How To Travel With A Cat

Cats make great pets. They’re low-maintenance, they don’t eat that much and they keep to themselves. However, when it comes to traveling with your cat on vacation, it can be a little tricky.

That’s because cats are usually fond of staying in familiar territory and they’re terrified of being in new places. It can take a really long time for cats to get used to a new environment so that’s why they don’t like traveling that much. It disturbs their routine which is something they hold dear.

That’s why if you’re planning to travel with your cat, you need to be prepared. Take the time to help your cat get used to the idea of traveling by taking it on regular short trips and make sure you prepare enough food for the journey.

Here are a few more tips on stress-free travel with your cat.

How To Travel With A Cat – A Summary

  • Consult with your vet before traveling. If your cat gets nervous while traveling, your vet can prescribe some medication
  • Take your cat’s toys if possible
  • Try putting your cat in a crate. Start getting your cat used to the crate before you travel. Make the crate comfortable and fun while helping your cat prepare. It’s a good idea to toss in a treat or two
  • Don’t leave your cat alone in a car
  • Check flight, hotel, or Airbnb restrictions towards pets
  • Allow for bathroom breaks
  • Try to touch and comfort your cat whenever possible

Consult with a Vet for Medications

If you notice that your cat gets agitated or nervous every time you take it somewhere, then it’s recommended to find some medication to help it stay calm. The key is to keep your cat sedated enough to reduce the level of stress and anxiety it feels on the road. This will make the trip way more enjoyable for both of you.

Dog and cat travelers with suitcases

However, you must be responsible when giving medication to your cat. For instance, you should administer the medication prior to the trip.

You can easily ask your vet for a prescription that’s relevant to your cat’s problem, and there are medications for stress, anxiety, and car sickness available for pets. You should ask your vet to show you how to administer the medication.

Take Your Cat’s Toys with You

Cats, much like people, have an affinity for certain items. Just like you may have had a special blanket when you were a kid, your cat might have a special toy or something that it likes to play with. Bring this along with you as a reminder of home and a sign to your cat that it’s in a safe space even if it’s far away from home.

Also, make sure the food and litter you pack for your trip are the same ones that you use at home. That way, being on the road won’t be as much of a shock to your pet’s system as it would be if there were no elements of familiarity.

Try Crating

We all know that cats love boxes! But, you’ll find that they often get wary when you try to put them in a box that’s inside your car. Instead, cats prefer to “discover” the box on their own while playing in the house.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to replicate this organic discovery when you’re trying to entice your cat into your vehicle in preparation for your trip. The good news is that you can always crate your cat in the house so that it’s already in a box by the time you bring it to your car.

There are a few safety precautions to observe if you’re going to use this strategy. For one, make sure the box has sufficient ventilation to keep your cat cool and comfortable.

Also, create a baby gate for your cat so that it can roam free in the back seat without interrupting your driving. After all, you wouldn’t want to keep your cat in the crate for the entire duration of the trip.

Check Flight Regulations for Your Cat

If your trip requires that you take a flight to the destination, then you should perform some due diligence to make sure that pets are allowed on the airline. The last thing you want is to leave a traumatized cat in the luggage or cargo hold.

Find out if there are any size requirements that you should know about when it comes to the type of carrying crate that you’re allowed to bring. Also, figure out if the airline is going to need any additional paperwork from you in order to travel with your pet. This could be a traveling health certificate and vaccination reports for your pet.

You should also ask your vet for advice on the best medications or exercises you can do to calm your kitty down during the trip. After all, flying on an airplane is vastly different from going on a road trip.

Check If the Hotel You Will Book is Pet-Friendly

There are plenty of pet-friendly hotels around the world whose very design is meant to cater to both pets and their owners. However, some of these hotels mainly accommodate dogs and not cats.

So, you should always ask ahead of time if the hotel you’re staying in is actually cat-friendly. You don’t want to be the person who’s caught trying to sneak a cat into their room as that could cost you your stay.

Don’t Leave Your Cat Alone in the Car

This one’s pretty obvious; never leave your cat in the car. No matter how cool or pleasant the weather is, being in the car alone can be scary, especially for a fragile animal like a cat.

