Traveling With A Cat: Top Tips and Advice
Thinking about traveling with a cat? Adventuring with your cat can make the trip more fun and reduce your worries about leaving them with a sitter. Whilst we highly recommend leaving your cat at home with a sitter or friend or family member when you go on vacation, if your cat is more adventure prone or traveling with a cat is a necessity (ex. If you are moving), be sure to be prepared and plan carefully. Keep these tips in mind before you head off on your next adventure with your cat!
Traveling with a Cat Packing List
Food and Water: You’ll need to bring enough cat food for the duration of the trip plus a few days extra in case of delays. Cats don’t like to suddenly switch food. Do some research before you leave to see if their regular food will be available at your destination or take their food with you. We also recommend taking a few bottles of water to ensure your cat is hydrated throughout the trip. Your cat will most likely not want to drink or eat during the trip (don’t worry, this is normal) but make sure to stop and offer some food and water.
Treats: Taking treats with you is always a good idea no matter how comfortable your cat is with traveling. Pack their favorite treats and consider getting some CBD infused cat treats to help reduce your cat’s nervousness. Lickable cat treats like Catit Creamy also work great and can be offered to your kitty when you make stops.
Food and Water Dishes: Pop up water and food dishes, such as those from Dexas, are perfect for traveling and can be easily stored until needed.
Carrier: When traveling with a cat, they will need to be in a carrier for at least some of the time, if not all of the time that you are traveling. If traveling by car, make sure your cat is secure in their carrier in the back seats of the car or considering putting a dog crate in the back seats, with lots of blankets and/or your cat’s bed to make a safe and comfy kitty chill zone. If traveling by plane, a carrier will be necessary whether they are travelling in the cabin or below the plane. A carrier will also make it easier once you get to your final destination and if you take overnight or longer stops during the journey as it can double as a sleeping place.
Pee Pads and Disposable Litter Boxes: Consider lining your cat’s carrier with a pee pad in case of accidents and then line with a crochet blanket. If you cat does have an accident, the urine will soak through the holes in the blanket and onto the pad, therefore not completely soaking the blanket. You will also need a litter box for long stops and your final destination. Unless you are sure there will be a box and litter available, either pack a small litter box and enough litter for 2 litter box changes or consider a disposable litter box which will unfold into a litter box with litter already inside.
Toys: Don’t forget toys when traveling! Your cat probably won’t want to play whilst traveling but putting a few catnip filled toys (we love P.L.A.Y’s cute and fun catnip toys) in their carrier can help calm and distract kitty. Bringing a few more interactive toys such as fishing wands can also help distract your cat at their final destination and help them adapt.
Blankets and Cat Bed: Make sure to bring some of your cat’s blankets and line the carrier with them. The familiar scent will comfort and calm them. Blankets will also help keep your cat warm, this is especially important if travelling with your cat by plane. If you have space or are making an enclosed cat space in your back seats, also bring along their cat bed or a cat cave.
Collar, Leash and Harness plus ID tags: Even if your cat doesn’t wear a collar at home, when travelling, make sure they have a collar with an ID tag on. An extra tag with info on your final destination complete with the best contact number for you while travelling is also recommended. To keep your cat super safe and secure, also get them a harness/walking vest – if you need a harness, we highly recommend a Walking Vest from Sturdi – and leash. If your cat is leash trained, bringing their leash and harness also means they can take walks when you make stops. If your cat isn’t used to wearing a harness, put it on them at home in the weeks or even months leading up to the trip.
Cleaning and other supplies: In case of any mess, pack a pet-friendly stain remover, lint brush, and paper towels. Seat covers are also a good idea!
Medication, supplements and/or pheromones: Don’t forget your cat’s medicine and ensure you have enough for the trip duration plus a few days extra. A CBD product such as a tincture or treats is also a good idea to help relax your cat and consider using a pheromone product to calm your cat. Bringing a pheromone plug in for your final destination can help your cat adapt more easily to their new environment.
Health Certificate and Medical Records: Always take your cat’s medical records and vet card when traveling. A health certificate and proof of certain vaccinations will be required if traveling out of the country or even just across state lines. It’s a good idea to get the number of an emergency vet at your final destination, just in case!
Tips for Traveling by Car
Try to practice being in the car before the long trip: It’s a good idea to slowly get your cat used to being in the car before traveling with them. Start by turning the engine on so they get used to the sound before finally taking them on a short trip, extending the length of time in the car each time. Make sure they have something familiar in the car such as a favorite blanket and reward them with treats after each trip.
Create an awesome cat friendly area in the back of the car: When traveling with your cat by car, always ensure they are secure in the back seats. If in a carrier, make sure they are secured with a seat belt. Or consider setting up the ultimate cat chill out area by securing a well ventilated crate (a small to medium sized dog crate works great) with a comfy pad in the back seats of the car. Complete your cat car oasis with their favorite blankets, bed (if there is space), and catnip toys from home.
Keep supplies in the front of the car: Don’t pack food, water, treats, toys, medicines or important documents in the trunk of the car. Keep them upfront so you can easily get them to your cat as needed.
Be aware of Car Sickness in Cats: Cats like people can get queasy when in the car. Talk to your vet before the trip about car sickness prevention methods, especially if your cat has appeared nauseous during or after previous car rides. Also, don’t feed them in the morning/before the trip, feed only once at your final destination or stopping for the night.
