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.
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.
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.