How To Travel Long Distances With A Cat
Traveling long distances with your cat whether via road or air doesn’t only entail you tucking them nicely into a pet carrier throughout the duration of the trip. It requires much more effort on your part, both during your trip and shortly after you arrive at your destination. The ASPCA advises that you keep to your regular cat routine even during long travels – this includes its normal feeding, rest and bedtime routine.
Prior To Your Trip
Ensure you talk to your vet before you depart. Ask your vet if there are any medications or vaccinations your cat may need before you embark on the journey. Also, depending on where you are going, it is advisable to ask if there are any prevailing diseases that might harm your cat. Airlines will typically require a health certificate not issued more than 10 days from your departure date, and a long road trip will require a health certificate not older than a month from your date of departure.
Don’t just stick your feline into any available pet carrier. Ensure you select one that is big enough to allow it to stand upright and freely turn around. Make sure the pet carrier is well secured and your cat can’t get out of it during the trip. Also. Endeavor to use USDA-approved shipping if you are traveling by air.
Since its going to be a long trip, allow your cat to get a feel of the carrier a few days before you depart. Allow your cat to enter the carrier and get used to it. If you are going on a long road trip, experiment first by taking the cat in the carrier for a few short rides.
If you are going to be traveling across states by road, or flying by air, ensure you have a rabies record as it is a standard requirement for all animals. Also, scan your itinerary for any emergency vet locations across your route, and be sure to also travel along with all the relevant medical and vaccination records for your cat.
Not all hotels accept pets, and the numbers are fewer for those that accept cats—as opposed to dogs. Thus, plan to make stops in hotels that are cat friendly. You can browse the internet for cat friendly hotels or ask before you make any reservations. Also, check to see if there are any restrictions for bringing a cat to the hotel, if you are limited to only a certain number or if you can lock the cat in the hotel room if you need to go out alone.
Take a box or package with you containing your cat’s favorite food and toys. Also, don’t forget to pack a cat litter bag and scooper for the road. Take your own water bowls or jugs and fill them with water before you leave. Cats can get uncomfortable if they drink water that they are not familiar with.
Ensure your cat has a meal at least three to four hours before your departure. This is crucial since the food needs a while to settle, else your cat may leave you a regurgitated mess to deal with once you set off.
Pack the carrier with a blanket or towel that smells and feels like home. This will bring a sense of comfort to your cat as you go further away from home.
Fasten the carrier in a position where it doesn’t topple violently if the car halts or swerves suddenly. Ideally, secure it with your seat belt if you can. if possible, ensure that you and your cat maintain a line of sight throughout the journey.
Try as much as possible to maintain the same feeding and play time for your cat along the journey. If there is going to be a time-change at your destination, plan for this shift prior to your departure by slowly changing the time you feed your cat to match the time at your planned destination.
Leave your windows open if you must step out for a brief few minutes. But, ensure your cat is not left to roam around the vehicle or have too much space to wiggle out of the window – as they are known to notoriously do. Also, the ASPCA warns that pets shouldn’t be left in a parked car for longer than a few minutes, regardless of the weather. Heat can warm up the car to uncomfortable temperatures, and in cold weather, they risk succumbing to hypothermia.
Always check with the airline before you book. Do they accept pets on board? Will the cat have to go in the cargo hold (Or is it better that they stay with you)? Inquire about how many cats you can bring on board, and what carrier would be needed. Also, find out what medical or vaccination certificates you may have to tender before boarding.
Get a new identification tag for your cat that contains information such as your name, address, telephone and the cat’s microchip number (if applicable), and your destination printed on it.
It is preferable to book a direct one-way flight where possible. Stopovers can both be discomforting for you and your pets, as you may be required to board with your pet again onto the next plane. Also, your cat being transferred from one cargo hold to another can be very uncomfortable. When you must have stopovers, ensure that the weather at the destination is not in either of the extremes – hot or cold.
With a very visible pen or marker, clearly write your name and destination address along with a sticker that reads “Live Animal” on the carrier. This should be written upright on the carrier so it is easy to read – this is even more important if your cat is going into the cargo hold. ASPCA and The CatWellness News Website recommends that you attach a recent picture of your pet on the carrier, so it can be identified if it escapes from the carrier at any point.
If your cat is traveling in the cargo hold, inform a member of the flight crew as soon as you board the plane. The flight crew will then make decisions (cargo hold pressure, temperature etc.) with the consideration of your pet in mind.
Once you have confirmed your departure, ensure that you contact the relevant agencies to find out what documents— medical certificates, permits—are needed. This is important if you will be traveling overseas, as they may take a while to process.
Your cat may be calmer if it is mildly sedated – but only do this when the cat is traveling in the cabin with you. ASPCA advises against tranquilizing cats if they are flying. The Alley Cat Small Animal Hospital in Napa also opines that cats need to be active and interact with their surroundings during the flight. The hospital also states that most in flight animal deaths are mainly caused by tranquilizers.