How to travel with a cat and keep them safe and comfortable

Traveling with cats is not the easiest thing in the world. Well, that is unless you know the proper way to care for them when you do. Being wise and making things as comfortable and as safe as possible for your cat is essential if you want a stress-free trip.

Because many people have a feline friend (or three) but have no idea how to travel with a cat, we put together this quick guide. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, here’s what you should do for the safest, most comfortable experience possible.

Large Eyed Cat Looking Out Of Carrier
Photo By Lightspruch/Shutterstock

Keep your cat in a carrier

Many cats are frightened out of their wits when traveling in a moving vehicle. It’s a space that’s moving, and things get jostled around. It’s unfamiliar to your cat. Therefore, keeping them in a carrier with a blanket and padding that smells familiar is incredibly important for their safety.

Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that you strap the cat carrier into the car seat using the seatbelt. Always put the cat carrier on one of the back seats. Never put your cat carrier in the front passenger seat. Should you get in a wreck, you don’t want your cat to get hurt if the airbag deploys.

Stop periodically for pee breaks

It might sound strange, but just like you probably need a bathroom break every so often, so does your cat. You don’t want your cat peeing in its carrier. That can be a mess to clean up, and the smell doesn’t quickly go away.

When you choose to stop and allow your cat to do its business, always park your car. Roll the windows up before letting your cat out of the carrier. Many people have made the mistake of leaving a window partially rolled down only to see their cat make a desperate escape attempt.

Once you do let your cat out of the carrier, put a leash on it and ensure that the cat is wearing a collar with an ID tag. Should your cat escape, there’s always the hope that someone will find it and give you a call.

Take another human along with you

Having another set of eyes on your cat can be a big help and can help reduce the stress of having to watch your pet all by yourself. It might not always be possible to bring along a friend or family member. Still, if you can, then when you stop for gas or want to grab something from a convenience store, you can rest easy knowing that someone you trust is taking care of your cat.

Don’t leave your cat alone in the car

This point ties in nicely with what we just mentioned. Sometimes, you may need to get gas or take a potty break yourself. In those circumstances, you don’t want to leave your cat alone in the car. Of course, there are times when that may be unavoidable, but as much as it is up to you … just don’t do it.

Remember that in the summer, your car can become super hot on the inside when the air conditioner isn’t running. If it’s hot for you, imagine what it’s like for an animal that can’t take off its fur! Things might be a bit better during the winter, but not much. Without the heater on, temperatures can quickly drop. Your cat might be able to snuggle into a blanket for a bit, but that’s still potentially cruel.

Woman Carrying Her Cats In Carriers
Photo By Daria Kulkova/Shutterstock

When traveling by plane

If you don’t have to bring your cat along on a flight … don’t. If there are alternatives available to get your pet from point A to point B, you should seriously consider them. That’s especially true if you have a Persian cat since they’re more vulnerable than the average cat to heat stroke and oxygen deprivation.

Another potential alternative to flying with your cat is just to leave them at home. If you can find someone to take care of your cat for you, that’s a preferable situation. However, there may be times when there are no alternatives, and you simply must bring your cat along.

If that’s the case, see if your cat can fly in the cabin with you. You’ll probably have to pay extra, but many airlines will allow you to take your pet with you as long as you call far enough in advance. (Rules and regulations in this regard can be a hassle. Check online for companies that can help you navigate all the red tape.)

When traveling by train

In the United States, train companies like Amtrak allow cats on specific trains. Smaller train companies might allow cats onboard certain lines, too, but you must get in touch with these companies to get the particular information you need. Many European countries also allow cats on trains, but again, getting in touch with the specific train companies in question is your best bet for accurate, up-to-date information.

When to use a sedative

In most cases, cats do just fine when traveling and don’t need medication. However, there are cats that experience extreme levels of stress, which can ultimately harm their health. If your cat doesn’t do well on trips, talk to your veterinarian about sedatives and how to use them safely.

Keep your cat healthy

Remember that around the holidays and during the summer months, many people plan to go on family vacations and don’t want to leave their pets behind. Even if you’re traveling out of season and all alone, you still may wish to bring your cat along.

However, if you do, then you must understand that preparation is vital if you plan to travel long distances. Remember that it’s not as simple as cramming your cat into a carrier and tossing it on your car’s back seat. If you’re able to keep your cat comfortable and can adhere to its normal routine as much as possible, your travels will ultimately go much smoother.

When all is said and done, most people want their cat to stay safe, healthy, and alive for as long as possible. Making sure you think of its needs and providing for them will help ensure that you can enjoy your cat’s presence when traveling.

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