Taking Your Cat Travelling? Here’s What You Need To Know

travel with your cat

Let’s face it; just the thought of taking a trip with your cat is stressful.

Most kitties do not travel well. Usually, there’s going to be a lot of meowing, yowling, cowering, and maybe a fair bit of mess.

But there are things you can do to make it easier for you and, more importantly, for your cat. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

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Do you know these fun cat facts?
Do you know these fun cat facts?

You Need a Secure Carrier

Regardless of the means of travel, you’re going to need an appropriately safe, and secure cat carrier of some type.

If you’re just going a small distance on foot, you could decide to use a simple soft-sided cat carrier or a cat backpack. But, if you’re traveling in a car, train or even a plane, you will need something more substantial. 

If you’re in a car, don’t risk allowing your cat to wander freely around your back seat. It might seem like you’re giving your cat more room to roam and that probably feels like a good idea, but there’s a lot of danger in having a loose cat in a small moving vehicle.

If you forget and open a window, your cat could easily escape. Additionally, there’s the risk that they might start attacking your legs and cause an accident. And, if there is an accident, and they aren’t in a secured carrier, then they become a free-floating object traveling at a speed that will be very likely to cause them and you serious injury.

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Cat Carrier

So, get yourself a carrier that’s strong, reliable, and easy to use. Picking something that’s also easy to clean is a good idea too because cats have a habit of urinating when they’re nervous or even throwing up. 

We’ll look at some specific issues to think of when traveling on trains and planes later on, but first, let’s discuss the carrier you might need.

What Kind of Carrier is Best?

For short-term travel and brief trips, as we said, you might decide that a cat backpack is a fun alternative to the standard crate. However, this won’t always be the ideal solution.

For plane, train, bus, or car travel, make sure your carrier is:

  • Sturdy and durable: Choose something made of a secure material like plastic or plastic-coated metal. Fabric products (soft-skinned carriers and backpacks) aren’t as easy to use, offer less protection for your cat, and are likely to get damaged much more easily. Carriers made of plastic are much easier to clean as well. 
  • Easy access: You need a carrier that makes it easy to get your cat in and out. Ideally, something that has front and top openings will make your life a lot easier. If you can’t have both, make sure the door that is available is wide enough. 
  • Suitable size: Your cat needs enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. The happier your kitty is, the easier your trip is going to be.
  • Private: Your cat probably doesn’t want to be on display when they’re feeling anxious. Sides offering privacy and concealment will make them feel more comfortable when they’re traveling, as does covering with a blanket. A few slits for ventilation are fine – these are also helpful when you want to sneak treats to your cat. If you do cover your travel crate make sure enough air is getting to your cat (most fabrics thrown over will be fine).

Traveling by Train or Plane

Travelling by train with a cat is similar to travelling by car. On a train or bus, you still need to use the right carrier. However, it’s extra important to ensure that your carrier is extra secure.

Make sure that it’s lightweight enough to carry and compact – so it can fit on your lap if there’s not much room. 

It’s best to stick with a solid base on your carrier for this kind of travel, rather than a grate. If your cat urinates or vomits, you don’t want it to go all over your legs, or the seats. Line the carrier with absorbent material if you need to and take a spare blanket for a long journey. 

If you’re going on a plane, think about the airline you’re travelling with, and what kind of support they offer. Some airlines allow cats to travel in the cabin and others have a special part of the hold. 

Although this isn’t always easy, try and book your cat onto a direct flight if you can. This will reduce the amount they need to be disturbed for transfer, and prevent any problems associated with waiting around. 

For a longer trip (such as one by air) make sure that there’s plenty of extra space in the carrier for things like blankets and toys too. Ideally, you’ll want a blanket that smells of both your cat and your home so that your kitty feels reassured. 

Not all airlines support travel with pets. If you’re taking your kitty on a flight, make sure that you do your homework upfront. Speak to your airline representative and ensure that your cat can travel on the airplane. Ideally, they’ll sit with you on the plane, rather than going in the cargo hold. 

If your airline allows you to place your cat under the airline seat, you’ll need to double-check the dimensions so that you can figure out the right size of the carrier.

At the same time, look into any paperwork you need to prepare for travel, including vaccination records, and a health certificate. Additionally, ask your vet about medication and other calming techniques. 

Make Your Cat Comfortable

The most important thing for making travel with your cat successful and risk-free is ensuring that your cat feels comfortable, secure, and stable. This means ensuring an environment for your cat to travel in where he or she is safe. 

If you’re traveling a long distance, or with a particularly anxious cat, we recommend visiting a vet before the journey. Your vet can offer medication to help your kitty feel more comfortable.

Medication to sedate a cat for a particularly long flight is an option. However, you’ll need to talk to your vet about what’s safest and this shouldn’t be your default first choice. Only consider it if you have prior experience of traveling with this kitty and you know that travel without medication is going to cause him or her unreasonable levels of anxiety.

Another point to remember when you’re traveling with your feline friend is that you should never leave a cat in a car unattended. Even if you’re just popping out to a gas station to grab a drink for the drive, take your carrier with you or make sure someone stays with them. Cats are overly sensitive to temperatures, and it can quickly get hot in a car when all the doors are closed. 

Remember that if you’re taking a long trip, you’ll also need to ensure that there’s plenty of food and water available for your cat to enjoy from time to time. 

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Not Easy, But Doable!

Unless you have one of those rare cats that love to travel, then it’s never going to be completely straightforward. You need to know ahead of time that things might go awry. 

From the moment you start struggling to get your beloved cat into their crate or carrier, to the point where they start yowling throughout your entire journey, there are going to be some tough moments to overcome.

If your cat does accidentally soil the carrier or crate, make sure that you have a spare blanket and plenty of cleaning equipment ready – just in case. If you notice a lot of crying, then you can try to soothe your cat by speaking in a reassuring tone. Resist letting them out of the carrier – no matter how bad you feel. 

A crying cat in a carrier probably isn’t suffering – they just want to let you know how much they dislike the situation. Eventually, the noise and motion of the travel will help them to settle down. Check on your furry friend regularly to ensure that they’re not panting due to heat or struggling with any other ailments.

You’ll get to your destination soon enough and it will all be over. Remember that!

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This is a guest post by Sam Jones.

About the Author

Sam Jones is a feline expert focusing on cat behaviour, cat health, and cat care. She has lived with cats her entire life and has been writing about cats for as long as she can remember. She is currently a senior contributing editor at We Love Cats and Kittens.