It’s still vacation season, which means it’s a good time to consider whether to travel with cats, or leave them at home. You can have someone come over to care for them; you can take them with you, or you can board them. Sometimes, you have nobody to come to your house and care for them, and the idea of boarding them is just uncomfortable. How do you travel with cats?
We’ve never flown with our cats, but we have had to take them on long car trips before (30 hours for one!). Sometimes, that’s the best thing to do; if you’ve got nobody to take care of them at your house, then taking them with you means they’ll be with people they know, even though they’re in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s often better than boarding them, where they’ll be in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people.
The first step to safe travel with cats is getting them used to their carriers
If you know you’re going to travel with cats by car sometime soon, start getting them used to the idea by getting them used to their carriers, first. The safest way to travel with cats is when they’re inside their carriers, because they won’t distract the driver nearly as easily, and they’ll be more protected in the event of an accident.
Vetstreet says to put their carriers out and leave them out, letting your cats get used to them. Use toys and treats to teach your cats to enjoy their carriers. If the only time they see the carriers is when you’re shoving them inside for a vet’s visit, then they’ll have bad associations. This is something you need to address.
Step two involves getting them used to the car
Once your cats like their carriers, it’s time to get them used to the car…while it’s sitting still in your driveway. Get your cat into her carrier, and then put her in the car. Give her treats, and make sure she’s got something familiar, like her favorite toy or blanket, in the carrier. The point is to make her feel happy and comfortable while she’s in her carrier, in the car.
Both of these steps may take awhile, so it’s a good idea to start doing this now, even before you think you’re going to travel with cats in your car. One way you can help keep her calm is to spray, or rub, some Feliway on the inside of her carrier. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that’s calming to cats, and can help your cat feel better with the car in motion.
You can also try putting some catnip in her carrier. Catnip, too, might help her relax, or distract her from the stress of the car.
When you travel with cats, these are some things you must consider
When you’re loading the car, put a litter box in the car, where she’ll easily be able to get to it at rest stops. She might be too nervous to go, but you can gently place her in the box with a treat, to help her relax enough to go. Keep in mind this may not work, and she may not use the box for the entire time she’s in the car. This is fine, especially if you’re stopping each night. She’s more likely to want to use the box once you’re safe in your hotel for the night. But it’s best to have something available in the car, just in case.
We buy a cheap, disposable litter box for the car. They’re smaller, so they fit better, plus we can just toss them when we get to our destination, or when we get back home.
You’ll also want to have food and water available when you travel with cats. If you can’t make these work in her carrier, for whatever reason, then make sure they’re available for her at rest stops. You might want to take some more time than you ordinarily would when you stop, to give her a chance to calm down enough to eat, drink and use the box.
Remember, it’s always best not to let her out of her carrier except at rest stops, because it’s not safe. However, when you get to your destination (or your hotel for the night), you should make sure her food, water, and litter box (especially the litter box) are immediately available to her. On our 30-hour car trip, when we arrived at our destination, the first thing Kali did was hop in the litter box and go, and go, and go. She hadn’t gone at all in the car, and she needed to. It’s entirely possible that she would have just found a corner to use if we hadn’t had a box ready for her.
Deciding o travel with cats shouldn’t be a difficult decision, and the trip shouldn’t be an ordeal. Follow these steps, and it should help, but keep in mind that some cats don’t travel well no matter what. In this case, you might want to contact your vet about anti-anxiety meds, or even sedatives. Be sure to talk extensively with your vet about how you plan to travel, and how your cat handles traveling. You can travel with cats just fine, with a lot of planning, patience and love.