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So You Want to Transport a Cat? Here's How in Four Easy Steps

Your dream kitty is in a shelter halfway across the country. Here's how to get him home to you.

 |  Apr 19th 2013  |   13 Contributions


You see tons of cats on Facebook. They all need homes, and they’re all urgent. You share the photos and hope the best for them.

And there you see that one. The One. For some reason, he tugs at your heartstrings and you can’t get him out of your head. You immediately know you want him to be part of your family, and you have to help him –- but he’s in a kill shelter halfway across the country and only has a couple days left.

What do you do? Here's our guide to transporting cats across the country.

You never know when you'll see The One. (Blackjack here is already adopted, by the way.)

1. Contact the shelter and local rescues

The first step is to call and email the shelter where the cat is located. Tell them right away that you’re interested in the kitty, because this may buy him some time. Ask them if they work with any local rescues who may be able to help you pull him from the shelter and work out temporary foster placement while you arrange transport.

Also, look up some rescues on your own. When you find a good prospect, let them know that you want to adopt the kitty, but are out of the area and need help. They will hopefully be willing to work with you to get the cat out safe.

2. Prepare the kitty for travel

Now, two things need to happen: You need to find drivers to help get your new kitty home, and your future kitty needs to see a vet and get some of the necessary vetting in order to be able to travel. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as plopping them in a car and riding off into the sunset.

Hey, can we get this show on the road already?

If a rescue pulls the cat, you are technically adopting from that rescue, so they may ask you to fill out an adoption form. Then, once the cat is out safe, he’ll need to see a vet. You’ll want him to have some basic tests and rabies shots, and to be neutered (many rescues require this for adoption, period). There are usually low-cost options for all of this. The rescue will have to help get your kitty ready for you.

Also, in order to travel, pets need health certificates. This is a document provided by a vet certifying that your cat is healthy and safe to travel. It requires an exam and can cost $25 to $100, depending on the vet. 

3. Find drivers

To find drivers to get your cat home, go to Google Maps or a similar site and enter the beginning and end cities for your cat’s travel. This will tell you how far he needs to go and the best route. Post on all your social sites, share with your friends, and contact people you know in cities along the way. People are usually willing to help drive a few hours, especially if it’s to save an animal’s life!

Who wouldn't want to drive a cute kitty?

If you can’t find drivers on your own, there are a couple other options. First would be to fly your pet home. Never fly a pet in cargo; there are too many horror stories. Either fly out to pick up your new cat and fly home with him as your carry-on, or see if someone from that area would be willing to do it. You’ll need to pay for the plane ticket as well as the pet fee, which is usually $100 to $125. Your cat will need an airline-approved soft side carrier and a health certificate.

Other options are to look into transport groups on Facebook or online. Imagine Home and Underground Railroad Rescue Kitty Network are two. I also do transport through an amazing network I’ve built up through my blog, Your Daily Cute (but not as often as the other groups). You can volunteer to be a driver here!

These groups require information from you about the cat and proof of vetting and spay/neuter, as well as health certificates. They will work with their list of volunteer drivers and network to find any holes that aren’t covered. This process typically takes three to four weeks, depending on how quickly drivers can be found.

Hard carrier, puppy pad... Pookie safely loaded up for her transport home!

4. Prepare for the road

Then, once you find your drivers (either on your own or through a group), the big day will finally arrive. Your new kitty will need several things to make his trip comfortable and safe:

  • A hard-sided carrier (soft carriers are too easily banged around and won’t hold “potty accidents” if they happen).
  • Puppy pads to line the bottom of the carrier, and extras for along the way in case of accidents.
  • An old sheet or towel to cover the carrier in case kitty gets stressed. This helps calm the cat.
  • A calming spray product such as Spirit Essences or Feliway to spritz in the carrier or car.
  • Food and water if it’s a longer trip, although chances are kitty won’t want any of it on the road. Do not leave these in the carrier, but maybe provide them at a rest stop to see if he wants some.
  • Health certificate and any other vet records.

The most important thing to remember is to NEVER open the carrier with the car doors or windows open. Never! Do not underestimate a kitty's speed. A cat can charge out of a carrier in a second and be lost forever. Better safe than sorry -– always open the carrier (to change puppy pads or give water) with the car completely shut.

It seems like a lot of work, but it’s so worth it to save a life! Transport saves lives. You’d be surprised how many animals are criss-crossing the country every day, especially on weekends. It’s something we should all be doing more to help with.

Have you ever transported a kitty or worked with others who did? Tell us about it in the comments!

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