Traveling with a Cat

Jun 20, 2019   Tracey Aston   Pet Safety

Whether going on a vacation, moving or a simple trip to your veterinarian to make sure your cat is in good health, there are times when it will be necessary to travel with your cat! Some cats will enjoy a leisurely trip in the car while others will fight literal tooth and nail.

Often times, travel training will start way before ever getting the cat into the car and that's carrier training! If the only time a cat is in a carrier is when they're travelling, and they are fearful of traveling or have had a bad experience with another animal at the veterinarian's office, they will avoid being put into the carrier. Avoidance of the carrier can lead to cats hiding when they see the carrier or becoming aggressive when attempting to be placed in one.  To avoid this, make your cat's carrier a place they enjoy and can relax.  This can be done by placing a soft blanket and toys in the carrier and leaving the open carrier in a place the cat can investigate it on its own terms and become comfortable with it. 

While they do make cat seatbelts, please always be aware that cats are expert escape artists and many can wiggle out of the seat belts with ease putting themselves and the driver at risk. Cats should never be allowed to roam around a car freely, even if they are used to traveling.  In the unfortunate case of an accident, the cat can be thrown from the car or even into the driver, causing serious injury to both.

For long distance trips, such as vacations, moving, or even a long distance road trip, cats should see their veterinarian beforehand to make sure they are in tiptop shape to travel. Also, this is a good time to ask your veterinarian about anxiety medications if your cat is hyperactive or a nausea pill if your cat gets carsick.  The veterinarian can also demonstrate the easiest way to give a cat a pill, if you're not confident on how.

After a clean bill of health, gather your pet's license, microchip information, and proof of vaccinations. If your cat wears a collar, make sure their name plate is attached and easily readable. It's a good rule of thumb to have 2 numbers – a home number and cell number - listed on the cat's microchip registration and name plate. This way, if the cat makes an escape while traveling, someone can get in touch with you if they find your cat.  If your cat is tattooed, have the number written down in an easily accessible place, such as your cell phone or with the cat's health information.

Plan ahead with a cat travel package complete with a first aid kit, the cat's medications, a litter pan and food and water bowls. A tin baking tray can even be used as a temporary litter pan. Prearrange times and locations for pit stops for the cat to relieve themselves, and drink. Depending on how well your cat travels, they may be relaxed enough to eat, but don't force a stressed cat to eat! During the times the car is stopped and the cat is free to walk around the car, be extremely careful opening and closing doors and windows! A stressed cat may attempt to make a run for it, and being in unfamiliar territory will most likely try to hide.  If you're not comfortable allowing the cat out of the carrier to move around the car because of the escape risk, a large dog crate can be equipment with a litter pan and enough space for food and water bowls. This allows the cat enough space to move around, relieve themselves and drink while providing zero risk of escape.

If you're planning on staying overnight at a hotel, call ahead and make sure the hotel is cat friendly. Some hotels will allow dogs but not cats. If they do allow cats, ask if the hotel requires any special insurance or fee for bringing your cat into the room.  The website I Heart Cats has a list of cat friendly hotels and motels.

As the saying goes, it's not the destination but the journey! Realize this will be a learning process for both you and your cat and be willing to take that step together! As always, cats are in tune with their owners, therefore, if their owner is acting stressed, they will too! Take precautions, but remember to relax and have a good time making memories with your favorite feline! 

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