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The Best Way to Travel With a Cat

Planning a trip away from home and want to take your feline friend along with you? Here are a few helpful tips from our Clemmons team to help make the journey an enjoyable experience for both you and your cat.


Preparing to Travel With Your Cat

If you are planning to travel with your feline family member - whether moving, visiting or going on vacation - things will go far more smoothly if you plan ahead. 

One essential point to consider is whether your cat is up-to-date on their vaccines and parasite prevention. Different states have different regulations regarding vaccines for pets but in most states keeping your pet's rabies vaccine current is the law. So be sure to schedule a visit to your veterinarian before you leave so that your cat's core vaccines can be brought up to date, your kitty can be vaccinated against any lifestyle diseases that are common in the place you are headed to, and any parasites can be treated or prevented.

Different Journeys Require Different Preparations

Depending on your method of transportation and the length of the journey there are different things you will need to consider and prepare for. Below we cover how to travel with a cat by car, how to travel with a cat on a plane, and even on a train or ship. 

How To Travel With a Cat in a Car

Purchase a Suitable Cat Carrier

Cats are generally uncomfortable traveling in cars and should be kept in a carrier for their safety and yours. It is important to secure the carrier with a seat belt to keep it from bouncing around and hurting your cat.

Don't Put Your Cat in the Front Seat

Even when in a carrier, the deployment of airbags in the front seat can be dangerous for your pet - for this reason, it is best to always keep your cat's carrier restrained in the back seat(s) of your vehicle.

Keep Your Cat's Head Inside the Vehicle

If your cat's head is sticking outside the window, they're at risk of debris striking them or the cold air harming their lungs. Never transport your cat in the back of an open pick-up truck.

Bring a Human Designated to Care for Them

If possible, it is best to have a human who is there to monitor and comfort your cat riding with them in the back seat. This will help your cat feel comfortable during the journey.

If Your Journey is Longer than 6 hours, They'll Need Litter

If your journey by car is shorter than 6 hours, then your cat will most likely be fine in a standard carrier. If your cat will need to be in their carrier longer than that, you will need a larger accommodation that gives them space for a small litter box. It's a good idea to consult your vet prior to travel for advice on the kind of kennel or carrier best suited to your cat's needs and the journey ahead.

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 possibly 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

With the exception of 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 experienced veterinarians can provide all of the essential vaccines and parasite prevention products your kitty needs to travel safely. Contact our Clemmons vets to book an appointment today.

Cat in a light blue carrier.

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