Not only that but cars have been known to overheat and asphyxiate animals even though weather conditions seem fair. Just make sure to crate your cat before you open the door and step out of the car with it.

Take Some Measures

There are quite a few important precautions to take if you’re traveling a long distance. For instance, it’s important to keep the car door closed and locked at all times and be careful when coming out of the car for gas or supplies.

Siamese tabby cat sleep in travel box

Cats are quick and nimble. They can easily escape through the narrowest of holes. Instead of carrying them from your car to the hotel, rather put them in the crate first while you’re in the car, and let them out when you’re both safely in the hotel room.

Considering that accidents happen no matter how careful you are, perhaps it’s worth investing in an ID tag for your pet’s collar so that it will be easier to identify should your cat escape.

Accept That It May Be Stressful

The reality is that no matter how much preparation you put into your trip, some elements of the journey might be stressful for both of you. Your cat might throw up or cry a lot during the trip. This is a normal response and it happens to a lot of cat owners. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad cat mommy or daddy.

Just be sure to bring some paper towels and wet wipes along for stress-free cleanup of any accidents that may occur. Basically, adhere to that old saying; “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

It’ll make your trip that much easier to accept that things won’t be perfect. You’ll come across challenges, especially during the first few trips. But, the more you travel with your cat, the easier it gets.

A Checklist You Should Check When Flying with Your Cat

There’s a number of important items to include in your checklist when flying with cats.

For instance, you need to consider whether you want to place the carrier beside you or on your lap. Your cat’s preferences will play a huge role when making your decision

Also, decide how many toys you’ll take with you to the seat. Most cats don’t really like playing with toys while high up in the air, while others welcome the distraction. It all depends on your pet’s disposition and preferences.

That said, you should always carry a small bag with snacks and a few toys and familiar objects just in case.

Also, your cat may need to relieve himself during the trip so you should keep a ziplock bag, paper towels, gloves and a foldable litter box on hand when that happens. With most cats, you might not need it but then again, better safe than sorry.

The good news is that research shows cats can “hold” it for up to 24 hours. That’s a whole day without going to the bathroom!

Still, make the option available to your pet by taking it to the bathroom and laying out its litter box to see if it needs to go.

What About If Your Seat is Next to an Allergic Person?

Absolutely nothing, of course. It’s not your responsibility to do anything about a fellow passenger that’s allergic to your cat. If they have a severe problem, then it’s up to the flight attendant to help them find another seat.

If the person seems vexed by the whole situation, they’ll most likely be invited to deplane and check-in for the next flight at no extra cost.

Again, you don’t have to do anything in this situation because you’re not the one with the problem. As long as you know that your pet has the proper vaccinations and medical exams required to book a plane seat, it’s all good.

On the other hand, if you’re the one with a severe allergy to cats or dogs, then it might be a good idea to carry anti-allergy medications with you.

Caution

Make sure your cat has a harness and leash on at all times. It doesn’t matter if they’re leash trained or not. Keep in mind that at some point in your journey, you’ll need to take your cat out of its crate either for security X-ray screening or other reasons.

Whatever you do, never allow your cat to get X-rayed while in its carrier. It’s more humane to hold it with your leash while it goes through the X-ray machine so it doesn’t get traumatized thinking you’ve abandoned it while it’s going through a dark hole.

Keep in mind that airports are usually quite busy and this alone can make your pet nervous. It’s worth the extra effort to keep the harness on it so it feels somewhat comfortable as you go through the various stages of plane boarding.

Taking Your Cat on a Road Trip

Cats that struggle with conditions like motion sickness are prone to drooling and lethargy while traveling. This is often temporary and it helps to calm your cat a bit before you put it in the car.

Cat so cute sitting inside a car wait for travel

You can give it calming snacks or pet it while it’s wrapped in a familiar blanket. At the very least, this will help it create a positive association with cars.

For cats, riding a car is like riding a bike. Sure, the first few times might be tough but after a few trips, motion sickness will be a thing of the past.

Pretty soon, your cat may even look forward to getting in the car, because it knows it can look through the window and see new places and things it’s never seen before.

