- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Whether you want to take your cat on a trip with you or have to take your cat to the vet or somewhere else, we have compiled a list of tips and advice to help your cat travel. You have probably experienced that cats do not love to travel, but it is possible to do without a scratching and hissing battle.
So how can you travel with your cat and keep both of your sane along the way? We spoke with the experts to find the answer.
The Most Important Cat Travel Tip: Plan Ahead
“The best strategy is to plan ahead to make travel a better experience for a cat,” says Amanda McNabb, DVM, a veterinarian from Lynwood, Washington. That’s because, as any cat owner can attest to, most cats are very, very, very resistant to change.
When you are planning to travel with a cat, start the process of acclimating your kitty as soon as possible instead of waiting until the last minute and springing it on her like a very unwelcome surprise.
Dr. McNabb recommends that you begin by making your cat’s carrier seem like a friendly space. “Leave the carrier out for the cat to choose it to explore or nap in,” she says. Try putting toys, treats, and bedding they like inside, and you can even utilize a few spritzes of a feline pheromone spray like to help make your cat as comfortable as possible.
Be Aware of Motion Sickness
One reason cats hate cars? They often get motion sickness, according to Dr. McNabb. A test run in the car can help you figure out if that’s a problem for your cat. According to PetMD, symptoms like drooling, distress cries, being too afraid to move, vomiting, urinating and defecating could be a sign that your cat gets motion sickness.
If motion sickness is a problem, make sure your cat’s carrier is securely fastened in the car, which can help reduce motion. You might also consider avoiding meals before travel (unless your cat has a medical condition that requires scheduled feedings).
The more you understand what your cat’s reactions might be, the better prepared you’ll be to help your cat through any anxiety or fears.
Is It OK to Sedate My Cat for Travel?
Sedatives can cause very different reactions in cats depending on age, health, and tolerance, says Dr. McNabb. For example, certain sedatives can cause blood pressure changes. On the other hand, even over-the-counter medicines like Benadryl can cause an unpleasant amount of excitement.
But sedatives aren’t out of the question, and some seem to have positive results. “Work with your vet to make a plan for your cat’s specific needs,” she advises. “And maybe consider a test dose with your vet to gauge your cat’s response to the drug and dose.” Also—you’ll still need to plan ahead. Medications should be given an hour before your cat sets out on a stressful journey.
Finally, Dr. McNabb stresses that owners avoid sedation for any cat flying in cargo since the cat will be unsupervised and nobody can monitor it for any problems.
How to Travel With a Cat by Car
Unless you live in a big city with a great public transit situation (more on that below), most people will have to travel with a cat by car at least occasionally for trips to the vet. So how can you make it a bit less painful?
First, make certain that the car environment is as inviting as possible. Keep a moderate temperature in the car, not too hot or too cold, and limit external noises like the radio if your cat is easily spooked.
If you’re planning on running more than a quick errand with your cat in the car, you’ll want to bring along a small litter pan. Even a pie tin with some litter in it will suffice.
Finally, Dr. McNabb maintains that it is imperative to keep your cat in a carrier or on a harness or leash at all times. “A distressed cat will have a tendency to bolt and hide,” she says. The cozy confines of a dedicated pet carrier for the car can make a difference in helping a cat stay calm.
How to Fly with a Cat
If you’re flying with a cat, you’ll want to think about a few different things. If it’s a very long flight, make certain that you have a good harness so that you can give your cat the opportunity to stretch her legs and perhaps go potty on either end of the flight or on a layover.
Before you book your flight, you’ll want to check the airline’s pet policies. Since many airlines that do allow pets have limits on how many are allowed in the cabin at a time. A call to customer service can make sure your cat is welcome aboard.
You’ll also need to decide whether your cat will have to fly in the cabin or beneath the plane as cargo. Keeping your pet nearby under your seat so that you can check for any signs of distress is the best option.
If your cat must fly cargo, try to plan a direct flight to minimize the amount of time your pet is travelling. Also, ask about your airline’s animal incident reports to see if they have a good track record with pet safety.
Many airlines and airports require health certificates for travel, which requires a trip to your veterinarian. It’s a good opportunity to help put your own mind at rest, too, in regards to whether or not your cat is healthy enough to travel.
Finally, airlines have very specific requirements concerning what travel carriers are allowed and what size will fit beneath their seats. Be sure that your carrier fits those requirements.
Here are a few pet travel policies across Canadian airlines’:
For more airlines’ pet policies, check out Traveling With Pets: Hotel & Airline Pet Policies.
How to Travel with a Cat by Bus or Train
Many cities allow pets to travel with their owners on public transit, but you’ll obviously want to check with your local transit authority before showing up on the subway with a cat. Most cities will require cats to be contained in an appropriate carrier.
As of last year, cats are now welcome aboard VIA Rail Canada Train passenger cars. However, the cat does need to be small enough to fit in a carrier that can sit at the passenger’s feet. The total weight of the carrier and animal must not exceed 10 kilograms. This page explains the policy for travelling in a passenger car with a pet on VIA Rail Canada.
Understand what ‘pet-friendly’ means to your hotel or rental. Sometimes it means your cat can be left unattended, but many times it means your pet can’t be in the room alone, which could seriously affect your plans if you aren’t prepared.
For a helpful list of pet-friendly hotels across Canada, visit Pet-Friendly Hotels in Canada by BringFido.
These days, many of the big travel-booking sites, such as Expedia and Airbnb, offer the ability to filter for lodging that is happy to welcome your cat.
Regardless, it’s never a bad idea to double-check a hotel’s pet policies with a phone call before you arrive just to make sure there aren’t any overly tenuous rules or hidden fees that you didn’t know about.
Keep in mind that some hotels don’t allow you to leave your pets alone in a room. And if you let your cat roam free, you’ll need to be careful to make sure they use their litter box and don’t scratch furniture, lest you end up with a hefty repair bill.
For some hotels’ pet policies, check out Traveling With Pets: Hotel & Airline Pet Policies.
Travelling Internationally with Your Cat
Travel gets significantly more complicated if you’re trying to go abroad with your cat. It differs from country to country, but at minimum, your cat will need to:
- be microchipped
- be vaccinated against rabies
- have a health certificate and/or a pet passport
Many countries have more stringent requirements, sometimes including a mandatory quarantined waiting period. If you’re not prepared ahead of time, you may not be able to leave the airport with your cat.
Get more information on travelling with your cat to the following popular destinations:
Anything Else to Consider When Travelling with a Cat?
Dr. McNabb cautions cat owners to be aware of external factors, like vehicle temperature, access to a litter box, and regular breaks for water. “Take it at your cat’s pace as much as possible,” she says.
Even if you’re not flying, it’s worth having your pet’s medical records with you in the event that you have to make an emergency trip to the vet.
Mostly, try to keep your own stress levels as low as possible. Cats are often intuitive. If you’re relaxed, it can help your cat stay that way, too.
Need Cat Sitting?
Cats seem more independent than dogs, sure, but they need attention, play, and treats when you’re gone, too. Your great cat deserves great cat care. It’s time to find them the perfect cat sitter with Rover.