At some point in most pet owners lives, it becomes necessary to travel with your pet. Unfortunately for cat owners, most cats are not inclined to enjoy the travel experience. This handout will explain some tips for keeping your cat comfortable and helping them tolerate the travel experience.
Cats tend to naturally be highly territorial animals. Unfortunately, most travel destinations do not tend to lend themselves to be known and comfortable territory for your cat. On top of introducing them to new surroundings upon arrival, your pet has likely also been confined in a travel carrier for the trip. This confinement may also be stressful to your pet as many cats do not like to be confined to small and non-familiar spaces. This combination of lack of familiarity with their surroundings and control over their surroundings tends to make travel an overall stressful experience.
Your cat may come to tolerate the travel experience with time. However, unless a cat was introduced to travel as a kitten, it may never come to enjoy excursions away from its familiar territory. In order to lessen the stress during a big trip and prepare your cat for the travel experience it may be helpful to practice some of the following tips:
- Introduce your pet to their carrier in familiar and comfortable territory. This will help combat the negative association that your cat may have developed by linking the carrier to undesirable outcomes, such as the vet or kennel.
- Make the carrier as familiar and friendly as possible. Line the carrier with a favorite blanket and include a special treat or toy to entice your cat to spend time inside.
- Introduce your pet to short, frequent car trips with pleasurable destinations.
- Include treats, toys or other special items to ensure that your cat associates positive experiences with the travel excursions.
Choosing an appropriate travel carrier will play a large role in how comfortable both you and your cat are with traveling. Aspects of the carrier should be chosen with the animals comfort, your ease of transport and any outside regulations, such as the airlines, in mind. Some things to consider for your comfort are the way the cat is put into the carrier, such as top, side or front entry and whether the carrier has soft or hard sides. The ease of cleaning should also be considered. Most plastic shell and wire mesh carriers are easy to wipe clean, whereas, some cloth luggage-type carriers require machine washing. It is also ideal for the carrier to have a separate bottom tray to hold an absorbent pad to keep fecal matter away from your pet. If your cat prefers to be hidden from view, then a covered, enclosed carrier would be ideal. Whereas if your cat prefers to view what is happening around them, then perhaps a wire mesh carrier would suit.
However, before purchasing any carrier, check with your preferred mode of travel and accommodations to make sure that your ideal carrier also fits their guidelines and regulations. Some general guidelines to follow for purchasing a carrier to be used on an aircraft are that the walls of the carrier should have adequate ventilation (preferably three sides); the walls of the carrier should be strong enough to prevent it from being crushed; the carrier must have sturdy handles; an attached water bowl must be present and the cage should allow the animal to stand up and turn around easily.
Basic Tips for Airline Travel with Your Cat:
- Determine all airline regulations for acclimation, carrier specifications, baggage liability, and vaccination records several weeks prior to flying. Bring all pertinent veterinary records and other documentation to the airport with you to avoid delays.
- Schedule a direct flight if possible. This will minimize the chances of a delay and of your pet having to wait in inclimate weather to be loaded into cargo.
- Have your cat examined by its veterinarian before the trip to determine its suitability to fly. Your veterinarian may recommend a mild sedative for cats that may be overly stressed during their travel.
- Some airlines will allow passengers to travel with small pets in coach and first class. Inquire as to this possibility and the regulations well before arriving at the airport.
- Make sure that your pets carrier is well marked with permanent identification, including your contact information, flight number, destination and destination contact information.
- Consider in advance all food, water and medication that you may need for your cat and be sure to pack it in an easily accessible location.