Staying at a Hotel with Your Cat

Although it might take some adjusting on your cat’s part to stay at a hotel, over time it’ll grow to enjoy the experience. At least, that’s how these things usually pan out. The thing is that cats love exploring new places and most pet-friendly hotels are filled with new adventures and scenery for your pet to enjoy.

If you’re lucky, the hotel you’re staying at will have a “Pet in Room” sign that you can hang outside the door whenever you leave your cat inside.

This will prevent housekeeping from opening the door and accidentally letting your cat escape. If that’s not available, then the good old “Do Not Disturb” sign should suffice.

As soon as you get to the hotel, set up the litter box in the bathroom so that it’s far away from carpets and fabrics that can get stained. Also, be sure to leave enough food and water for your cat before you go out exploring the town or city.

Do Hotels Allow Cats?

While there are plenty of fantastic, cat-friendly hotels out there, it’s not always easy to find them. They’re plentiful in places like Europe where pet travel is popular, but you might struggle to find a suitable place in the US.

Some hotels are very vague when advertising their pet-friendly stance. Don’t assume that this is a blanket term referring to all animals. Sometimes, it means the hotel accepts dogs and not cats.

Call ahead and find out if the hotel can accommodate your cat for the duration of your stay. Also, ask how much it’ll cost to clean-up after your pet. Most establishments charge a handsome fee and deposit for pet owners traveling with a pet. But, this is to cover the cost of cleaning up after you and your pet.

Here’s a list of US hotel chains that we know can accommodate cats and other small pets:

  •       Four Seasons
  •       Fairmont
  •       Red Roof Inn
  •       Motel 6
  •       Travelodge
  •       La Quinta

Specific Traveling Circumstances

Now let’s talk about a few more specific circumstances. We’ll discuss traveling with your cat in the car, in a plane, on a bus, and on a train. Then we answer from frequently asked questions.

Traveling With A Cat In The Car

The benefits of traveling in a car with your cat is that you can stop as many times as you want should you feel that your cat needs a bathroom, food, or water break. You can also keep your cat in the car with you instead of having to stow him in the trunk (the equivalent of the baggage hold), as you may have to with planes.

Before The Trip

To prepare for a road trip, you need to make the decision of how to transport your cat. You can either use a pet seat belt and harness or your cat’s carrier.

If you choose to use a seatbelt/harness combination, your cat will have a bit more wiggle room. However, this transportation method can also be challenging if your cat is particularly scared of the car or does not want to hold still. When opting for this route, be sure that your cat’s harness fits securely and snuggly. You do not want your pet to be able to wiggle free. The downside of this is that cat seat belt harnesses are often hard to come by.

So, if you end up using a carrier, you’ll want to be sure that the carrier is big enough for your cat to be kept in for a few hours at a time. This is especially important if your road trip is long distance and will be completed over the course of a few days. You’ll also need to ensure that the cat carrier has its own seat.

Your cat carrier needs to be treated as if it were a person and  deserves its own seat and seat belt.

During The Trip

Before moving, be sure that the cat carrier is properly secured with a seatbelt. It should not jostle or rock when lightly pushed on. If it does, it is not secure enough and could potentially be a safety hazard for both you and your cat should an accident occur.

Tips:

  • It’s important to remember that many cats hate car rides. This being said, your cat may “cry” or meow for a good portion of the trip. Try not to become too distracted by this and rest assured that as long as your cat is secured properly, there is nothing wrong with him or her
  • If your cat is new to riding in a car, he or she may be wanting some extra attention. Try to let your cat know that things will be okay. Use a soft, soothing voice and pet your cat when the opportunity arises.

How To Fly With A Cat

The air isn’t a natural place for your kitty. Your cat will be uneasy and require a great amount of extra care.

Your cat may suffer from altitude related pain and discomfort, as well as be denied the use of the litter box for longer periods of time. It also means that, depending on your airline, your cat may not be able to ride in the main area of the plane. He or she may be required to ride in with the cargo.

Travelling cat looking out airplane window

Before The Trip

This being said, preparation is slightly different but still follows many of the same premises. When taking your cat on a plane, you’ll still need to ensure that he or she has ID on his cage and collar. You’ll generally be required to have veterinarian documents.

