How To Travel With A Cat

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As a pet parent, you want to take your feline friend everywhere with you, so it's no wonder you're wondering how to travel with a cat. While indoor cats can become anxious traveling, many enjoy it once they start getting used to the experience. You can travel with your cat if you're prepared and bring along all the stuff your cat needs to stay happy and healthy on their adventure. Since cats need to be trained to travel, consider taking short trips in the car with them with no destination to allow them to get used to the experience. If you want your cat to be happy and content in a carrier, they should have experience with it other than traveling to and from the vet. 

Planning ahead will also ensure your success when traveling with a cat. If you're wondering if your cat will travel well, you've come to the right place. This article will help you learn how to travel with a cat long distance, making it easier and less stressful for both of you. 

Can Cats Travel By Plane? Train? Automobile?

Airlines and train companies allow cats to travel in their carriers for an extra fee.1 However, if possible, always choose your travel method depending on what's the safest and easiest option for your pet. For example, if you're traveling just a few states away, it might be better to drive with your cat in their carrier in a car rather than getting them on a plane or train. 

How to travel with a cat on a plane: Air travel with pets is one of the more dangerous options because not all airlines allow your pet to travel with you in the cabin. Do your research before booking your flight to ensure your cat will be able to sit next to you in the cabin to reduce their risk of injury or getting lost. In addition, we recommend avoiding flying with your pet in the cargo hold because they can become fatally injured. This area can also cause extreme stress in pets. 

How to travel with a cat in a car: For many pet parents, traveling with your cat by car is the most comfortable option because you’re able to take them for bathroom breaks as needed and your cat may be more used to the car than other modes of traveling. 

How to travel with your cat by train: Traveling with your cat by train is another safe option because your cat will be able to travel with you instead of in a storage compartment. In addition, when traveling with your pet by train, you can give them potty breaks at station stops. 

Tips For Traveling With A Cat

Now that you understand your options for traveling with your cat, you might need to know how to travel long distance with a cat. Here are some tips for traveling with your pet no matter where you go. 

1. Talk To Your Vet

Cats should always be in good health to travel. The stress of traveling from one place to another can exacerbate health problems. Additionally, cats can become anxious in the car. If your cat becomes anxious on short trips to the vet, you can bet they'll have anxiety traveling longer distances, especially on a plane or train around strange people and in strange environments. 

Signs of stress in cats include: 

  • Hissing, growling
  • Excessive meowing
  • Crouching 
  • Stiff body language
  • Vomiting and diarrhea2

If your cat experiences travel anxiety, you can talk to your vet about cat anxiety medications and sedatives to make the trip easier. Your vet can also provide recommendations to ensure your cat stays safe while traveling. 

Additionally, some cats can get motion sickness during travel. If your cat experiences motion sickness, your vet may recommend medication in preparation for travel.

While at the vet, ensure you have your cat's paperwork to ensure they're healthy enough to travel. Airlines typically require vaccination documents from a vet. Additionally, before traveling, have your cat microchipped in case they get lost. 

Cat carriers should be 1.5x the size of your cat

2. Make Their Carrier Comfortable 

Your cat will spend most of their time in their carrier while traveling, so they should be comfortable. Investing in a comfortable, quality carrier can give your cat a safe space to relax. If you're flying on a plane, check with the airline to ensure the cat carrier meets their requirements. Cat carriers should be 1.5 times the size of your cat, providing them with enough space to sleep in. 

Keep their favorite cat toys and blankets in their career to take some of their home with them. Bringing items with your home and cat's scents on them can help them feel more relaxed. You should also give your cat enough time to get used to their carrier if their carrier is new. 

Before traveling, allow your cat to explore it and become comfortable. In fact, experts recommend carrier training for all cats and dogs. To make the carrier comfortable for your pet, it’s important to create positive associations with the carrier at home. You can facilitate positive experiences by placing it in the living room or other accessible area and offer incentives such as food, toys or petting in and around the carrier. Once your cat starts to get comfortable with the carrier, you can train for voluntary entry and longer closed  carrier sessions by using positive reinforcement.3

Along with their carrier, your cat should also have a harness for when they need to leave the carrier. Whether traveling by plane, train, or car, your cat will need to exit their crate from time to time, either for security screenings or potty breaks. Keeping your cat on a harness is the best way to keep them safe in their new surroundings and prevent them from getting lost. If your cat isn't used to a harness, start getting them more comfortable with one before you travel. You can get your cat used to their harness by having them wear it around the house so it smells like them, and they're used to the feeling. Older cats that have not previously been introduced to a harness may need to work with a positive reinforcement trainer to slowly build up comfortability with the harness in a positive way.

