Prepare your cat for travel by introducing them to the conditions they will be experiencing during the trip. Will you be using a different litter box or feeding dishes while on the road? Be sure to introduce these items several weeks before leaving by using them in addition to regular items at home. Does your cat like their carrier? First, be sure the carrier or crate is an appropriate size. Your cat should be able to sit, stand, lie down, and turn around comfortably. Leave the crate out while still at home and offer food and treats in the crate to make it a ‘happy place’. Take your kitty for short rides around the block or through a drive through to habituate them to the motion of the car and the sounds of the road. Gradually increase the length of these short trips to build up your cat’s tolerance and comfort in the car.
Do you have a cat travel bag packed? Be sure to include vaccine records, health certificate if traveling across state lines, toys/comfort items, treats, food, and medicines. If your cat is not microchipped, be sure that they wear a collar and tags with updated contact information. Did you include pit stops in your travel time? Be sure to allow time for your cat to take breaks. This means time outside of the carrier, but still safely confined, to use the litter box and drink water every 2-3 hours. It is often best to only offer food when stopped for a prolonged period of time, such as overnight. This will help to prevent stomach upset/motion sickness.
Remember to never leave your cat alone in the car. It takes only a short amount of time for temperatures to climb to dangerous levels. In case of an emergency, before leaving, research veterinarians or emergency clinics located in your city of destination. If something happens, you don’t want to have to scramble for a contact number or address.
Planning to fly instead of drive? Check with your specific airline for guidelines and requirements of documentation of your cat’s health status and vaccines. Booking a direct flight will usually shorten travel time and be less stressful for your cat. Be sure that your airline allows for the cat/carrier to stay with you during flight. It is not recommended that your cat fly in the cargo area due to unregulated temperatures and noise level. Be prepared! Line the carrier with absorbent pads or towels that can be removed and replaced easily in case of an ‘accident’. And have a sealable bag ready for disposal of the soiled items.
Summer traveling with your cat can be fun, but planning starts weeks before you pack your own bags and jump in the car. Remember that most cats spend the large majority of their life in their home environment. New sights, sounds, smells, changes in their daily schedules, and exposing them to new people and experiences can be upsetting. With a little effort and forethought as a pet owner, your cat has the potential to become a great travel companion!
Kim Brewer, CVT
Fox Valley Cat Clinic LLC