Traveling with cats is not as popular of a trend as traveling with the family dog, however, it is a trend that is gaining in popularity. For most cat owners, reluctance to travel with their cat stems from anxiety over the travel process itself. Fortunately, with proper planning, preparation, and research, taking your cat on your next road trip doesn’t have to be so worrisome!
Traveling in the Car with Your Cat
Most commonly, families that travel with their favorite feline choose to travel by car. Car travel allows for more control over the cat’s environment and hence, less anxiety for everyone involved. While car travel may be easier, however, it still requires preparation and planning.
When taking a road trip with your cat it’s important to have the necessary supplies to make the trip go as smoothly as possible. Recommended supplies include:
- A hard crate or safe carrier to secure your cat.
- A water bottle or bowl that can fix to your cat’s carrier.
- A food bowl that can fix to your cat’s carrier and food if traveling for any longer than 8 hours or when traveling in poor weather.
- A travel litter box with litter and litter liners.
- A fully stocked first aid kit with supplies for you and your cat.
- A printed record of your cat’s vaccinations.
- A supply of your cat’s medications.
- Up to date identification tags in case your cat slips out of their carrier at a rest stop or while on vacation.
- A recent photograph of your cat in case they get loose from their carrier during travel or while on vacation.
- A pillow or bed for your cat to sleep on if they don’t like to sleep in their carrier.
- Enough food for the duration of your trip if you are unable to purchase your cat’s food while away.
- Wet wipes to help with litter box clean up or any clean up needed due to travel sickness.
- A cat harness and leash to keep your cat secured.
Planning a Car Trip with Your Cat
Planning is the key to success in making your cat feel comfortable during your road trip and your comfort during travel relies on your cat feeling comfortable.
Desensitize Your Cat to their Carrier
A well-ventilated carrier is not only the safest way for your cat to travel, but it is also the safest way for you to travel with your cat. Keeping your cat loose in your car can lead to injuries to you and your cat, damage to your car, your cat escaping during rest stops, or car accidents. In order for your cat to be most comfortable in their carrier, take some time before traveling to let them investigate it and spend time inside without being contained. Reduce anxiety by putting favorite toys and treats in the carrier and letting your cat choose to investigate it on their own terms.
Visit Your Vet
Before you consider traveling with your cat, make sure to visit your veterinarian to discuss the possibility of travel. Ask whether your vet thinks that your cat is suited to traveling, in good enough health to travel, and whether they are up to date on any vaccinations they may need for travel.
Additionally, if you have a cat that is motion sick or particularly anxious, talk to your vet about the possibility of medication to make the trip easier. There are many cat-safe medications available to ease symptoms of motion sickness and anxiety.
Overnight Stops with Your Cat
If you are planning to take a longer road trip that will require you to stop overnight, research ahead to find a pet-friendly hotel. Even if you promise to keep your cat inside their carrier while staying at a hotel, you will find that only pet-friendly hotels will allow you to bring them inside. There are many reasons for this including the possibility of cats carrying fleas or other parasites as well as possible allergies of other guests.
Never leave your cat alone in the car overnight! If you cannot find a pet-friendly hotel or home rental (such as Air B&B), consider booking a local kennel for your cat’s overnight stay while you stay in a nearby hotel.
Food and Water
Plan your cat’s feeding schedule around your travel. Before traveling, make sure that you allow a few hours after your cat’s last meal before travel to minimize nausea. Also, keep in mind that cats do not like to eat while in motion. If you plan on taking a long road trip, plan to feed your cat their meals a little while before starting out each morning and a little while after stopping for the day. If you plan on driving continuously, feed multiple smaller meals to your cat while the vehicle is stopped. Don’t be surprised, however, if your cat is reluctant to eat. Often, the anxiety involved in traveling can put a cat off their food.
Always make sure that your cat is contained in their crate or carrier when inside the car. A crate will ensure that your cat does not escape through a cracked window, opened door, or opened sunroof, and it will also keep them safe should you experience a car accident. Additionally, keeping your cat contained makes sure that they do not put your safety at risk by obstructing your view of the road, lodging themselves by the gas pedal, or distracting you from paying attention to the road and other drivers.
The best method of restraint is a cat crate or carrier that is large enough for the cat to be comfortable, but not so large that it is overwhelming. This carrier or crate should be restrained using a seat belt or security straps so that it does not slide around the interior of the car.
Air Travel with Your Cat
When flying to your holiday destination with your cat, research each airline to determine which offers the best pet policy for your cat. Most airlines offer their pet policy in writing on their website, but if you are unable to locate the information you are looking for, give the airline a call. Find out if cats are permitted to fly, where your cat will be during flight and any limitations that apply to traveling with your cat such as weight.
