Updated April 7, 2022

How to Travel with a Cat

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You want to take a trip, but you don't want to leave your cat at home. Luckily we have all of the info to ensure that you and your furry friend can travel in comfort.

You and your cat spend so much time together, you're like best friends. You obviously don't want to leave your best friend behind while you head out on your next trip, so take our advice to ensure that your cat can come with you.

General Tips

Cats are creatures of comfort and routine, so it's important to prepare them for any travel a couple of weeks in advance (even more if they're really skittish). To make sure they're ready, take these steps:

  • Find the Right Carrier
  • Make Your Cat Comfortable
  • Practice Early and Often
  • Pack Extra Supplies
  • Talk to Your Vet
  • ID and Microchip Your Pet
  • Prepare for Nauseous Cats

Find the Right Carrier
You'll want a good, comfortable carrier for your pet while they travel. Ideally, one in which they can stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. You don't want it to be too large, however, if you need to fit it under a plane seat.

Make Your Cat Comfortable
Line the carrier with blankets or toys that smell like home. If your cat is jittery during a trip, consider buying a cat pheromone spray, like Feliway. Spray it on a towel and put it in the crate, or drape it over the carrier to calm your kitty's nerves. You can also get a pheromone collar, or a thundershirt.

Practice Early and Often
You don't want your cat's first time in the carrier to be the same day you're going to get on a plane. Introduce your cat to its carrier a few weeks before a trip. Place treats or your cat's food in it to make it seem like a welcoming place. Have your cat practice getting in and out of the crate as well.

Pack Extra Supplies
You're going to want to have supplies while you travel. These should include:

  • Puppy Pads - line your carrier with them and take extras
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Paper Towels/Wet Wipes
  • Medications
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Litter and Litter Boxes

Talk to Your Vet
Schedule an appointment with your vet beforehand. If you both decide that medicating your cat will be the best way to get through the trip, they can prescribe a sedative, for anxious cats, or an anti-nausea medication, for cats with queasy stomachs.

If you are going to medicate your cat while traveling, give him or her a test dose before the trip. Then you'll know if your cat is going to have any adverse effects to the medication, and you'll make sure it works.

ID and Microchip Your Pet
Make sure your furry friend's tags are up to date with your information. You also always want to have your pet microchipped. Some airlines and countries even require it if you are traveling by plane or crossing borders.

Prepare for Nauseous Cats
Cats get motion sickness too. The best help is adjusting your cat to the feel of travel through practice car trips. You can also withhold breakfast on the day of your trip to minimize the risk of mid-flight/road trip upchuck. If it's still an issue, talk to your vet about anti-nausea medication.

Car Travel with Your Cat

Take Short Practice Trips
Introduce your cat to car trips slowly. Take short trips in the three weeks leading up to the road trip. Start with 20-minute rides and work your way up to hour-long rides. Come travel day, your cat will be ready to enjoy those wide open roads with you.

Be Careful Opening Doors: Cats are tricky creatures, and they can easily escape through an open car door. Crate them or leash them before opening the door.

Cat Proof Your Car
If you want to be safe, it's recommended to leave your cat in its carrier, with the carrier belted in. For a lot of people, however, it feels mean to leave them in a carrier. If you want to give your cat room to roam, cat proof your car. Put up a barrier between you and the backseat like a baby gate or a net that stretches between the headrests. Stuff towels under the front seats to prevent your cat from crawling up around the pedals or getting in the way of your steering.

Never Leave Your Cat in the Car
Never, ever, ever leave your pet in the car, no matter the temperature. Temperatures can climb quickly inside of a car, leading to kitty getting too hot, too quickly. If you need to stop for food, find a drive thru, order, and then enjoy your meal in the car with Fluffy, or find a nice grassy spot to set up a picnic.

Flying with Your Cat

Find a Pet Friendly Flight
Not all airlines allow pets on every flight. Most airlines also limit the number of seats for pet owners. Therefore, you'll want to do your research on your airline's policies regarding cats.

If you have a big cat, it may need to travel in the cargo hold - a temperature and pressure controlled room below the plane. Some airlines have banned putting snub-nosed cats, like Persians, in the cargo hold due to potential breathing problems.

Expect to pay a pet fee ranging from $75 to $375, depending on the airline.

Check International Policies
Every country has different requirements for bringing pets into and out of the country. Make sure to double-check what you need months in advance of taking your kitty outside of the country.

Be Mindful about Time of Year
Some airlines won't fly pets through certain airports during the hot summer months, in order to protect pets from high temperatures. Check this before you book.

Make Sure Your Carrier Fits
That space under the seat in front of you is tight, so make sure your carrier fits. Airlines that allow on-board pets will always list the dimensions that your carrier needs to meet to fly, so measure yours before booking. If you change planes, be sure to base your measurements on the smaller of the two planes.

Airlines usually have a 20 pound weight requirement for on-board pets. This is based on the COMBINED weight of the pet and the carrier. If it exceeds that, your cat will fly in the cargo hold.

Get a Health Certificate
Some airlines/countries require it. Even if they don't, it's good to have a health certificate from your vet that states that your cat is safe to travel and up to date on vaccines. Get this no more than ten days before your flight.

Practice your TSA Security Routine
To get through security, you'll need to send your carrier through the scanner and carry your cat through the screening. Your cat should be well-practiced in this process, since you don't want to be that person battling your cat while people wait behind you.

In order to ensure your cat doesn't jump out of your arms while going through security, you can also leash-train him or her, and then have a leash (with a plastic clip instead of a metal one) wrapped around your wrist.

You Should Know: The TSA also offers to screen cats in a private room if you can't get your cat to stay in your arms while walking through.

Fly Direct if Possible
Flying direct will ensure a shorter travel day for your cat, and minimize the stress of traveling through multiple airports.

Traveling Cross Country with Your Cat

Find a Hotel
Not all road trips are done in a day, so you'll need to find a cat-friendly hotel. Luckily, this information is often available on travel sites like Kayak or Expedia. Call ahead to make sure they have a pet-friendly room available.

Some hotels charge a pet fee that's usually between $20 and $120.

Airbnbs also offer cat-friendly options. Be sure to use the "Pets Allowed" filter while searching.

Cat Proof Your Hotel Room
Cats love to hide. In a new space, they'll find all kinds of new spots. To minimize the time you spend on your hands and knees coaxing Fluffums out of the closet, make sure that all doors are closed and you've blocked any nooks (like the space behind the headboard) with towels.

Bring the Right Supplies
If you're traveling for several days, or even one long day, make sure to pack these things, in addition to what we listed above:

  • Cat Food
  • Bottles of Water
  • Food and Water Bowls
  • Mat or Plastic Sheet to put under their portable litter box for easy clean-up

Make Frequent Stops
It's quite likely that your cat won't want to use the litterbox while the car is moving. Build in regular pit stops to give him or her some bathroom time. The same goes for eating and drinking water.

Bottom Line

With proper preparation, traveling with your cat can be an easy experience for both of you. Use our tips to make sure Felix is ready to see the world with you.

Write to Shawna Taets at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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