Travelling With a Cat
Cat lovers, myself included of course, also need to travel. Unfortunately the vast majority of cats are not willing or indeed are not happy travellers. That is simply because of their very instinctive and natural tendencies to own and really know their own territory.
In this article I will offer a range of very helpful tips on how you should travel safely with your cat or cats. These tips will ensure your safety while driving, and at the same time ensure that your cat is kept in the best condition in terms of feeling safe. These tips will also show you how to keep your cat properly hydrated, well fed and also take care of their toilet needs on any type of trip.
Cats spend a lot of time checking out and marking their own home based location. They will always try to make it their own, mainly by marking and making their presence known to other cats. Once removed from that environment, they do grow anxious, and can feel highly vulnerable when they are moved from their familiar surroundings.
Ask any cat owner who has ever moved home, and I am sure they will be able to explain that the transition for the cat was a difficult one. You see a lot of this typical cat behavior in the wild, where they clearly mark, roam and protect their territory. They will only move if they really have to, and do so with great reluctance.
Some people believe that this behaviour only happens with the larger cats like lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards etc. However that is not the case. All cats including domestic cats will all mark and protect their territory. They will usually only leave that if forced out and they do that with great reluctance.
Dogs on the other hand enjoy walks, and enjoy exploring new places. That is not the way of our feline friends. They are home loving pets and many of them like to explore their immediate surroundings, once they are familiar with them.
Travelling With Your Cat or Cats
So if you plan on travelling with your cat, there are certain things that I would recommend that you do. That is what we shall cover in more detail in this article, which I hope you find useful.
Like any good pet owner, the priority will always be to make sure that you can travel with your cat in a safe and secure way. That of course is the responsible thing to do, and we want to keep its anxiety levels as low as we can.
It doesn’t matter a great deal whether that journey is by car, bus, train or airplane as the same basic rules will always apply. Ideally a cat should travel in some type of carrier, and there are plenty of those to pick from.
What Things To Consider For Your Cat’s Journey
In this section I explain what to consider if you plan on taking a journey or trip with your cat.
Understanding Cat Carriers
They are available as a backpack carrier, a soft sided portable one, a hard sided carrier, carriers with wheels, top loading designs and also these come in a range of sizes. There are even ones for two cats travelling together. The good news is that there is plenty of choice so you will be able to find something that suits your needs and style.
For now though the key requirement is to own a carrier that suits the size and nature of your cat. With that it can travel in a safe and secure way for both the cat and its owner.
Other Travelling Accessories
I will explain these in more detail later in this article. These will include items like water bowls, food bowls, litters etc. There are plenty of available accessories on the market, which I will discuss later in this article.
End of Journey
Another very important thing to consider is what you will do with the cat at the end of the journey. The sensible thing to do is to have some way of confining it, until it gets some time to adapt to its new surroundings.
Length of Trip
The length of trip is also important to consider, as a short trip needs slightly different requirements, than say a day trip, a weekend trip or a longer cross country trip. Again I shall cover those requirements off.
Understanding Your Cat When Travelling
Most cats simply dislike travel, though I have seen the very odd one who travels frequently with its owner and it does not seem to bother that cat one bit.
The bigger risk though is that the cat will run off when confronted with a new environment, and they can be very hard to find. A great way to not have to worry about that, is to have a tracker fitted. I will discuss those later so as at least you know what they are, and what they do.
Now let’s have a look at the different forms of travel, and how each of those may need slightly different travelling requirements.
Travelling With a Cat In Your Car
I have completed a more detailed article on how to travel with a cat in a car or any vehicle that you may own, and you can read that by clicking here.
However, I wanted to cover off the basics here. Primarily there are three things worth your consideration:
- Your cat carrier and how it is secured
- The weather and the extremes of weather
- The length of the car journey
The Carrier – Why You Need One?
I have mentioned already about the range of options available with regards to carriers. There is a lot of choice, but I think it is really important to understand why you need a carrier at all?
If your cat is inside a carrier, then it can’t escape, so you don’t have to worry about it escaping through open windows or sun roofs. More importantly though, it does not become a flying object.
The carrier should also be secured using the safety belt for two main reasons:
If there is an accident, then the cat is at least offered some protection as the seat belt will hold the carrier in place.
More importantly though it means the carrier stays in place, and also keeps the driver and passengers safe within the vehicle. If a driver has to quickly hit the brakes, then anything not secured will fly into the air and can strike others.
The Weather – What To Be Aware Of?
The other main concern for a cat travelling in a vehicle is the weather. Normal weather is of course fine, so really only the extremes of weather need some consideration. Most pets including cats will struggle with very hot weather. So leaving them inside a car on a really hot day without ventilation is highly dangerous for them.