General Tips for Air Travel with Your Cat
Although each airline has their own pet policy, there are some general tips that can make air travel with your cat easier.
- Cabin travel reduces the stress on your cat so you want to make sure that your cat travels in the cabin of the plane and not the cargo area. Since there is limited space inside the cabin for pets, call ahead to reserve space for your cat.
- Check with the airline for carrier size limitations. Since carriers must fit underneath the seat in front of you during flight, it is important to make sure that your carrier is within size limitations.
- Contact the airline if you plan on traveling with young kittens. Some airlines enforce minimum age requirements for the safety of pets.
- Although your cat’s carrier is counted as carry-on baggage, most airlines charge an additional cabin fee for cats which ranges between $75 to $125.
- Cargo travel is becoming less accepted by airlines and is an exceptionally stressful way to travel for your cat, so it is not advised. If your cat is especially large, however, cargo travel may be your only option and comes with a fee between $100 to $200.
- International travel often requires quarantine when your pet arrives in your destination country. Find out whether your cat will need to be quarantined, how long the quarantine will be and any details you need to know about the quarantine process.
Choosing the Right Flight for Your Cat
When choosing a flight, most air travelers opt for more affordable tickets, however, when traveling with your cat, this may not be the best option. Below are some criteria to consider in order to make your cat’s flight as easy as possible.
- Cats do not fly well, do always opt for the shortest flight time.
- Choose to travel on off-peak travel days to reduce the chance of delays (Tuesday and Wednesday is best)
- Choose red-eye flights since this will not only help to reduce delays, but it will also coincide with your routine sleep schedule.
- Contact the airline to find out how your cat’s carrier will be handled if your cat must travel by cargo. Ask where your cat will be kept if there is a delay in the flight and find out if it is normal for pets traveling via cargo to spend any period of time on the tarmac.
Getting Your Cat Ready to Fly
After you have chosen an airline and determined the best flight for your trip, it is important to prepare your cat for travel.
Cats tend not to travel well regardless of the mode of travel, so many of the steps you will need to take to prepare for air travel are synonymous with car travel. For example, you want to desensitize your cat to their carrier and visit your veterinarian to discuss whether your cat is healthy enough for air travel. When visiting your vet, you also want to make sure to obtain a health certificate for your cat if the airline you choose requires one.
If your cat is not used to wearing a collar in your home, you may want to take the opportunity to get them used to wearing a collar before traveling. Just like traveling in the car, traveling by air will require your cat to wear a breakaway collar with your contact information on it at all times. (This contact information should also be on the outside of your cat’s carrier when traveling!)
Keep your cat’s nails short. If your cat still has their claws, make sure to trim their nails before traveling. This will help to prevent any injury that might occur due to scratching on their carrier due to anxiety over travel.
If your flight is rather short, you may not need to provide food for your cat, but if you do, carry it in a Ziploc bag if your cat is traveling in the cabin with you or tape the bag to your cat’s carrier if your cat is traveling via cargo. Airline attendees will then be able to offer food to your cat during layovers or after arriving at their destination.
It is also important to ensure that your cat has access to clean water during travel. The best way to do this is to fill a water dispenser and freeze it at home. Make sure to attach this dispenser and an empty food bowl to the inside of your cat’s carrier before loading your cat in the carrier. This will keep the water cool throughout the flight as the ice melts.
If you need to feed your cat prior to traveling, feed them as usual at home a few hours before travel. This will reduce the chance of vomiting during travel.
Provide your cat their favorite toy and some padding on which to sleep inside their crate or carrier.
Also, bring wet wipes and a few empty Ziploc bags in case your cat has an accident in their crate and you need to clean up. This will keep your cat comfortable and help to keep odor down during the flight.
Lastly, when flying with your cat, make sure not to open the door to their carrier unless your cat is secured well on a leash. Losing your cat inside an airplane is not something you want to have to deal with!
Riding on the Train with Your Cat
Amtrak allows for cats up to 20lbs to travel on some of their trains on select routes (this 20lb limit includes the weight of a carrier). Cats must be contained within an approved carrier and that carrier must be kept under your seat for the full trip. Additionally, there are limitations over the areas of the train where pet carriers are and are not permitted. These limitations vary from train to train. Lastly, Amtrak will not permit cats to travel on routes that are longer than seven hours, this is for the safety of the cat and for sanitation reasons.
