Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Summer is a prime time for vacation getaways. But what about your cat? Can he come along and enjoy the family vacation, too? Or would he be better off staying at home? While your cat may love to be with you, traveling to strange new places can stress him out, possibly resulting in illness or behavior problems during and after the trip.
If you are traveling for a week or less, leaving him at home and having a pet sitter visit daily would be better for him. However, if you are going away for a few weeks or perhaps for the entire summer, then of course you would want to bring your beloved feline friend along. Here are some tips to keep in mind when considering cat travel.
Kittens are bold by nature, and young adult cats are adaptable. So if you have a kitten or young cat, you may have a minimal amount of feline stress to worry about. Adult cats who tend to be naturally playful and inquisitive may also handle the trip well.
However, if you have a cat who is socially awkward, jumpy about everything and shy around new people, or who tends to act aggressive when under stress, then taking him along on a trip would probably be difficult.
Before embarking on any long trip with your cat, get him used to being in his carrier and to the movement of a car ride. Short car rides can help your cat feel less anxious about being inside the carrier, once he sees he will eventually be let out.
Label the carrier with your name and cell phone number, in case your cat gets lost during your journey. This is especially important if you are flying and get separated at the security checkpoint or baggage area.
If your cat hasn’t already been microchipped, now is the time to consider it. Also, get him accustomed to wearing a collar and tag if he doesn’t already do so. Like the carrier, the tag should include your name and cell phone number, making you immediately reachable should your cat become separated from you during the trip or run off once you get to your destination. You might also want to get your cat accustomed to wearing a harness and walking on a leash. Some cats really enjoy this, and it is a great way to let your cat get some activity and exercise during a long car trip.
Take your cat to his veterinarian for a checkup shortly before your vacation. At that time, obtain a set of his medical records to bring them along on your travels.
While you’re driving or flying to your vacation destination, feed your cat only in the evenings, after you finish traveling for the day. This cuts down on potential motion sickness issues, and it shouldn’t hurt him to miss breakfast for a day or two. See that your cat drinks water and stays hydrated. Adding some herbal calming essences to his water might help him stay relaxed. Use of a pheromone spray or plug-in while at your evening resting place and at your final destination might also help keep your cat calm.
While traveling, keep the cat carrier closed and secure at all times. If you’re driving and need to open the carrier to snap on a leash, clean up a mess, or give your cat some reassurance, do so with all the car doors shut and locked and all the windows closed to prevent an accidental cat escape.
If you are flying, use an airline-approved carrier, and confirm with your airline ahead of time that pets are allowed to travel aboard the plane stowed under your seat. Avoid putting your cat in the luggage area under the plane if possible.
Hurrah! You have finally arrived at your vacation spot, and the hardest part is over. It’s time to get your cat acquainted with the new surroundings so he can begin to enjoy his vacation.
Start by putting his carrier in a small room, such as a bathroom, to get him acclimated to the new sights and smells slowly without feeling overwhelmed. Check for potential escape hazards, such as loose screens and open windows or doors.
Encourage your cat to come out of the carrier by speaking calmly and offering some of his favorite goodies. Let him explore at his own pace.
If you were able to pack some of your cat’s things, such as his cat bed, toys, and cat dishes, this can help him acclimate to his new surroundings quicker. Things from home already smell like him, providing him with a sense of security. Offer him the same brand of cat food you feed him at home, and if your cat has a sensitive tummy, consider giving him bottled water or using a filtered water pitcher.
It won’t take long before your cat is blissfully snoozing in your lap, happy to be sharing this special time with you. Cats like to be wherever you are. As long as you’re together, that’s enough to make your cat purr with joy.
About the author: Rita Reimers’ cat behavior counseling sessions have helped many kitties remain happy in their forever homes. Visit her website, the Cat Analyst, to learn more about her services and to read her cat behavior blog. Rita is also owner/ CEO of Just For Cats Pet Sitting . Connect with Rita on Facebook and Twitter.