On those colder days it is important to keep you cats warm, especially until the heater starts to do its work inside the vehicle.
Consider the Length of Trip
This is also important as the length of trips can vary widely. It can be something as short and simple as a trip to the local vet, or as long as a cross country trip, or even a road trip.
Generally speaking short trips are considered to be anything between 4-6 hours. Most travelers will stop for breaks along the way. That is also a good time to get the cat out of the carrier, and just like you to water and feed.
For more specific requirements about cat travel in a car, then check our more detailed article by clicking here.
Travelling With a Cat by Air
The reality for most cat owners is that there is nothing consistent among the airlines. They vary a lot in the way they will carry pets generally.
When you come to making travel arrangements for any type of flights, then most people will do that well in advance of their departure date. If you plan to travel by plane with your cat, then you will need to add this to your plan.
The main reason I am suggesting that you give this lots of time, is that airlines really do vary how they are willing to transport your cat. The majority of airlines insist that your cat goes into a special pet friendly place in the hold section of the aircraft.
That is of course where all checked in luggage goes. If that is the case, then you can not see your cat until you reach your destination.
Some airlines do allow smaller pets, including cats to travel in the cabin. However they will restrict how many pets are allowed in the cabin. Usually that is 2-3 maximum, so for that reason alone you should get in touch with your airline as early as possible in the planning stages of your flight trip.
We have completed a more detailed article on how to travel with your car by aircraft, which you can read by clicking here.
Travelling With Your Cat by Bus or Train
As before there are certain important considerations to take into place when travelling with your cat on either a bus or a train. A key factor in this is of course the length of the actual journey. On a short trip it will be pretty simple to look after your cat for a few short miles.
On longer journeys however, that will require a lot more planning. For this type of travelling then I would recommend the pet carrier as your main concern. For this you will require a very secure carrier which the cat cannot escape from.
However if you are carrying this carrier around, then you will also want it to be light and easy to handle. I would highly recommend one with a solid base in case the cat urinates. That will prevent the cat soiling the railway carriage or the seat of the bus.
A good tip here is to also line the carrier with an absorbent paper or similar material. It is also a very good idea to pack some spare spare bedding in case there are any unforeseen accidents.
In most cases you will be able to keep the cat in its carrier and have it on your lap. That will of course depend on the type of train, the rules of that train service and the space available on the train or bus.
Destination Arrival at the end of the Journey
It is also worth mentioning what to with your cat once you have arrived at your new destination. This is the time to allow your cat to get used to its new surroundings. A good tip here is to put your cat or cats into one room.
They will take time to get used to this. Nonetheless this is a good time to give them some water and a little food. Don’t worry if they don’t eat it right away and they may not be interested in eating until they have settled in a little more.
It is best not to allow your cat or cats to go outside for at least a week. If that is something that you cannot control, then make sure they are identifiable in case they get lost. A friend of mine highly recommends that after the initial food, the best thing to do is to withhold food for about 12 hours.
That ensures that the cat is hungry and comes back to you for food when you call. After that it is time to allow your cat to explore a little further. You can the use the lure of the food to ensure they do not go too far and return for regular meals.
Use of Sedatives When Travelling
This is a controversial area for many cat owners. Some cat owners will use sedatives and some are completely against this. It is I believe important to understand that there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
My own opinion is that you know your cat much better than anyone else. Some cats are pretty relaxed and will not need sedatives. Other cats can get anxious and by giving them a sedative when travelling can help them relax.
I would recommend that if you know your cat is a bad traveler, or it has previously been sick on a journey it is worth talking to your vet about giving it some form of tranquilizer or sedative. The reason I suggest speaking with a vet is that some cats actually become more agitated with tranquilizers.
A top tip for this is to check it out before you travel. Don’t leave this to the last minute as then you really have no idea how your cat or cats will react. For example if you cat is going into the hold of an aeroplane tranquilizers may not be recommended as drugs can alter the way cats adjust to temperature changes.
Cats may also recover from the journey more quickly if not sedated. This for many cat owners will be a learning experience, and there is no real way of knowing how your cat will react in individual travelling circumstances.
Travelling Outside Your Own Country
So far we have looked at the various forms of travelling. I did however want to mention travelling outside your own country with your cat or cats. This will vary a lot depending on which country you are going to, and also for how long you are going to be there.
You will need to check all the restrictions and regulations if you are taking your cat from one country to another.
These may include issues such as preventive health requirements such as rabies vaccination, or enforced periods of quarantine. This will also apply to treatments such as worm and flea treatments etc.
There are serious penalties in some countries for failing to comply. In the long run that can mean the cat not permitted to continue with the journey and it may be at greater risk of catching diseases it is not familiar with.