As we approach the holiday season, many of us have travel plans to gather with loved ones—and for pet owners, those loved ones can include four-legged family members.
Some cats don’t travel well; they are much more comfortable staying home in a familiar environment. Fortunately, cats are relatively self-sufficient, so leaving them home alone with plenty of food and water is a viable option if you have a friend or neighbor who can check on them every so often.
However, if you can’t bear the thought of spending the holidays without your kitty, you may want to bring her with you (although we recommend getting the green light from your vet). Traveling with your cat requires careful planning and consideration, so if you’re planning to include your feline friend in your holiday travels, you’ll want to begin preparations well before the trip.
Cat Travel Carrier
Cat travel carriers are crucial, as you want your cat to be both comfortable and safe for the duration of your trip. For both her safety and yours, your cat should be restrained in a carrier anytime the vehicle is moving. After all, you don’t want a curious cat climbing on your dashboard or scratching your steering wheel while you’re driving. For added safety, secure the cat travel carrier with a seatbelt.
Spend some time helping your cat become acquainted with her travel carrier or crate before you set off on your trip. You want her to understand that it’s a safe, comfortable place, so make it as inviting and accessible as possible (catnip is your friend). Set the crate in a favorite spot in the house, allowing for easy entry and exit so she doesn’t feel trapped or confined.
Once your cat is comfortable with her travel carrier, do some “practice travel” by closing it up and carrying it around the house with her inside. Once she’s comfortable moving around in her crate, bring her to your car and go for a short drive so she gets used to the feeling of being in a car. Of course, don’t forget to reward her with treats after every test run.
As an added note, you may want to consider a larger crate, especially if you’re planning to spend several hours in the car at a time. That way, your kitty has plenty of space to stretch and move around. Plus, if it has room for a compact litter box, she can easily go on the go!
Unless you’re traveling with an RV or trailer, you’ll need to consider where you and your cat are going to stay once you arrive at your destination.
If you’re staying at someone’s home, make sure your cat is invited; if you’re staying at a hotel or motel, check that she’s allowed. Fees and policies may apply—for example, some hotels do not allow cats to be left alone while you’re out.
Before you let your kitty roam around, be sure to check for any hazards in the area. Regardless of where you’re staying, make sure your cat has a safe, secluded space to retreat to as needed. This could be a bedroom with a door, a bathtub filled with blankets, or even just her crate in a quiet spot. It may feel cruel to confine your cat to one space, but this is actually less stressful for many cats since it’s not as overwhelming.
You’ll want to ensure that your cat has all of her essentials during your trip, including:
An identification collar with your contact information. If your cat isn’t already microchipped, this is a good time to do so.
A harness with a secured leash—you don’t want your cat dashing out the car door into unfamiliar territory.
- Vaccination certifications/other medical documents. This is especially important if you need to bring your cat to the vet during your trip, or even just a pet daycare.
Any medications. If they’re travel-related (such as motion sickness relief), make sure they’re vet-approved.
Food and water, plus collapsible dishes. Bring the same food your cat regularly eats, and try to bring the same water you use at home if possible. Consistency can help to avoid tummy troubles; plus, some picky cats won’t drink water that tastes different from what they’re used to.
Familiar litter (again, some cats are picky) and a travel litter box, plus a scoop and bags.
Depending on the weather, you may want to pack a cat jacket or blankets. These can also be soothing for travel-related cat anxiety.
- If you’ll be traveling for a while, you may also want to bring your cat’s nail clippers and other grooming supplies.
- Of course, you can’t forget about these tasty PetHonesty cat supplements:
During the Trip
Once you’ve prepped, packed, and done all of your research, it’s finally time to set off on your adventure.
On the day of the trip, your cat should skip breakfast since an empty stomach will reduce her chances of getting carsick. Depending on the length of your trip, feed her at a rest stop if she doesn’t seem too anxious, or wait until you arrive at your destination.
Most cats will be fine in their travel carriers for several hours at a time, but take breaks if you’re driving for more than six hours or so. Encourage your cat to drink water and use the litter box at rest stops if she isn’t doing so while you’re driving.
You may also want to line the travel carrier with potty pads or paper towels. That way, you’ll have an easier clean-up in case of a bathroom accident.
Never leave your cat alone in the car, especially during warm weather. If possible, bring a human travel companion with you to make the trip easier.
Of course, don’t forget to reward your kitty with plenty of treats and snuggles whenever you get the chance!