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How to Travel With a Cat: 16 Vet Approved Tips & Tricks

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on March 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat inside carrier beside luggage

How to Travel With a Cat: 16 Vet Approved Tips & Tricks


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Traveling with your cat will usually go one of two ways. Either you have an excellent traveler that is used to hitting the road with you, or you have a fearful, anxious kitty that is terrified to be away from the comfort of their home, with the latter being the more common.

Being well prepared for travel ahead of time can help save you a lot of stress. If you are getting ready to travel with your cat, here are some helpful tips and tricks to ensure your trip goes as safely and smoothly as possible.

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The 16 Tips to Prepare for Travel With a Cat

1. Make Sure You Have a Secure Carrier

First and foremost, you need to make sure you have a secure carrier for your cat to travel in. When cats are under stress, they will try to make a break for it and escape the situation. If you have a crate that is not size-appropriate, you could risk them squeezing through the slats in the crate. Some cats may even try to open the crate, so make sure it latches securely.

For some added safety, you can even opt to purchase a carrier that includes a seat belt attachment so that you can buckle your cat up as you make your way down the road. If you happen to be traveling by plane, make sure you follow the airline’s guidelines for the type of travel carrier you can use and what all can be packed along with your cat.

cat in cat carrier
Image Credit: SpeedKingz, Shutterstock

2. Pack Their Favorite Bedding and Toys

Having their familiar bedding and toys from home can help ease the stress of the traveling process. Cats naturally establish their territory by using their scent, if you bring along their scent-covered comfort items, it can help relieve their anxiety and will also provide them some enrichment and a place to rest once you get to where you are going.

3. Travel with Their Usual Litterbox

You sure don’t want to forget the litter box if you are going on a long trip. Your dog may be able to hop out of the car and relieve itself at a rest stop just like you, but your cat is going to need their litter box. A great tip is to get your cat used to a traveling litter box by placing it in your home ahead of time.

It’s best to bring a litter box they are used to rather than buying another during the trip. Cats are not big fans of any change, so keeping drastic changes in their normal day-to-day life should be kept at a minimum. They will most likely be severely stressed while traveling, keep them with as much familiarity as you can.

cat in cat carrier
Image By: zossia, Shutterstock

4. Don’t Forget Food and Water

Instead of having to make an extra stop to pick things up, go ahead and pack their food and ensure you have enough water to get by. You can purchase food and water bowls that are made specifically for travel. Most of them conveniently collapse when not in use to keep from taking up more space.

Now is not the time to make any changes to your cat’s food. Changes in diet can result in a change in bowel habits, and you should avoid that while out and about. Make sure you pack some water bottles too, that way you can hydrate your cat regularly.

5. Pack Their Favorite Treats

Packing your cats’ favorite treats may help put a positive spin on the situation. After all, who doesn’t love comfort treats? Don’t be too alarmed if your cat is unwilling to eat during the trip, they are experiencing a lot of stress and it’s not uncommon for them to lose their appetite while on the road.

cat being fed a cat treat or cat food by hand
Image Credit: Jakub Zak, Shutterstock

6. Do Not Feed Right Before You Leave

Just in case your cat was to experience motion sickness during the trip, it’s best to withhold the meal before leaving. Cats can easily get nauseous and can even vomit while riding in a car. It’s generally recommended to make sure they haven’t had anything to eat about 4 to 5 hours before leaving.

You can pick back up on your feeding schedule once you arrive. If you plan on being in the car for an extended period, talk to your veterinarian about the best way to provide food while on the go.

7. Keep Cleaning Supplies on Hand

Not only is your cat going to have to relieve themselves naturally, but accidents sometimes happen, especially under times of stress. Sometimes the stress of traveling alone can result in diarrhea. If your cat is not used to being in a moving vehicle, it could get a bout of motion sickness and may even vomit. In addition, while on the road and exploring new places, your cat may be enticed to mark the new territory.

Regardless of what kind of mess you end up dealing with and why it happened, it’s best to be prepared. Make sure to pack plenty of cleaning rags, paper towels, cleaning spray, and some cat shampoo just in case you end up needing to give them a quick wash.

Image By: Abi Porter, Flickr

8. Try Using Calming Pheromone Spray

Pheromone sprays come recommended by veterinarians and many cat owners have had success using them. These sprays are made from synthetic pheromones that are meant to mimic the smell of a cat’s natural pheromones that are released when they are feeling calm and relaxed.

