carry all rabies and other pertinent inoculation information with you. Various requirements exist for each airline and for various countries. Please check these before planning your trip so air travel with your pet will go smoothly.
(For some destinations in the United States, Pet Airways' represents a new trend in traveling cat airlines and its limited flight schedule could help you to fly a pair of cats or a very noisy cat in relatively more comfort in cabin in a special carrier and among exclusively animal passengers attended by a human. You will have to meet your pet at the airport in the end destination.)
Read more about cat air travel.
Cats do not usually enjoy car trips. Minimize stress by making a comfortable travel nest for your cat in an approved traveling cat carrier that is either seatbelted-in or secured on the floor of the rear seat, away from excessively hot and cold ducts. That way kitty is safe, and you are not distracted by a roaming cat under the brake pedal. Do not leave your cat unattended in the car for long and be sure to crack the windows when you pop into the rest station briefly on a hot day.
Read more about car travel with cats.
Most travel resources list which hotels accept pets. You will also find a "pets accepted" symbol on the homepages of many major hotels. When checking into those hotels, be sure to tell the desk you have your cat. Many hotels provide bowls and snacks for cats. Some even have sitting services. And many offer a "pet in room" door tag to let maids know not to leave the door open so your pet can not wander out. For cats, to keep them safe and secure, you should bring a sturdy, safe traveling cat crate. Be careful to choose a traveling crate with a high safety rating so your cat does not harm himself if he tries to wiggle out. Make sure there is room for the litter box and food to be separate. A crate with sides so litter cannot be kicked out makes for a congenial relationship with the cleaning staff.
Read more about cat friendly hotels.
Food And Facilities:
Bring your cat's customary food. Use bottled water, even in developed areas as tap water can contain chlorine at levels that could cause diarrhea. You will have to pack a litter box and litter. Consider bringing only a small amount of litter and then re-supplying locally. An enclosed litter box system is best.
Most cats find the displacement of travel very unsettling. While you might be able to trust your cat at home on a balcony or with walks outside, you should not trust your cat similarly when away from home. Hotel balconies are very dangerous; keep your cat off them. Encounters with local stray cats could be catastrophic. Keep your cat inside. If your cat bolts, he will have great trouble finding his way back to the hotel, and, in fact, he may not even want to.
Always remember to put your contact name and local number and address (the hotel) on your dog's collar, affixing it with a temporary tag and a waterproof pen. Then, if your cat strays locally, you can be locally located. Change the tag as you move about from destination to destination. In your end destination, locate and jot down the contact number of a local vet and animal emergency service, just in case.
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, "The Journey of the Shih Tzu," Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
Getting a Cat Into a Carrier
We put our cat's food bowl inside the carrier. Also, include a towel you have used on your wet hair. They like the scent of their humans.
~Christina W., owner of Siamese mix
How to Trick Your Cat Into Her Carrier
Catch your cat in a big towel and wrap her up in it so that she is bundled. It will save you on scratches, and stops her from grabbing the outside of the carrier door like an octopus!
~Amanda C., owner of Tonkinese
How to Travel with Your Cat
Check with the airlines to find one that will allow you to take a pet in the cabin with you. I just did that with US Airways from Las Vegas to Sacramento with my cat, Minxy. They charged me $100 for Minxy and she had be in a small carrier that would fit under the seat.
I upgraded to 1st class for $50 at the airport so there was a bit more room. One thing to be aware of is that when you go through the security checks you have to take your pet out of the carrier and walk through the metal detector with them. If your cat is at all skittish get her in a cat leash harness so you can hang onto her if she wriggles.
I also brought my cats with me from the UK to the US. They had to go cargo on a transatlantic flight. If you have to do this get a direct flight so they don't have to wait around in the heat.
~Lisa D., owner of Domestic Shorthair
How to Calm Your Cat on a Plane
We now give our cat children's Benadryl for car rides because he gets car sick. I'd ask your vet to recommend an appropriate dosage of Benadryl and try that first (do ask your vet, mine said that certain types of Benadryl are not safe for cats). If you do decide to go with any kind of meds, you need to test them out ahead of time, when you're home with access to a vet just to make sure that she doesn't respond abnormally.
