I love trains. No, you don’t understand: I really freaking love trains. I haven’t had as much opportunity to ride trains as I’d like, but every single excursion has been an awesome experience.
Now, Amtrak is launching a pilot program on some of its Chicago routes to allow cats and dogs under 20 pounds to ride in passenger cars, similar to the way pets are allowed to ride in planes. The Carry-On Pet Pilot Program started May 5 and runs through Nov. 2. If the program is successful, the rail line will launch the program nationwide.
What does that mean for us? Well, if you’re like me and you’d love to have the chance to do some long-distance travel with your cat, but you have a justifiable fear about flying with your feline friend, you may be able to keep your feet on the ground and enjoy a scenic and awesome voyage.
Amtrak has always allowed service animals on trains for free, but this is the first time the railroad is allowing pets. There is an extra fee of $25 per travel segment for bringing your cat, and only one cat per passenger will be allowed.
The only routes currently accepting furry passengers are Illinois routes that originate in Chicago, Naperville, and Galesburg. No more than four pets can travel per train, so if you want to bring your cat, call ahead to make a reservation.
As with airline travel, pets and carriers together need to weigh less than 20 pounds, and the carrier does count as a carry-on bag. The carrier needs to fit under the seat in front of you, and the pet needs to not stink and not be disruptive to fellow travelers.
Can you imagine being able to sit in a comfortable train seat, watching the world go by as some great music plays through your headphones, knowing that your cat is safe in front of you and she doesn’t have to suffer the trauma of changes in altitude and air pressure? Can you imagine being able to breathe fresh air while traveling instead of the gazllions-of-times-recycled air in a flying tin can?
I’m hoping like crazy that the program is a success, because I’d love to be able to take a trip to, say, the BlogPaws conference, with one of my cats.
For the full details about the Carry-On Pet Pilot Program, visit Amtrak’s website.
Amtrak has been struggling financially for many years, but if this pet program goes nationwide, it could do a lot to help the railroad get back in the black. Speaking personally, even if the cost of a train ticket is higher than the cost of a plane ticket to the same destination, I’d gladly pay the extra price to be able to travel safely with my cat. I’m sure I’m not the only pet lover who feels the same way!
What do you think? Would you "train" your cats if you had the chance? If so, maybe we should get a huge coalition of people to sign a petition to Amtrak encouraging them to allow pets on all their train routes. Let me know what you think in the comments!
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.