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What to Pack When Traveling with Your Cat: Essential Item List

cat inside carrier beside luggage
Image Credit: Monika-Wisniewska, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

On Tuesday, we discussed preparations for a trip with your cat(s). If you’ve decided that bringing your cat along on your trip is a good idea, you’ll need to bring along a mind-boggling array of gear to ensure that your trip will be as comfortable and stress-free as possible — for both you and your cat.

It sounds like a lot of crap to bring along, but you can save space with multi-purpose gear — for example, cat carriers that double as beds and car seats.

I’ve broken down the list into Essential and Optional items.

Even if you let your cat roam free within the car while you’re on the road, never go on a road trip without a carrier. If you get to a stop where you’ll be getting out (even if it’s just stopping for gas), put your cat in the carrier before you open the car door, and you will need to transport the cat in the carrier from the car to your hotel room. Carrying Fluffy in your arms because it’s just a couple of yards is not an option. Fluffy has been sitting in the car for eight hours plotting her escape. Don’t give her the opportunity to execute her plan.

pet carrier on wooden surface
Image Credit: frantic00, Shutterstock

Bring at least one spare blanket in case one is soiled. Don’t wash the blankets immediately before you leave; make sure they have at least a couple of days’ worth of Fluffy’s smell on it — familiar smells are comforting.

Cat Bed
Your cat’s own cat bed will provide a sense of security for your cat in your hotel room — if you can pry her out from under your bed to use it. Don’t wash the bedding immediately before departure, but make sure there is at least a few night’s worth of her smell on the bedding so that it’s familiar to her.

Your cat will need exercise after hours of being cooped up in the carrier or car. Wand toys are grate because you can motivate your cat to run and chase them and they don’t take up much room.

Litter, Litter Box and Liners
As Kim mentioned yesterday, portable litter boxes are handy. We use a covered litter box to mediate the stink, and spread out a garbage bag below it just in case.

person changing cat litter
Image Credit: Africa-Studio, Shutterstock

I bring:

  • A squirt bottle of Nature’s Miracle
  • Nature’s Miracle wipes
  • A roll of paper towels
  • Ziplock bags
  • Garbage bags.

If it’s a short trip, I also keep a wet terry utility towel in a ziplock baggie (it has more tooth than the wipes in case I need to scrub the carpet).

Water & Water Bowl
Reader Sandra Ellis recommends bringing jugs of the cats’ own water or buying bottled water for the trip to avoid gastric upset.

Ice cubes are a handy way to provide water in the carrier or car. Keep a thermos with ice cubes, and drop a couple in the water bowl as needed. They provide water as they melt, but not enough to produce spillage.

Portable pet water bowls are handy.

Food & Food Bowl
You should always have at least a couple of days’ supply of food with you. But if your cat is on a special or prescription diet, or if you’re traveling to remote areas, bring enough food for the entire trip, plus a couple days’ extra. Resist the urge to share your Big Mac with Fluffy unless you relish cleaning McPuke at 60 mph.

And, because your cat is likely to experience at least a little stress during the trip and might not be eating as she should, consider packing some “treat” foods like Gerber’s turkey or chicken baby food (the 100% meat variety) or a couple of cans of tuna (with your vet’s permission). These wet foods also provide hydration if your cat isn’t drinking enough water.

cat travel food bowl with food
Image Credit: KateYudina, Shutterstock

We bring small disposable paper plates for food.Feliway
A few spritzes of Feliway on your cat’s bedding will calm her while she in the car, and may discourage her from singing.

How does it work? There are pheromones that make the cat feel calm and secure within his environment. These are facial pheromones. You’ve probably seen a cat rub her face on objects around the house – or even you. Feliway mimics these natural face pheromones. Sprayed in the cat’s environment, it creates a comforting, reassuring feeling in the cat that has a calming effect.

I always give the cats treats as soon as I put them in the carrier, which helps them associate the carrier with yummy treats.

We bring along a disposable corrugated cardboard scratcher, but take whatever works best for your cat. You don’t want her ripping apart the hotel room so that you lose your security deposit.

cardboard scratcher
Image Credit: anmbph, Shutterstock

Pet Meds
If your cat is on medication, bring a sufficient supply for the time you’ll be away, plus a little extra, just in case you get stranded somewhere and are delayed returning home. Bring a cooler if the meds need to be refrigerated.

If your cat is subject to motion sickness, you can confer with your vet about medications that will help eliminate the nausea. But before you do that, seriously consider leaving Fluffy at home. If that’s not possible (for example, if you’re moving across country), your vet can prescribe meds that will help. NEVER give your cat over-the-counter motion sickness medications that are designed for human size and physiology.

