Traveling with Cats: 18 Tips for a Smooth Trip

Traveling with Cats: 18 Tips for a Smooth Trip

The holidays are coming up and the matter of travel is at the top of everyone's mind. While you may be ready to throw everything into a backpack and catch a flight to see your grandparents or head out on a winter destination trip, what about your cat? Knowing how to travel with a cat can save on pet-sitter costs and help your cat enjoy the holidays from their favorite place in the world – with you. 

If you're not sure how to travel with a cat, you're not alone. Some cats travel very well (and some don't), but the best way to secure a positive cat traveling experience is to plan ahead. So, here are 18 tips that can help you and your cat travel happily together.

cat in a suitcase

Preparing Your Cat for Travel by Land, Air, or Sea

No matter what transportation methods you are using, the following 10 tips will help any cat adapt to travel. Whether you’re flying with your cat, taking a road trip with your cat, catching a boat, or even carrying them in a bicycle basket.

1. Get Your Cat Comfortable with Their Carrier

grey cat in a white and orange carrier

    • Turn your cat's carrier into a beloved cat bed before the trip, as long before the trip as possible. Place their favorite blanket or toys in the carrier and regularly feed them treats there. You'll be succeeding when your cat starts sleeping happily in the carrier on their own. 

    2. Harness and Leash Train Your Cat (If Possible)

      • If your cat will tolerate it (some will), harness and leash train them. This can ensure that your cat is safe and stays close by if you give them a chance to walk around or potty on the roadside. Do not simply clip a leash to a cat collar, many cats are collar escape artists! 

      3. Update Your Cat's Collar Tags & Consider a Microchip

      cat with heart shaped tag on collar

        • Just in case, make sure your cat will be brought back to you in the event that they slip away. Update their collar tags, if necessary, and consider having your cat microchipped.

        4. Take Your Cat to the Vet

          • Check to make sure your cat is well enough to travel. Schedule a preliminary vet visit and full checkup. It is not advised that you sedate a cat, as this can put them at a health risk at high altitudes. 

          5. Book Pet-Friendly Lodgings

          cat being served food in a hotel

            • Book your hotels or vacation rentals based on pet-friendliness.

            6. Fill the Carrier with Your Cat’s Favorite Things

              • When preparing your cat's carrier for travel, fill it with their favorite things that smell like home. A favorite blanket, toys, and familiar items will help your cat feel at home during the travel experience. Don't forget to stow a litter box and extra sand, unless these are waiting for you on the other end of your travel.

              7. Keep a Packet of Treats & Supplements Handy

              cat eating a treat

                • Cats love treats, and will stay calm more easily if you periodically reward calm behavior with treats. However, don't go overboard, it's best to keep a traveling cat's stomach closer to empty.

                8. Feed Your Cat Early

                  • To reduce your cat's potty need, it's best to feed and give them water a few hours before you hit the road. Avoid over-feeding treats on the go, as cats can get motion sickness. 

                  9. Pack Bags and Wipes In Case of an Accident

                    • In case of potty accidents, be sure to bring a few plastic bags, baby wipes, and sanitizing wipes. Stuff happens! 

                    10. Exhaust Your Cat Before the Trip

                    tired cat laying on cat tree

                      • Finally, help your cat nap through the trip by playing with them to exhaustion right before. Do everything you can to run your cat around the house and have them flipping after the feather stick right up until it's time to load into the carrier.

                      Tips for Flying With Your Cat

                      If you’re traveling with your cat by plane, there are a few extra precautions that can ensure a happier flight for all. 

                      11. Make Sure Your Cat’s Carrier is the Right Size

                      cat travelling in purple carrier

                        • Each airline has specific rules about how large your cat carrier can be and where you're allowed to stow it (usually under your seat). We strongly advise flying with your cat in the cabin with you, and some airlines may allow you to set your cat on your lap to reassure your cat along the way.

                      12. Favor Direct Flights Over Layover Routes

                        • Avoid layovers. Direct flights mean that your cat's travel experience is a single beginning-to-end process. This also reduces the chances that you'll have trouble hauling the carrier from one flight to the next.

                      13. Be Extra Nice to the Flight Attendants

                        • Flight attendants are ultimately in charge of whether your cat carrier can be on your lap and if you can temporarily let your cat out for a reassuring snuggle. Be extra nice and offer to let your flight attendants meet the kitty (if they’re interested) to win a more favorable situation.

                      14. Reassure Your Cat Whenever Possible

                      cat in carrier at airport

                        • Whether your cat is in your lap or under your seat, often reach out your hand to reassure your cat that you are still there and that they are safe. 

                      Tips for a Road Trip with Your Cat

                      Road trips with your cat are a different experience. You can stop more often, but are also 100% responsible for travel arrangements. A few more tips for the road: 

                      15. Harness Training is Very Helpful

                      cat in car wearing a harness

                        • A cat who can walk on a leash (and do their business in a harness) is a much better road trip companion. You can explore rest stops together without worrying about losing your cat far from home.

                        16. Take Your Cat on Increasingly Longer Car Trips

                          • You can help get your cat used to the sensations of a road trip by taking them on short carrier trips in the car. Make the trips longer and longer until your cat starts to fall asleep in their carrier along the way.

                          17. Make Frequent Pit Stops for People and Pets

                          cat stretching outside

                            • Stop at rest stops with grass and dirt where your cat can do their business. Not only will this give you a chance to stretch your legs, it can also reduce your cat's anxiety, allow them to eat more often, and make the trip an overall more pleasant experience. 

                            18. Consider a Pop-Up Enclosure

                              • Finally, consider bringing a pop-up enclosure. These are nylon playpens with a mesh top so your cat can breathe fresh air and maybe even paw dirt without the risk of them jumping away. Enclosures are especially useful if your cat won't wear a harness.

                              Here’s to Happy Trails & Wagging Tails 

                              man hiking with a cat

                              Whether you and your cat are taking a road trip or catching a flight, a little preparation leading up to the holidays can go a long way. With these tips, you can enjoy a pleasant trip with your cat and make the entire experience easier for everyone involved. 

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