Keep your car clean: Traveling with your cat for long distances can result in some mess. Minimize this by using seat covers, keep a lint roller/ pet hair remover on hand, and paper towels and pet safe cleaning spray for cleaning up any accidents.
Tips for Traveling by Plane
Make a vet appointment: There are many rules on traveling with a cat by plane, especially if traveling internationally. Before you start making travel plans, get them checked out by a vet to ensure they are healthy enough to travel and meet all the requirements of your destination country. Get your cat’s vaccinations up to date and make sure they have all vaccines required for entry into your destination country.
Find a pet friendly airline: More and more airlines are allowing pets on board (yay) but call or email your airline before you book to make sure your best friend isn’t left behind. Some airlines allow you to add a cat to your booking online while others require you call. There will be a fee for bringing your cat and you will need to find out the airline’s weight/size requirements to see if you can bring them into the cabin or if they have to be in the hold (generally, cats over 10lbs will need to go in the hold.) If allowed in the cabin, they will count as one of your pieces of carry-on luggage and usually only one pet is allowed per passenger. We recommend booking as early as possible and flying direct whenever possible. Also print out the receipt showing you paid to bring a pet and/or any other proof that your cat was approved to fly to avoid issues at check in.
Find an airline approved carrier: You may need to buy a new carrier to meet airline standards. The sizing for in cabin and below plane carriers will vary so always check with your airline but the standard is 19 x 10 x 12 for in cabin. Carriers cannot have wheels. In cabin carriers will also need to be soft sided (Sturdi has a great selection of soft sided carriers) and below the plane carriers will need to be hard cased. To reduce stress, always get your cat used to their carrier before traveling, ensure blankets from home are placed in the carrier with them, and consider lining with pee pads or shredded newspaper (this is a requirement for some airlines if traveling in hold). Make sure carriers also have contact info labels including your name, home address, destination address, phone number, and an alternative/emergency contact.
Select your seats with care: If your cat can travel in the cabin with you, consider putting more thought into your seat selection. Your cat will have to be under the seat so if you enjoy your leg room, considering upgrading to seats with extra leg room or even to business or first class if budget allows (always check with the airline that cats can be accommodated in all classes). Make sure not to choose exit row seats as pets are not allowed in these sections and window seats are the best choice so that you don’t have to move your cat or stress him out when your neighbor passengers need to move past him from their seat.
Prepare your cat pre-flight: It’s time to prep your kitty for their flight! Make sure to feed your cat well before flying and provide lots of water but take food and water away 2 – 4 hours before your flight. Also, make sure to get your cat’s carrier out at least a few days in advance (try leaving it open with blankets and catnip toys inside so they might choose to sleep there) as this will eliminate the stress caused by your cat seeing the carrier being taken out on the day of the trip.
Be prepared for check in and security: When traveling with your cat by plane, you will need to arrive at the airport a little earlier than if you were traveling alone (allow for around an extra hour) and you will have to check in at the desk. You will also need to be prepared for security as you will have to remove your cat from their carrier which will go through the scanner and walk through the metal detector with your cat. Ensure they have their leash, harness and collar with ID tags on at all times and make sure you have a good grip on their leash; if your cat escapes from your arms at security and you aren’t holding the leash, they are likely to run off and hide, making it extremely difficult to find them again. Lastly, make sure you have your cats health and vaccination records easily accessible in your carry-on bag.
Make your cat comfortable in flight: If your cat is traveling in the cabin, board the plane as soon as you can to make sure you have time and space to set up your cat’s spot. Place their carrier under the seat in front and make sure you have any treats and toys they may want in flight with you. You won’t be able to take your cat out during the flight but reassure them by talking to them and very slightly opening the carrier to pet them or provide treats. Also consider covering their carrier with a cloth cover or blanket to minimize over-stimulation and reduce stress.
General Advice for Traveling with Your Cat
Research cat friendly places ahead of the trip: Before traveling with your cat, become familiar with cat friendly hotels or other accommodation at your final destination. If you plan to be out without your cat during some of the trip, make sure the place you stay allows your cat to be alone in the room (some hotels require you be with your pet at all times) or has the option of hiring a pet sitter. Don’t forget about check out either! Most hotels and other accommodation such as Airbnb require you to check out by 10am or 11am; whilst you may be able to leave your bags, you cannot leave your cat, so make sure they have somewhere to stay if you aren’t leaving your destination straight after check out.
Make your cat as comfortable as possible at final destination or if stopping overnight: New environments are overwhelming and stressful for cats. Make them as comfortable as possible at their final destination by putting out items from home such as their bed, blankets, or favorite toys. If staying in accommodation with multiple rooms or if you have moved to a new house, keep your cat in one room to start with (ideally the room you will sleep in) and then slowly let them explore other rooms. Make sure to check on them and spend some time with your cat as well, so that they don’t feel abandoned. Always be sure to check over the room you are staying in before letting your cat out of their carrier for anything that could be dangerous to your cat or could allow them to escape.
Know your cat: Cats like routine, their home territory, and don’t enjoy change so most cats will prefer to stay home with a sitter when you go away. Whilst some cats are more prone to being comfortable with travel and there may be circumstances in which your cat has to travel with you, make sure to really think about your cat’s personality before planning a trip. If you are having second thoughts, find a recommended cat sitter, friend, or family member that you and your cat are comfortable with to take care of them while you are away.