3. Practice Ahead Of Your Trip

You won't be able to practice airplane or train rides before the trip, but you can practice car rides and getting your cat used to their carrier. Before going on a long-distance road trip with your cat, practice carrier training by allowing for independent exploration and implementing positive reinforcement training. Once they’ve gotten comfortable staying in a closed carrier, take them on shorter car rides in their carrier to help them get used to it. Most indoor cats are only used to going to the vet, so it's common for them to experience some anxiety in the car. 

4. Come Up With A Care Plan

All cats need proper care wherever you go. If possible, bring their litter box with you to give them a safe, comfortable place to go potty while on their travels. You should also have a plan for when they'll need to come out of their carrier for potty breaks. Since cats are used to your routine at home, it's best to keep that routine as best as possible. Therefore, if your cat eats breakfast at 9 in the morning, ensure they eat at 9 in the morning when traveling. Also, never feed your pet in a moving vehicle because it can make them sick. Instead, plan for regular breaks to allow them to eat at their regularly scheduled feeding times. 

Always bring treats and comforts from home to help your cat feel more at ease on their travels. Ensuring they get the food and treats they love can help them feel calmer. 

Traveling With A Cat: FAQs

Does socialization help with traveling?

Absolutely. Socializing your  cat is especially important during their first seven weeks of life. Practicing socialization with positive reinforcement (i.e. treats and toys) can help your cat better acclimate to time around other people and pets, travel, their harness, new places, and more.

Is it cruel to travel with a cat?

No, it's not cruel to travel with a cat. Many cats travel well, but some may require medication to help reduce their stress. The most stressful experience for your cat will likely be air travel, even if they're sitting with you in the cabin. If your cat doesn't travel well, consult a vet who can help you come up with the best plan for your cat. 

How long can a cat go without a litter box?

Cats can safely hold their urine for many hours, but they should have almost constant access to a litter box. Most cats can hold their urine for a train or plane ride, but it's best to schedule potty breaks throughout your travel. Traveling in a car with a cat is the safest method for them because it allows you to take scheduled breaks to allow them to empty their bladders. 

Can you drive with a cat in your car?

Yes, you can drive with a cat in your car. However, the cat should be in a carrier in the backseat for their safety and yours. The carrier should be placed on the floor behind the driver, passenger seat, or seatbelted if using a carrier designed for use with a seatbelt, such as a sleepy pod. Allowing your cat to free roam in the car means they may crawl all over the vehicle and you, preventing you from seeing your surroundings. In addition, cats can get injured in vehicles, so keep your cat in their carrier at all times, except when you park for breaks. 

How do you travel with a cat long distance?

Traveling with a cat long distance requires proper planning. First, you must ensure your cat will be safe and address any anxiety they have about traveling by talking to your vet beforehand to come up with a plan. Since your cat will spend a lot of time in their carrier, ensure it's comfortable and safe. You should also bring a harness for when your cat is let out of the carrier and have them microchipped as a precaution. 

Kitten sitting in a travel carrying case

Final Notes

Traveling with your cat is more difficult than traveling alone. However, sometimes it has to be done. Whether going on vacation with your feline friend or moving across the country, you must plan and ensure your cat will be safe and content during their travels. Most cats experience anxiety traveling. 

Cat anxiety when traveling can be managed with the help of a Dutch vet. Dutch can help you easily travel with your cat by providing you with a travel plan and medication to ensure your cat has a calm journey to provide you with peace of mind. 

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References

  1. "Travel Safely with Your Pet by Car, Airplane, Ship or Train." The Humane Society of the United States, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/travel-safely-your-pet-car-airplane-ship-or-train#:~:text=Most%20airlines%20will%20allow%20you,they%20meet%20the%20size%20requirements.

  2. "Spotting Signs of Cat Stress - How to Care." Cats Protection, https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/health/cat-stress.

  3. Riemer, Stefanie, et al. “A Review on Mitigating Fear and Aggression in Dogs and Cats in a Veterinary Setting.” Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI, MDPI, 12 Jan. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7826566/.

Frequently Asked Questions

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