Traveling With Your Cat

Travel with Your Cat: How to Have the Best Trip


Your cat may be the quietest, calmest kitty in the world, but during a car ride they may transform into a meowing, anxious travel companion.

How do you make travel as smooth as possible for your kitty? Try these tips to make travel smoother and more peaceful—for both you and your cat:

Tips for Comfort and Safety While Traveling With Your Cat

As creatures of habit, most cats like to stick to their daily routine.

The average feline doesn’t appreciate being put into a carrier, then transported somewhere entirely new—let alone all the new sights, sounds, and smells they’ll experience during transit.

Should You Take Your Cat With You?

For vacations it’s important to consider whether your cat will be more comfortable boarding, staying with your friend or family member, or even staying home with a pet sitter.

However, if you’re moving or need to bring your kitty along on your trip for some other reason, here are some important things to consider so your trip is as smooth as possible:

How Will You Be Traveling?

Do your research ahead of time, especially if traveling by plane. Many airlines have restrictions, such as:

  • Not all allow pets (and some have breed restrictions, or a limit on pets per flight).
  • Requiring a secure, approved carrier—and possibly requiring pets to ride in cargo rather than in the cabin.
  • Hot or cold weather may restrict pet travel altogether, for safety reasons.

If you’re looking into another travel method, such as the bus or a train, you’ll also need to check their rules regarding pets on board.

What Documents Do You Need?

Most airlines require health certificates. And international travel (including travel to Hawaii), may take several months’ worth of paperwork and planning!

Even for interstate car travel within the continental US, you may still need a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination.

For your pet’s health, it’s also a good idea to ask your veterinarian about recommended vaccines and parasite prevention prior to travel.

Is Your Pet Microchipped?

A microchip is a permanent form of identification—a small chip placed under the skin between the shoulder blades.

Microchips don’t have tracking capabilities, but a chip can help your pet get returned to you if they ever become lost. A special “scanner” (found at most veterinary offices and animal shelters) reveals the chip’s number—which is registered to you as the owner, so you can be contacted.

If you’re not sure if your pet has a microchip—or if your registered contact information for the chip is not up to date—ask your veterinarian's office for assistance.

Cats can slip out of collars, but a microchip will always be with them.

What Supplies Do You Need?

During the trip, you’ll need the following items:

  • Food and water, and travel bowls
  • A carrier, preferably with a favorite blanket or toy for comfort
  • A supply of your cat’s medications, if applicable
  • Your cat’s paperwork, including any relevant medical history
  • A harness and leash can be useful for extra security
  • A litter box with litter, and supplies to discard pet waste

You can either place the box in your cat’s carrier if the carrier is large enough, or let your cat use the box during stops (and place your pet back into their carrier before you start driving again). There are even disposable and travel litter boxes available

Your cat shouldn’t be allowed to roam free in the car. Not only is this distracting, but your cat could crawl under the car pedals.

So, keep your cat in the carrier. A travel buddy or family member can also be helpful to monitor your cat and stay with them at rest stops or other times when you may need to leave the car.

Get Your Cat Used to the Carrier and Car Rides

Trying to force your cat into a carrier right before your trip is stressful for your cat and a headache for you.

So, make the carrier a safe, comforting place by leaving it open in the home for several weeks before your trip. Place toys or treats to encourage your cat to play and sleep in the carrier.

When your cat is used to the carrier, you can also take them on short car rides around the neighborhood, so they’re used to a moving car.

Offer treats and praise, so it’s a positive experience.

Plan Your Stops Along the Way

During your travels, you may need to find pet-friendly hotels, rest stops, restaurants, and other places.

It’s always a good idea to call and confirm pet policies ahead of time. For hotels, ask about pet fees.

Also, consider looking up nearby veterinary clinics on your route in case of any emergencies.

What If Your Cat Gets Stressed During Travel?

By planning ahead you can keep your kitty as comfortable as possible…

  • Ask your veterinarian about safe calming supplements, anti-anxiety medications, motion sickness medications, and anything else you think may benefit your pet.

For anxiety medications, give your cat a dose before your trip to be sure it works for them—occasionally, these medications can cause agitation rather than relaxation.

Also, for safety reasons, anxiety medications aren’t allowed on plane rides (they’ll affect your cat’s body temperature regulation).

Remember: Only use medications your veterinarian recommends, because not all medications are safe for cats!

  • Try a pheromone product. These products come in sprays and wipes and have a scent signal that tells your cat they’re in a safe place.
  • Cover the car windows or your cat’s carrier with a towel or sheet. A dark space can be calming. Just ensure there’s good ventilation and that the carrier doesn’t get too warm.
  • Keep everything as quiet as possible, as this will help your cat relax.
  • Keep yourself calm, as pets can pick up on our emotional cues.

With these tips in mind, you can make travel as stress-free and enjoyable for your cat as possible—which will make it easier for you and your feline friend to settle into your new destination together when you arrive.

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