Road tripping with your cat? One of the first things you should know about travelling with cats is that they’re not dogs. Sounds a little too obvious, but you’d be surprised how many pet owners expect a trip with a cat to be similar to travelling with a dog. No matter how mellow your cat is, you can’t expect it to be the same.
There are things you can do to ensure a low-stress, snag-free trip with a feline, no matter how you’re travelling or where you’re going.
Don’t take your cat
If you have the option to leave your cat at home, it’s a good idea to do that. Cats thrive on routine and hate change. A road trip might sound like a lot of fun to you, but the chances are your cat won’t agree. So, if you know a good cat hotel or you have a friend who can petsit, your cat will love you for it.
If travelling with your cat is a must, keep the “thrive on routine” part in mind. Recreating the home environment as much as possible will help lower your cat’s stress levels. This includes putting a favourite blanket with your smell inside the carrier, bringing some toys and even using the cat’s standard food and water bowls while on the road.
While you can secure dogs with a doggie seatbelt, cats need to travel in a carrier at all times for everybody’s safety. A sturdy carrier that is big enough for your cat to move, turn and stretch out is important. Then add some flat mattress-like padding at the bottom that won’t slide around to provide some comfort.
Make sure the carrier has windows on the sides and front so that air can circulate well. Secure the carrier with a seatbelt, preferably on the back seat.
Never open the carrier unless you’re parked and only if all windows and doors are closed. No matter how easy-going your cat is at home, a spooked car can run, bite or scratch. So a carrier will help prevent accidents but also make sure kitty has no chance of escaping.
All of these recommendations still apply if you’re travelling by train or even flying somewhere. Your cat should stay in the carrier until you’re somewhere safe (like your hotel room) with all doors and windows closed.
Shorter trips (under six hours) can be done completely in the carrier. But if you’re travelling for longer than that, your cat will need to use the toilet at some point.
Disposable litter boxes (sold with litter in them) are available from pet stores and are the most convenient option for travel. If your cat is fussy, you can also get a small plastic litter box and bring the usual litter you use at home. To let your cat use it, park somewhere and let your cat out of the carrier.
Always bring your own food and water from home as well. Travelling with a cat that suddenly turns its nose up at water that seems different is no fun. And you shouldn’t count on finding your cat’s usual food when you arrive at your destination. Instead, make sure you bring enough for the entire trip.
For extra safety, get a harness for your cat and make sure you attach an ID tag with your contact information. And remember to bring your cat’s pet passport — some hotels require it for check in.
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