Traveling with cats can be difficult, filled with stress for the cat and plenty of unfortunate scratches for you. While we don’t really recommend traveling with your cat if you can avoid it (pet sitters and boarding are great options!), there are plenty of important reasons to bring a cat along with you, and we understand that.
Before we get started, we have some general tips for however you’re traveling. Don’t feed your cat in the morning before leaving. It may feel cruel, but your cat will be okay not eating for one day, and you can feed it in the evening or when you get to your destination. It’s better than having your poor cat feeling nauseous and vomiting for the whole trip.
Make sure your cat has their ID on and their collar or harness is slip proof. If at all possible, microchip your cat. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than having your cat escape halfway through a trip and having to leave them there in an unfamiliar place with no hope you’ll be able to reunite with them.
Driving with your cat
The first step to going anywhere with your cat is to get them a crate that they will be safe in. Most cat carriers are perfectly fine for short trips, like to the vet or other necessities, but for a long trip it’s better to have a larger crate that your cat can stand up and move around in.
When selecting a cat crate, make sure it has a bottom that won’t slide around when you’re driving and that it can be seatbelted in. In case of a crash, you want your cat to be safely belted in, not flying around unprotected.
There’s also another worry here: bathroom breaks.
If your cat is in the car for fewer than six hours, you’re probably okay. We would still recommend they get a break, but it isn’t as crucial as it is for cats on longer journeys.
When letting your cat out of the crate to drink water or use the litter box, make sure the car is parked and there are no open doors the cat could escape through.
Bringing a full litter box on a trip is definitely an annoyance, and it can smell up your car. What we recommend instead is bringing paint trays (either use a cheap one or put a bag or saran wrap over it and clean it thoroughly). Then you can put litter in a small, portable bag in it. Once your cat is done, you can easily take the whole tray outside, bag it up, and throw it away in a rest stop trash can. Some stores also sell disposable litter boxes.
If your cat gets nervous or nauseous even on short trips, it might be worthwhile to talk to your vet and discuss a tranquilizer or anti-nausea medicine that will make the trip bearable for your cat.
Flying with a cat
Please travel with your cat in the cabin with you. Traveling is already extremely stressful for cats, who hate change of any sort, and being in the cargo hold with nothing familiar to reassure them will not be good for your cat's nerves.
Additionally, there have been a lot of issues with animals traveling in cargo holds, many of which have been well documented. It’s best to keep your cat as safe as possible and with you at all times. It may be more expensive, but it’s worth it for your cat’s life.
This does make things harder. Not all airlines allow cats in the cabin, and those that do have stringent rules for what carriers they can travel in. One rule of thumb is that they must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, but some airlines have additional rules. If you’re worried, we recommend taking the carrier to the airport ahead of time and showing it to workers to see if it’s okay. Make sure to get their name, and if you can get it in writing to avoid any trouble the day of your flight.
Some airlines we’ve been able to find are Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest. Each has various restrictions, so do your research and try to speak to someone to confirm details before you book. Also, most of them have weight limits for your pet, which are generally under 20 or 25 pounds.
Once you’ve picked your airline and flight, it’s time to take care of your cat’s in-flight needs. Keep their health documentation on your person or in their carrier so the airline can see it if need be. Also, consider covering the openings of your cat’s cage with a towel or blanket so they can’t see out. While the unfamiliar smells and noises will still be stressful, the darkness and lack of disturbing images will hopefully allow them to relax somewhat.
Do not feed your cat the night before or the morning of your flight. You really do not want your cat vomiting on a plane, because you won’t have any way to clean it up until the flight is over. It’s okay to give them water because most cats are good at holding their urine if need be.
If you’re traveling with your feline friend, make sure to take care of all of their needs and ensure they will be as safe as possible on the trip! It’s never fun to travel for a cat, and so it’s important to make sure they’re as prepared as possible. It will definitely be worth the pain once you get to your new home or vacation destination and your furry friend is still right there along for the ride!