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How to Travel With a Cat: Tips For a Low-stress Trip

Taking your cat on a relaxing trip can quickly become stressful if you are unprepared or inexperienced. In this post, our Pleasant Hill vets offer a few tips to help make the journey easier for you and your cat.

Preparing For Any Trip With Your Cat

As a cat owner, make sure you plan your trip with your cat in mind if you are going to travel with your kitty - whether moving, visiting, or going on vacation. 

Pet owners should know whether their cat is currently on its vaccines and if they have a current vet health certificate. Various states enforce different regulations concerning pet vaccines, yet in most areas, keeping your pet's rabies vaccine up to date is mandatory by law. Therefore, it's important to arrange a visit to your veterinarian before your departure. This ensures your cat's core vaccines are updated, protects against any prevalent lifestyle diseases in your destination, and addresses parasites through treatment or prevention.

Different Journeys & Different Preparations

Depending on your mode of transportation and the duration of the journey, there are various factors to take into account and preparations to make. Below, we outline guidelines for traveling with a cat by car, by plane, and even by train or ship.

Preparing For Travel With Your Cat

Cats do not need as much as humans to travel but they do need a few things to be comfortable on the trip. Here are a few items to prepare for your cat before travel:

  • Absorbent pads and extras
  • Water
  • Food
  • Pet health certificate for international travel
  • Recent lab work
  • Animal medical documents
  • Medications

Traveling by Car with Your Cat

Be sure to keep these tips in mind when taking your can on a vacation:

Purchase a Suitable Cat Carrier

Cats typically feel uneasy when traveling in cars and should be confined to a carrier for both their safety and yours. It's crucial to secure the carrier with a seat belt to prevent it from shifting and potentially harming your cat.

Don't Put Your Cat in the Front Seat

Even when in a carrier, the deployment of airbags in the front seat can be dangerous for your pet - for this reason, it is best always to keep your cat's carrier restrained in the back seat(s) of your vehicle.

Keep Your Cat's Head Inside the Vehicle

If your cat's head is sticking outside the window, they're at risk of debris striking them or the cold air harming their lungs. Never transport your cat in the back of an open pick-up truck.

Bring a Human Designated to Care for Them

If possible, it is best to have a human who is there to monitor and comfort your cat riding with them in the back seat. This will help your cat feel comfortable during the journey.

If Your Journey is Longer than 6 hours, They'll Need Litter

If your journey by car is shorter than 6 hours, then your cat will most likely be fine in a standard carrier. If your cat will need to be in their carrier longer than that, you will need a larger accommodation that gives them space for a small litter box. It's a good idea to consult your vet prior to travel for advice on the kind of kennel or carrier best suited to your cat's needs and the journey ahead.

Don't Ever Leave Your Cat in the Car Alone

Leaving a cat unattended in a car poses a severe health risk. Heat can be dangerous for pets, and what may seem like a short period for you could feel like an eternity for your feline companion. For instance, when it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can skyrocket to 116 degrees within an hour. Even on an 85-degree day, with the windows cracked open, the temperature inside your car can hit 102 degrees in just 10 minutes. Within 30 minutes of being alone in a vehicle, irreversible organ damage or death could occur—even if you anticipate returning before then, the risk is not worth taking.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Plane

Cats do not enjoy air travel but sometimes it cannot be avoided. Here are things you should know about traveling with a cat by plane.

Air Travel Can be Dangerous for Cats

Air travel can lead to oxygen deprivation or heat stroke in animals. Persian cats are more susceptible than other breeds to these effects, as are other animals with "smushed-in" faces.

Consider All Alternatives Before Flying

Because flying is so stressful for cats, we recommend taking another option if possible. Driving is generally superior to flying, there may be boarding options available that can let your cat relax comfortably at a home away from home.

Chose an Airline that Will Allow Your Cat in the Cabin

Airlines will often allow you to fly with your cat in the cabin, for an additional fee. While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling are often to blame. in either case, you must inform the airline well in advance that you are bringing your cat. If you must travel with your animal in the cargo hold, research airlines and select one with a good reputation for animal handling.

If You See Something, Say Something

If you see any mistreatment of an animal by an airline, yours or otherwise, make sure you say something about it! You could save a life.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Train

Some pets and service animals are permitted on many trains. You will have to verify with the railway if pets are permitted on your train journey. If they are, then similar guidelines to traveling with a cat in a car apply. Passengers will be expected to exercise and feed their cat(s) at station stops.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Ship

Except assistance dogs, pets are welcome on only a few cruise lines—and usually on ocean crossings only. Some lines permit pets in private cabins, but most confine pets to kennels. Contact your cruise line in advance to find out its policies and which of its ships have kennel facilities. If you must use the ship's kennel, make sure it is protected from the elements and check on your pet frequently.

Ensuring that your kitty is up-to-date on their vaccines and has their USDA health certificate, before planning to travel. Contact Diablo View Veterinary Hospital today to book an examination for your feline friend or if you have any questions about traveling with your pet.

New Patients Welcome

Diablo View Veterinary Medical Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinarians are passionate about the health of Pleasant Hill companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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