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How to Travel With a Cat: Tips for a Low-Stress Trip

How to Travel With a Cat: Tips for a Low-Stress Trip

Considering bringing your cat along on your next trip? Our Turlock vets share some advice on how to safely travel long distances with a cat and what to consider before your adventure.

Preparing for Your Trip

Are you one of those people who can't bear the thought of leaving their furry companion's home when you have to go away? Whether you're traveling to visit friends or family, setting off on an exciting vacation, or moving, you may be thinking about bringing your cat. 

There are even times when traveling with your cat is unavoidable - for example, if you are moving to another city or state and already have a feline friend. In this case, your question may not be, 'Should I travel with my cat?' but, 'How can I ensure my cat is as calm and comfortable as possible during our trip?'

Whatever your circumstances, you'll need to plan thoroughly. One essential point to check is whether your cat is up to date on their vaccines and parasite prevention. The state you're traveling to may have different regulations than your own regarding vaccines for pets. 

That said, most state laws require your pet to have a current rabies vaccine, so make sure to book a visit with your vet before you leave to update your cat's core vaccines. This will help prevent frustrating delays and ensure your kitty is vaccinated against any lifestyle diseases that may be common at your destination, and that any parasites can be treated or prevented. 

Different Preparations for Different Journeys 

Your mode of transportation and how long you'll be traveling will determine what you'll need to do to prepare and help you decide on the best way to travel with your cat. Here are some tips on how to travel with a cat in a car, how to travel with a cat on a plane, and even on a train or ship. 

Traveling With Your Cat By Car 

Before you drive off into the sunset with your cat, there are several safety precautions and aspects you should consider. Here are some tips to help your cat stay comfortable, calm, and safe during your road trip. 

Buy a Suitable Cat Carrier

Cats are generally uncomfortable traveling in cars and should remain in a carrier for their safety and yours. It's important to secure the carrier with a seat belt to keep it from bouncing around and injuring your cat. 

Don't Put Your Cat in the Front Seat 

Even if your cat is in its carrier, an airbag that's deployed during a collision can put your pet at risk of injury if they are in the front seat, which can cause a veterinary emergency. That's why it's always best to keep your cat's carrier restrained in the back seat of your vehicle. 

Keep Your Cat's Head Inside the Vehicle 

Another potential scenario that can result in injury and a subsequent veterinary emergency is if your cat leans their head outside the window to get a look at what's happening, debris may strike them. The cold air may also harm their lungs. Never transport your cat in the back of an open pickup truck, as they may fall out or get injured. 

Bring a Designated Person Along to Care for Them 

When considering how to safely travel long-distance with your cat, keep in mind that if your cat is more likely to remain calm if they're able to interact with someone they like. 

If possible, bring someone along who can ride in the back seat while watching and comforting your cat. This will help your cat feel comfortable while you focus on driving. Plus, you'll have some companionship along the way. 

Bring Litter If Your Trip is Longer Than Six Hours 

Your cat will most likely be fine in a standard carrier if your car trip is shorter than six hours. However, if your cat will need to stay in their carrier for longer than this, you'll need a larger crate to allow space for a small litter box. It's a good idea to ask your vet about the type of kennel or carrier that's most appropriate for your cat's needs and your journey before you travel. 

Don't Ever Leave Your Cat in the Car Alone

Leaving a cat alone in a car is a serious health hazard. Heat is a risk to pets and a short time for you could be an eternity for your feline companion. when it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour.

On an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes. Irreversible organ damage or death is possible after only 30 minutes alone in a vehicle - even if you don't expect it to take that long to return, it is not worth the risk.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Plane

Do cats like to travel by air? The short answer, of course, is no but sometimes it cannot be avoided. Here are the things you should know about traveling with a cat by plane.

Air Travel Can be Dangerous for Cats

Air travel can lead to oxygen deprivation or heat stroke in animals. Persian cats in particular are susceptible to these effects, as are other animals with "smushed-in" faces.

Consider All Alternatives Before Flying

Because flying is so stressful for cats, we recommend taking another option if possible. Driving is generally superior to flying. There may be boarding options available that can let your cat relax comfortably at a home away from home.

Chose an Airline That Will Allow Your Cat in the Cabin

Many airlines will allow you to fly with your cat in the cabin with you, for an additional fee. While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year.

Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling are often to blame. in either case, you must inform the airline well in advance that you are bringing your cat with you. If you must travel with your animal in the cargo hold, research airlines and select one with a good reputation for animal handling.

If You See Something, Say Something

If you see any mistreatment of an animal by an airline, yours or otherwise, make sure you say something about it! You could save a life.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Train

Some pets and service animals are permitted on many trains. You will have to verify with the railway if pets are permitted on your train journey. If they are, then similar guidelines to traveling with a cat in a car apply. Passengers will be expected to exercise and feed their cat(s) at station stops.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Ship

Except for assistance dogs, pets are welcome on only a few cruise lines — and usually on ocean crossings only. Some lines permit pets in private cabins, but most confine pets to kennels.

Contact your cruise line in advance to find out its policies and which of its ships have kennel facilities. If you must use the ship's kennel, make sure it is protected from the elements and check on your pet frequently.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our Turlock emergency vets are always here to address concerns or provide immediate care if your pet is injured. If you suspect your cat may have sustained an injury during a road trip or at any other time, contact our Turlock emergency vets to get your pet immediate care.

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Taylor Veterinary Emergency is accepting new patients! Our experienced Turlock vets are passionate about the health of cats and dogs. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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