Since these documents can take some time to come in, it’s a good idea to order the documents well ahead of the time of your trip. Many airlines will also require a veterinarian signed document stating the good health of your pet. These documents should be dated no more than 10 days before your fight.

If your cat has to ride in the baggage hold, you can rest assured that it is pressurized and temperatures are regulated. However, it’s still ideal to travel during the coolest part of the day and/or to have your cat in the cabin with you.

Before your pet is handed to transportation personnel, ensure that the bolts keeping the two halves of his cage together are secure and in place. Make sure the door is shut tight and locked and that the handles of the carrier are not loose, broken, or going to fall off. You can also request that your cat be carried by hand to and from the plane.

It might also be wise to clip your cat’s nails. This can prevent their nails from becoming caught in their cage and causing discomfort and injury. When setting up the carrier, place one or two puppy training pads in the bottom in case your cat has an accident.

During The Trip

If your cat is going to be in the cabin with you, this is a great thing. You still need to make sure of a few things, though. For example, it’s never a bad idea to sit with your cat’s carrier under the seat in front of you facing you. In this position, your cat can see you and may find comfort.

If you’re sitting beside someone, you’ll want to let them know that you have a cat on board in case they have allergies or a phobia that may require them to move before at some point during the flight.

Tips:

  • If you can help it, avoid bringing cats with “flat faces” such as Persians on flights where they will be required to ride in with the cargo. Their flat faces and nasal passages combined with high altitude and thin air can cause discomfort and, in some rare cases, injury or death.
  • To take a pet on a plane, you need to be of legal age. This means, in many countries, you need to be at least 18 years old. In the US and a select number of other countries, you will need to be 21.

How To Travel With A Cat On The Bus

Although bus travel isn’t as common as plane or car travel, it does still have a place in society. There are times where your cat will need to be taken aboard the bus.

Before The Trip

Before your big bus trip, you’ll need to do a bit of preparation. Your cat, as most cats are, is probably going to be a bit spooked at the prospect of taking a bus ride. Try to keep your cat’s carrier as close to you as you can. If you’re able, stick a finger or some snacks into the carrier so your cat can see and interact with you.

You will want to double check with your bus company to ensure that pets are permitted. If they are, be sure to find out if your cat needs to have any certain vaccinations and/or identification such as veterinarian records in order to board.

While you’re at it, you can ask your veterinarian if there is any medication that your cat should have before going on the trip. This is unlikely, but depending on your end destination, your veterinarian may find it necessary to prescribe certain antibiotics.

When it comes to preparing your carrier, make sure that the inside is fitted with a comfortable blanket and attach identification tags to the outside handles. It’s also a good idea to equip your cat with a collar if she doesn’t already have one that has your phone number or email address in case of separation. If your cat has a microchip, ensure that the details are updated.

If you expect that you’ll have to remove your cat from his carrier at any point during the trip, consider fitting your cat into a three point harness before putting him inside for the trip. While many cat owners use basic leashes for their cats, they are much too loose for cats who may be stressed out and scared, as they can easily slip out of them. A three point harness is the safest bet.

During The Trip

During your bus trip, you should try to limit the amount of food and water that your cat has. The more recently that your cat has had food and water, the higher chance that you’re going to have to deal with vomit. This being said though, be sure to avoid starving him or her.

On long rides, feed your cat once or twice a day until you reach your destination. But try not to let them eat or drink too much as they could end up having an accident in their carrier. If you’re traveling on a bus that does not have an AC unit during the summer, your cat will likely need more water: don’t be afraid to give them extra. You don’t want your cat coming down with heat sickness.

Buses stop frequently. Use this to your advantage by allowing your cat to use the litter box every few hours when stopped. On your carry on bag, consider bringing along one or two disposable litter boxes. They can be filled with litter, used, and then thrown in the trash can, completely eliminating the need to empty, wash, and tote around a traditional litter box.

You should also try to avoid jostling the carrier once it is in place for the trip. Moving the already freaked out cat around on a vehicle that is already moving will only serve to scare the cat more.

