When we think of traveling with a pet, we usually picture a dog happily jumping into the car and drooling over his owner’s shoulder during the ride. Or we think of a calm, sleeping dog content in his carrier. The thought of a cat traveling to destinations unknown tends to conjure up an image of a scared, neurotic feline hissing through the gate of her carrier. Many dogs are comfortable traveling short and long distances but few cats are so inclined. So knowing what to pack to make your cat’s and your trip more palatable is essential.
Many cats don’t like to travel for several reasons, the main being that they are territorial creatures. Your cat has worked hard to establish his territory in your house and, when you move him from his kingdom, he thinks he is trespassing on another’s space. This puts your cat on guard and, at the same time, frightens him because he might have to defend this new territory at any time. Another drawback is the motion of a car, plane or train. A cat is designed to detect motion and the movement of the vehicle both confuses and disorients him. So, how can we make the trip less traumatic for our cats?
If you are prepared for your cat’s needs and choose the items that you take carefully, you can alleviate a lot of the anxiety for both of you. An unprepared traveler will find that his stress rises as he finds along the way that he does not have the tools to care for the traveling cat. And his stress will affect said feline.
1. Carrier: Some people opt for a special harness that secures to a seat belt, but we highly recommend you stick to a hard shell carrier when traveling with your cat. A secured carrier is the safer way for your cat to travel and, if you get her used to it slowly before the trip, she will feel safe and comfortable in it.
2. Harness: Do bring a harness so your cat can stretch his legs at rest stops along the way. Stop every couple of hours at least.
3. Carrier Pad: Use a pad that your cat has been sleeping on at home. Bring additional pads or towels in case your cat has an accident during the ride, which is more than likely to happen. Keeping your cat dry and comfortable is essential to curbing his anxiety.
4. Toys:Many cats will ignore anything you place in their carrier yet familiar toys still seem to help calm kitty. Often cats will just lie on them instead of actually playing, but you might get your cat to play with a dangling toy in the vehicle at a rest stop.
5. Pheromones: Using a feline pheromone mimic collar or spray can help your cat relax on the trip. These pheromones are naturally secreted when a cat rubs his face on something so that, on returning to the spot, he is familiar with the scent and finds it comforting. Feliway spray can be used on your cat’s bedding in his carrier or you can try a Good Behavior collar which creates a calming atmosphere for your cat anyplace.
6. Food and Water Supply: Calculate how much cat food you need to bring based on your cat’s daily consumption. Bring enough for the whole trip so you don’t possibly have to substitute a different brand at some point. It’s better not to feed your cat while you’re out on the road as it will likely just result in regurgitated food. Always bring more water than you think you’ll need. It’ll save you having to make stops just to get more. Offer it to your cat at every rest stop.
7. Bowls: There are many options for bringing along bowls for your cat – many people like the collapsible travel bowls but you can also get some that fit on the door of your cat’s carrier. Keep in mind that water will splash as you roll along so only fill it half-way.
8. Treats: Bring several kinds of treats along and offer them to your cat at the rest stops. Don’t be discouraged if she turns her nose up at them. After all, why should she trust something coming from the person who is putting her through this indignation? Leave a few in her carrier and she’ll probably eventually eat them.
9. Litter Box: For the rest stops it’s important to have a good little box system. The easiest place to put one when you stop is the floor of the passenger’s seat. Let your cat roam around the car when parked and gently show her the box if needed. Your best bet is to get several disposable boxes with litter already in them so you can toss them after she’s used them.
10. Medications and First Aid: It’s easy to forget any medications that your cat takes so throw these into your bag early on in packing. Also bring a first aid kit which can be purchased at any large pet store or make one yourself with the following: gauze, medical tape, hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin (or similar product), tweezers, scissors, towels, sterile saline solution.
Remember to pack your cat’s vet records when you travel in case you need to bring her to a clinic during the trip. You should also gather information about vet clinics along your route so you know where to take her if there is an emergency. Check out this website for emergency clinics across the country. Also make sure any hotels you book are cat-friendly well in advance.
With a little planning, a trip with your cat can be fun (or, at least, tolerable). And keep in mind that cats tend to recover very quickly once they’ve reached the destination and re-established their role as ruler of their kingdom.