If you absolutely have to take your cat along and she’s not a good traveler, your vet can prescribe a sedative, but use with care, and monitor your cat frequently for side effects. Never exceed the recommended dosage, even if it doesn’t seem to be having any effect on her.

Your Cat’s Health Certificate and Vaccination Records
These are often required if you’re crossing state lines (check for specific requirements before you hit the road), but it’s a good idea to have the records with you even if you’re not. If your cat bites someone on your trip, you don’t want to have to leave her behind in a rabies quarantine. (If your cat is not vaccinated against rabies, you should discuss with your vet whether you should vaccinate her before your trip. Your vet can help you determine if your itinerary warrants it.)

international veterinary certificate for cats
Image Credit: KateYudina, Shutterstock

Keep a large, clear, recent photo of your cat(s) with the medical records. If the worse happens and she escapes, you’ll have a photo to show around.

Before you leave on your trip, make sure you have uploaded clear, recent photos to your cat’s microchip and tag websites (if you’ve subscribed to a pet recovery services like HomeAgain and Together Tag), so you can instantly mobilize a search effort in the event your cat goes missing.

Cat First Aid Kit
If you don’t already have one, here’s a good excuse to buy one. If you don’t want to pay a premium for a commercial kit, you can DIY at home. Click here for instructions on putting together your own cat first aid kit.

The following are not mandatory, but could make the trip easier on you and your cat:

Don’t try to harness-train your cat while you’re on vacation; it’s a blueprint for disaster. But if she’s already harness-trained, bring the harness along (make absolutely sure it’s not one from which your cat can wriggle out). This will give you the option of short walks at rest stops (make sure there are no dogs around to spook your cat).

a woman and her cat with harness and leash sitting on the bench at the park
Image Credit: goldeneden, Shutterstock


Car Seat
If your cat doesn’t suffer from motion sickness, she might enjoy looking out the window. Skeezix LOVES looking out the windows. The car seat not only offers better visibility, but it’s safer, too: you can buckle her into the seat so that she won’t go flying if there’s an accident, and she won’t be able to disturb the driver. As with children’s car seats, DO NOT use it in the front seat due to the danger posed by airbags when they deploy.

Three-in-One Carrier/Car Seat/Cat Bed Option
Products are available that do triple duty as carrier, car seat and cat bed. If you plan to travel a lot with your cat, consider this convenient option.

Three-in-One Carrier/Backpack/Rolling Luggage Option
I GO2 makes convenient pet backpacks (pictured at right) that function as carriers and also pop out wheels and handles so that you can pull it like wheeled luggage. In your car, it straps into the seat belt system to safely transport your cat.

If you have a compact, collapsible stroller, this is handy to have along. After hours of driving it will give you a chance to stretch your legs, and Fluffy an opportunity for some fresh air. If your cat likes sleeping in it, it can be brought along in lieu of a cat bed. It will provide a proven safe sanctuary for your cat wherever you’re staying. If you typically stroll every day, strolling on vacation will provide Fluffy with a bit of her normal routine, reducing stress.

cat wearing harness inside stroller
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

12volt-to-AC inverter for the cigaretter lighter
Skeezix has a heated cat cup that we are able to power up in the car using an AC inverter which converts the cigarette lighter into an AC outlet. If you’re car camping, bring along your blender, and you can have margaritas at your destination … a welcome reward after a day in a car with a caterwauling cat.

Lint Roller
Many cats shed a lot more hair when stressed (as when traveling). If your itinerary is strictly casual, no problem. But if you need to arrive at a destination without a cloud of cat hair swirling about you, pack a lint roller.

Pet Sunscreen
If your pet will be exposed to sun — especially if she is unaccustomed to it — bring pet sunblock with you and apply to her ears and nosebridge.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT use sunblock designed for humans, which often contains additives that are poisonous to pets when ingested. UVet manufacturers sunscreens that are safe for all pets.

Cats that are most at risk are those with light skin, light-colored or thin fur, or pink noses. Got a white or pink-nosed cat? Get some pet sunscreen.

Earplugs, Meow-canceling earphones and an iPod
NOT FOR THE DRIVER. But passengers might benefit from some peace and quiet, especially if Fluffy has decided to serenade you with Barry Manilow’s greatest hits. You can buy the world’s best earplugs here. Stick in the earplugs, put on the earphones, and jack up the iPod volume (if your ears start bleeding, the volume might be too high).

For more information on traveling with your cat, check out Catster’s Forum on Cats & Travel.


Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a spectacular prize package in Iams’ Travel Contest on The Cat’s Meow.

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Featured Image Credit: Monika-Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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