Tip:

  • You may want to consider using a cloth or material carrier, as this type of carrier is easily adaptable and can fit underneath of vehicle seats a bit better than their plastic counterparts.
  • For long bus rides, try to be as present as possible for your kitty. Interact with him or her as much as possible. This helps your cat know that you are still there and that you won’t let anything bad happen.

How To Travel With A Cat On The Train

Traveling by train is much the same as by plane or bus. However, train travel with cats is often subject to more rules and limitations.

For example, Amtrak, a popular United States and Canada train company, has the following conditions when it comes to traveling with pets:

  • Combined, cat and carrier must weigh under 20 pounds
  • A trip must be under 7 hours long
  • Customers are allowed one pet each
  • Cats are only allowed in Coach Class
  • Pets are an extra $26.00
  • Pets must stay in a carrier when on the train
  • Carrier has to fit under the seat
  • The cat in question has to be at least 8 weeks of age
  • Cats must have up to date shots and records of said shots
  • Cats can’t be shipped; they must ride with a human

Before The Trip

As with any kind of public travel, your cat should be fitted with a collar and contact information, or a microchip.

Traveling with a cat - Tabby cat looking anxiously from a pet carrier next to a suitcase.

You’ll also need to do some research into the rules of your specific train company to ensure that your pet’s carrier meets the standards set. Some standards to pay attention to include size and weight, but you should also ensure that the carrier is escape proof.

If your railway has specific standards for stowing your cat carrier, make sure that the carrier can fit into the specified space. If necessary, make use of a cloth or material carrier that is flexible.

During The Trip

During the trip, you should follow the same guidelines as the ones for bus travel. Trains and buses are closely related in terms of operation and layout, making traveling with a pet pretty similar regardless of which method you choose.

Try to stick as close to your cat as possible during the ride. Interact with him or her when you’re able. This helps your cat to know that everything will be fine and that you are still there. Try touching your cat if possible, giving him or her some snacks, and talking in a soothing voice.

Your cat isn’t going to be having fun inside his or her carrier. But you can make the trip a bit more bearable by being present and attentive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Do Cats Pee?

This will depend on how much water you’re giving your cat and how comfortable he or she is. Just like humans, cats sometimes have to go to the bathroom when they’re scared or nervous, so it’s important to keep your cat calm.

Most cats pee about 2 to 4 times a day depending on various circumstances. Cats are clever and know where they’re living at. They do not like to pee in an area that they know they’re going to occupy in the near future. So your cat may be holding his or her pee in the carrier. It’s important to let your cat out to pee if possible.

As we’ve said above, try to keep a few pads in the carrier just in case. This is more important if your cat is older or gets nervous. Cats don’t like to use the bathroom where they’re living, but they’d rather pee than explode. Try to give your cat space to do his or her business if it’s an emergency.

How To Sedate A Cat: How Much Benadryl Can I Give My Cat?

If you want the trip to pass a lot faster for your cat, you can try to give him or her some knock out meds. Benadryl won’t harm your cat as long as you give it in a pretty small dose.

The most common recommendation is to give one milligram per pound.  So if your cat weighs 5 pounds, you’ll want to give him or her half of a 10 milligram tablet.

You can also try giving your cat liquid benadryl, but many cats won’t like the taste. Good luck getting him or her to take that.

We recommend putting a small benadryl tablet inside of a wet food. Your cat won’t even know it’s there. When he or she wakes up, you can have finished your travels or gotten a lot further along the way.

This makes traveling long distance a bit easier on your cat.

Your Next Journey

Thanks for reading our post on how to travel with a cat! We hope this has been helpful for you. Will you let us know in the comments below if we’ve missed anything, or how we can make this post more helpful for you?

When it comes down to it, traveling with your cat is pretty simple. Be present. Pay attention. Plan ahead to make the trip as comfortable as possible.

Your cat will thank you for it.

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2 thoughts on “How To Travel With A Cat”

  1. Some really great tips here! I’d definitely agree with flying with your cat in the cabin. I can’t imagine how distressing it must be for a cat to fly in the hold and how difficult it would be as an owner knowing where they were. The relief at being reunited safely at the other end must be immense.

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