When sprayed, it can produce a calming effect and make the situation a bit less stressful. This is a great alternative to using prescription drugs from the veterinarian. The most well-known brand of pheromone spray is Feliway, which has some studies to back it up. There are plenty of other options as well. These sprays can easily be found online or at your local pet store. Cats need to be familiarized with the spray ahead of time.

9. If Your Cat Gets Anxious, Talk to Your Vet Before Traveling

Cats like to stay in their own territory and certainly prefer not to travel, so it’s no wonder many cats experience a great deal of stress when doing so. Some cats will be affected much more by the stress than others and you may benefit from calling your veterinarian to see if prescription medication to calm their nerves would be recommended.

For those getting ready for air travel, it is highly recommended that you speak to your vet. Airplane travel can be a lot for a small cat, so prescription sedative mays are necessary. They do come with some side effects though, which is why speaking to your vet plenty of time beforehand is essential to ensure they don’t have an adverse reaction during the flight.

scottish fold cat checked by vet
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

10. Never Leave Your Cat in a Hot Car

When you are finally out on the road, remember to never leave your cat alone in the vehicle when it’s warm outside, it is very dangerous and could easily end your cat’s life.  To put it into perspective, during a 70-degree weather day, the inside of a car can rise to 89 degrees within 10 minutes and up to 104 within 30 minutes.

If you need to take a break and go to the restroom, or if you need to grab a bite to eat, make sure your car is well ventilated and cannot overheat if you are alone. If you are traveling with more than one person, consider taking turns to ensure someone is always with the kitty.

11. Do Not Allow Your Cat to Free Roam the Vehicle

You do not want to allow your cat to free roam the vehicle regardless of whether you are stopped or moving. Cats tend to bolt, and it may be difficult to catch them, this is a danger to everyone in the car. In addition, you have a lot of trouble getting a hold of them again, as they may become defensive in this very stressful situation.

cat with head out car window travel
Image Credit: Popel Arseniy, Shutterstock

12. Make Sure Your Cat is Secure Before Opening Doors

It is a good idea to ensure the carrier is securely closed before you open any car doors. Again, a cat may bolt if given the chance and the last thing you would want is for them to break free while a door is open, and they get loose away from home.

13. Avoid Playing Loud Music

While cats may enjoy the calming effects of cat-specific music that is composed by using the same frequencies as their vocalizations, loud human music is not their forte. Playing loud music while in the car will only increase their stress and make the trip more uncomfortable for your cat.

hugging an adorable bright orange cat stress_RJ22_shutterstock
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

14. If You Are Traveling with Other Pets, Keep Them Separate from Their Enemies

If you are taking the whole family along and there are other pets in the home that your cat does not particularly get along with, make sure to keep them separated during the trip itself. Having your arch-enemy beside you while you’re on a road trip wouldn’t be fun for anyone. This will only cause your cat to be more stressed than they already are. Keep enemies on opposite sides of the vehicle if possible.

15. Provide Comfort During the Drive

It may just be another road trip for you, but it’s a very stressful time for your cat. The only thing in the vehicle that is familiar, other than bedding and possibly the crate, is you. Reassure them by talking to them softly and even reaching in to pet them. It can help your cat feel more relaxed to know you are right there.

Devon Rex cat is travelling on owners lap in a car
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

16. Have Supplies and Identification in Order

Before you leave for the trip, make sure your cat has been microchipped. This is the best way to ensure they can be returned to you if they were to be lost. Microchips are highly effective in returning lost pets to their owners and while you are traveling, you are somewhere completely unfamiliar to your cat.

You can also opt to purchase a GPS tracker, which can be linked to your cell phone, allowing you to track their exact distance if need be. Make sure you have an ID on their collar and even consider purchasing a harness and leash for travel purposes.

Lastly, if you are traveling on an airline, make sure to check their pet policy and get everything in order from the travel crate requirements to the necessities for travel.

bengal cat in a cat carrier


Traveling with your beloved kitty can be nerve-racking and a bit difficult. With these tips though, you should be able to prepare for just about anything you need before you get started and while you’re on the road. Of course, if you are traveling by plane, you need to speak to the airline about the pet policy and prepare accordingly. Always reach out to your veterinarian for travel advice or any needed prescription medications.

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Featured Image Credit: Monika-Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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