It can be challenging to travel with pets — and cats are no exception. Many cats love to stay at home, curl up in the sun, and spend lazy days sleeping the time away. Traveling can be stressful for cats — unless you’re both properly prepared.
If you'd like to travel with your cat, then you can make the experience more rewarding by developing methods of keeping your cat comfortable throughout the trip. By providing your cat with a comfortable carrier, familiarizing yourself with transportation guidelines for cats, and by "practicing" traveling, you and your cat can learn to love traveling together.
Familiarize yourself with transportation guidelines
Whether you're taking your cat on an airplane or to a hotel, it's important to know the transportation guidelines for cats.
Prepare for travel with a cat on a plane
Contact your airline well in advance of your trip to find out all the information you need to know about air travel with your cat.
Make an appointment with your cat's veterinarian before your departure date, so your cat can be up to date on any vaccinations and treatments that may be required by your airline.
Keep a copy of the airline's travel policy with you, so you can refer to it throughout the trip.
Prepare for hotel travel
Remember that not all "pet-friendly" hotels allow cats. Some hotels only allow dogs of certain sizes and pets of other types. In addition, hotels that accept cats often only permit pets to stay in certain rooms. Call to let your hotel know you'll be bringing your cat with you, so the hotel can be sure to put you in a room where your cat can stay. There may be a fee for bringing your pet, so be prepared.
Keep your cat comfortable
Stress during travel can negatively impact your cat's comfort and, by extension, your comfort. Keeping your cat comfortable and happy throughout your trip is the key to a successful journey.
Bring something comforting from home that your pet loves. This may be a security blanket, a toy, your cat's bed — or all three. Bringing these items can help your cat feel less dislocated and out of sorts while you're traveling to new and exciting places.
Help your cat adjust to the carrier
Carriers can be scary, especially if your cat associates carriers with trips to the vet. You can prevent this from being a problem by making your cat's carrier a regular part of your cat's world:
Plan to leave your cat's carrier out and available all the time, not just before trips.
Toss treats into your cat's carrier from time to time, to encourage your cat to go into the carrier of its free will.
Fill your cat's carrier with comfortable bedding. It may help if the bedding has your scent on it.
Place some of your cat's favorite toys in the carrier, to show your cat that the carrier is its place to spend time as it wishes.
Give your cat enough time to get used to the carrier. Don't assume that your cat will become comfortable with the carrier right away.
Cats are intelligent. Your cat may become suspicious if it thinks you want it to go in the carrier. Don't try to convince your cat to go into the carrier through gestures. Instead, incentivize your cat to enter the carrier by itself. Act as if you have no interest in your cat entering the carrier one way or the other.
Practice travel with a cat in a car
Practicing travel with your cat is one of the best ways to help your cat have a low-stress, happy experience when you're on the road. Take your cat for a test drive to learn your cat's temperament and tolerance for travel. Put your cat in the carrier and drive it around your neighborhood. Make the trip short.
When your cat can tolerate short trips, take longer trips. Don't take your cat for an overnight adventure until it has tolerance for being on the road.
Cats may have surprising problems while they're traveling. For example, some cats can get car sick. If your cat vomits while on the road, consider elevating your cat, so it can see out the window.
Gauge your cat's moods while on the road by watching its body language. Your cat should be relaxed and quiet. If your cat is tense, pacing or making noises, this is a sign of distress.
Get your cat microchipped
Cats can do surprising things — including darting away at a time when you're not expecting. To avoid a potential disaster or loss of your pet, have it microchipped at the veterinary clinic. If your cat runs away and ends up in a shelter or a veterinary clinic, the microchip will make it easier for you to find your pet.
Be prepared with important items from home
Once you're ready to go on a long trip, make a list of everything you need to meet your cat's needs while you're gone. Remember that you may not be able to get your cat's preferred food type or medicine when you're on your trip. Bring extras of everything. Make a checklist of items to bring from home before starting on a journey with your pet.
How to travel long distance with a cat
Not all cats are born travelers. They have to learn to be comfortable with the many changes in environment that they must experience during travel. The earlier you expose your cat to long-distance travel, the better.
Always be prepared with everything you need from home. Be familiar with the guidelines of your airline, hotel, and other venues where you'll be staying or traveling with your pet. Most of all, remember to make travel fun for your cat. Spend time relaxing with your pet in the evenings, to make travel worthwhile for both of you. The more time you spend together, the more rewarding the experience will be.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.