Traveling With Your Cat

Traveling With Your Cat- Tinkerbelle -Little ©Mollie Hunt

Preparation is the key to traveling with your cat. Cats like routine and tend to stress out with any change. You can make traveling more enjoyable for all by taking some steps ahead of time to prepare.

Traveling With Your Cat – Preparing The Cat Carrier

The first step is to get your cat used to spending time in its carrier and wearing a harness. These steps will provide safety for your cat and peace of mind for you. How you are traveling will determine what type of carrier you should use. If traveling by plane, the airlines will likely have size requirements that you will need to learn well in advance. A soft carrier may fit better under the seat in front of you. If you are traveling by car, a hard plastic carrier will be safer. You can secure it more easily with a seat belt, and it protects your cat from other items shifting around inside the car.

The carrier should be enclosed enough to allow your cat to hide from sight to feel safer yet still have enough airflow through mesh or openings in the sides and top. It should have enough room for your cat to turn around but not too big that your cat will tumble around in there. Cats usually like to hide out in snug cave-like beds and will likely curl up in their carrier during travel. A carrier that opens at the top or zips completely open will enable you to place your cat into it and remove her more easily if she doesn’t want to walk in or out on her own.

Start getting your cat used to the carrier as soon as possible. Keep the carrier somewhere in the house that your cat likes to spend time and be sure she can get in and out of it easily. Make it inviting by placing a soft thick towel or small blanket in the bottom. Feed your cat treats in the carrier or sprinkle some catnip. As your cat spends time in there, her smells will build up and give her comfort when the door is shut, and the carrier is moving.

Skitter with carrier ©Ruth Thaler-Carter
Skitter with the carrier. Photo Courtesy of Ruth Thaler-Carter

Traveling With Your Cat – Other Safety Measures

You should also get your cat used to wearing a harness and leash. Be sure the harness is snug enough so your cat can’t slip out of it. If you can place two fingers between the harness and your cat’s fur, it is not too tight. The leash will provide extra safety if you have to remove your cat when going through security in the airport or if you have a long car ride and want to let her out of the carrier for portions of the trip. 

Another important safety measure is to have a microchip placed in your cat. If your cat escapes and ends up at a shelter or veterinary clinic, the chip will provide information that will reunite you.

Checking a Microchip ©Judy Karnia
Checking a Microchip. Photo Courtesy of Judy Karnia

Feeding Your Cat While Traveling

Bring along your cat’s usual food while you travel. Stress can upset a cat’s stomach, and having the animal’s regular food will help to minimize this. Feed small amounts on the day of travel. Many cats will not eat while you are in a car or plane, which is okay as long as they eat something each morning and evening. They may eat favorite treats but don’t overdo it if they are not used to eating a large amount of these. Canned food before and after traveling will help to keep your cat well hydrated.

Ginchan drinking ©Mollie Hunt
Ginchan drinking. Photo courtesy of Mollie Hunt

More Preparations For Traveling With Your Cat

Provide a similar litter box and the same type of litter when traveling. Many cats will not use the litter box during active travel. Once you get to your destination, set up the litter box in a quiet place and show your cat where it is. Watch your cat’s urinations and defecations very closely. If you notice a change from what they typically produce at home, contact a veterinary clinic. Before you leave home, get recommendations for a good veterinary and emergency clinic at your destination.

Skitter in litter box ©Ruth Thaler-Carter
Skitter in the litter box. Photo Courtesy of Ruth Thaler-Carter

Set up a quiet resting place with your cat’s food and water nearby at the new location. Your cat may want to hide at first but will likely explore with time, depending on their personality. Some cats are ready to explore right away, and others need a couple of days. Try to set up a routine for feeding and playtime that is similar to home.

Before setting out, contact your veterinarian about any vaccinations or parasite protection that your cat will need on your trip. If you are flying or staying in a hotel, you may require proof of vaccinations or a health certificate. Call your veterinary clinic at least a couple of weeks in advance to find the best way to obtain those. Your cat may benefit from medications to reduce stress and nausea, and your vet can discuss those with you.

Traveling with your cat can be safer and less stressful if you prepare well. Providing a comfortable environment, sticking to a routine, and monitoring your cat’s health can ensure a good trip, whether going to the vet or on vacation.

About Guest Blogger Judy Karnia:

Judy is a feline veterinarian and a travel writer. She lives in sunny Scottsdale, AZ, and has enjoyed traveling throughout the United States and parts of Europe. She loves exploring new cities, especially parks and art museums. You can find more of her travel articles at Weekend Notes.

Feature Photo of Tinkerbell and Little on a leash. Photo Courtesy of Mollie Hunt.