Cat carriers are counted as a piece of the owner’s carry-on luggage, however, there is also a $25 fee for pets riding the train. When paying the pet passenger fee, you will also be required to sign a release and indemnification agreement attesting to your cat’s health and accepting liability for your cat while they are traveling on the train.
The NYC Subway
Cats are permitted to travel on the NYC Subway, however, they must be contained in a carrier or crate at all times. Cats that are considered to be a nuisance to other passengers may be refused a position on the Subway or asked to leave.
While cats are permitted on the Subway, the noise and movement can be particularly stressful. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, Subway riding with your cat is not recommended.
The London Underground
The London Underground allows passengers to travel with their cats so long as they are not considered to be a nuisance to other passengers. While there is no rule that states that cats must be transported in carriers, it isn’t advised to take your cat on a harness and leash to such a busy location. If you do choose to take your cat to the Underground on a harness and leash, be aware that you must carry them up and down the escalators. The Underground has this rule in place to save tails from being trapped in the escalator stairs!
When traveling on the National Rail in England, you may travel with a maximum of two small cats. Unlike dogs traveling on National Rail who may be leashed and ride outside of their carrier, cats must remain in a carrier at all times. This carrier must be stored under your seat throughout the journey and for sanitation reasons, may not be taken into restaurant cars of the train. If you fail to put your cat’s carrier under your seat and place it on a seat instead, you must pay for the seat in full, even if the seat is not taken.
While dogs are permitted on Sleeper trains, there is no current provision for cats at this time.
Riding Boats and Ferries with Your Cat
There are many different types of ferries and most are governed by corporate policies which establish which animals may or may not ride. Most ferries allow riders to take their cats with them so long as they are kept in a secure crate or cage for the entirety of their journey.
On larger ferries like those traveling from England to France, riders must pay a “pet fee” for their pet. Additionally, cats must remain inside carriers inside individual vehicles throughout the duration of the trip. This is not recommended, however, since temperatures inside vehicles can quickly reach dangerous levels without a cooling system in place.
If you will be taking a trip on a smaller or privately owned boat, it is best to leave your cat at home or in a boarding facility. If you do decide to take your cat with you, however, they should be fitted with a life vest and kept secured on a leash and harness or in a cage or crate. In the very least, your cat should be secured inside the cabin of the boat.
Staying in a Hotel with Your Cat
No matter how you travel to your destination, if you are taking your cat with you, you need to secure pet-friendly lodging. If staying at a friend’s home or in a pet-friendly rental villa, you only have to worry about keeping your cat contained within the home. If you are staying in a hotel, though, you will need to take a few more things into consideration.
When planning your trip, call around to various pet-friendly accommodations so that you can compare the various pet policies. Specifically, find out whether cats are permitted to stay in the hotel, whether there are limits on the number of pets permitted for each guest, and whether there are weight limits for pets staying at the hotel.
Once you have chosen the hotel you want to stay in, it is important that when you arrive you abide by the hotel’s pet policy rules. These rules exist to keep the hotel sanitary, keep guests and their pets safe, and to ensure that everyone staying at the hotel has a pleasant experience.
The pet policy of the hotel that you choose to stay in may vary, but the following policies are useful to keep in mind:
- Always call ahead to inform the hotel that you will be traveling with your cat. Ask if there is anything you need to know about having your cat at the hotel as well as if there are any additional fees you will need to pay.
- The hotel will not provide you with a litter pan, make sure to take one and keep it in an area that is easily cleaned such as the bathroom.
- Always keep your cat contained when you are not in the room.
- Be sure that your cat wears their collar with up to date identification tags at all times in case they manage to escape your room.
- Be courteous and keep the room clean by picking up your cat’s toys and always keeping the litterbox clean!
The first thing you should do after check-in is to put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign. This will guard against your cat being startled by knocking which may cause them to dart into a hard to reach hiding place. Next, before releasing your cat, take a moment to look around the room for any potential dangers like hanging wires or items left behind by other guests. After checking the room over, open the door of your cat’s carrier and allow them to investigate the room. If your cat does not recall easily and is particularly skittish, it is helpful to keep them on a long leash in the hotel room to prevent difficult situations!
Leaving Your Cat Alone in a Hotel Room
Whenever you leave your hotel room, make sure to put your cat in their carrier and secure the door. Make sure that the “Do Not Disturb” sign is still on your door to reduce disturbances. Finally, before you leave the hotel, give your phone number to the front desk so that they have a means of contacting you if needed.
No matter where you are headed on your next trip, if you plan on taking your cat along for the ride, the smoothness of your trip depends on your preparation. With smooth planning and perhaps a few shorter trips to begin with your cat will become a traveling pro in no time!