~Kelly H., owner of American Shorthair
Where to Get Tranqulizers for Air Travel
I would definitely get tranquilizers from the vet as opposed to one from the pet store because pet store stuff usually isn't strong enough and sometimes the all-natural stuff can be harmful if the dosage is wrong. Will your cat be flying in the luggage area? If so, I think a tranquilizer is necessary because the luggage area is loud and noisy and sometimes very cold and dangerous. The atmosphere is not as well regulated as the cabin. If at all possible, I'd see if you can have Kitty be your "carry-on" luggage because there have been several pet deaths for pets kept in the luggage area (poor air in area, bad handling from workers, shock or fear tumbling around in the area during turbulence, simply getting lost just like luggage does). If she's riding in the cabin a calming agent or mild sedative would be good but I think that's all.
~Calindy M., owner of Domestic Shorthair
Tips for Air Travel with Your Cat
You will have to take your cat out of the carrier to pass through the x-ray machine. I would definitely get her a harness and leash so you can do that safely. You don't want her getting freaked out and escaping in a crowded airport.
Continental has a great pet transport policy that I know many breeders use but I don't know if they fly to wherever you are going. I would check with the airlines on what type of carrier would be approved to bring on the plane with you and what health certificates that they and the country that you are traveling to would require for her to enter.
~Sandy N., owner of Persian
Before Taking a Road Trip with Kitty
It's hard to believe, but most cats are homebodies. They don't need getaways like we do. I would worry that your kitty may inadvertently escape, and being far from home, not know how to get back to you and safety. Having said that, if you really want to bring her along, it's certainly better than leaving her at home alone with a few bowls of food and water. I would absolutely have her microchipped before you go. It's not that expensive and your cat can be identified and returned to you if she does get out. While you do that, make sure she's up-to-date on all her vaccinations including and especially rabies. And, of course, if she's not spayed, she should be before you go.
~Joy W., owner of Maine Coon mix
Easing a Cat's Travel Anxiety
I would suggest talking to your vet about giving your cat something to ease his anxiety while traveling. If he is more relaxed, your trip will be less stressful for you both. Try using the meds at home a few days prior to your trip to ensure your cat has no ill effects from it. Make sure you have enough for a trial run, for the trip and back if needed.
I would also suggest using a wire dog crate instead of your typical cat carrier. Your cat will be able to see what’s going on and a comfy bed could easily be placed inside. I would avoid food, this may cause car sickness. Offering water along the way would be fine, but I wouldn't be surprised if he declines. A small litter box could also be placed inside but if he is stressed, he may not even use it. A harness and leash would be great for quiet rest stops. Get him used to the harness before your trip. Having his harness on during the trip will allow you to easily attach the leash. Make sure all doors and windows are shut before opening the crate and attempting to put the leash on.
Prepare him for the trip beforehand. Place him in the crate, take him out and sit in the car without it running for a few minutes, do this a few times. Then try sitting there with the car running. Then drive around the block and gradually make your trips a little longer. To get him used to the crate at home, put some yummy treats inside; get him to associate the crate with good stuff.
~Kathy L., owner of Siamese
Getting Kitty Used to the Carrier for Car Travel
Leave the carrier out in your house with the door open. If she sees that the carrier can be a "safe" place your cat will do better. You can try using some Rescue Remedy for her (you put some drops in their water dish). Also spraying some in the carrier (with the cat out of it) and also in the car may help as well. Tranquilizers often have the opposite effect on cats. You can also try getting her more comfortable with going into her carrier by placing a favorite treat, or wet food inside it and let her eat it at her leisure. Don't lock her up inside it when you feed the food/treats though.
As far as carriers, I used a small dog/large cat kennel for mine. Some cats like more room and some like a smaller space. They should have room to turn around. It is also best to not feed/water your cat right before leaving. Also, see if she responds better to being on one side of the car or the other. It sounds crazy, but my cat does not cry as much when he cannot see me vs. when he can.
~Ellie C., owner of Domestic Shorthair