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Tips & information on how to take your cat with you on trips.
Traveling with a Cat
Fellow Cat Lover,
Alfred wants to say thank you for requesting this valuable info on how you
can safely take your cat on trips.
Use common sense, and above all else, make this a fun and enjoyable trip
for you and your precious kitty.
Below are some helpful hints to help you make that trip happen.
Cats!! These little creatures always seem to be a challenge when it comes
to transporting them from one place to another. If you have never listened to
the forlorn yodeling of a terrified cat on its way to the veterinarian you
have missed a true spectacle of nature.
And if you have heard these shrieks and cries from a panicked cat you’d
be very thankful you did not experience it while out camping some dark night.
Only one cat in a hundred will curl up contentedly on the car seat next to
you while on a trip. Nobody knows for sure why the other ninety-nine totally
lose it and think they’re falling into outer space.
Accept the fact that traveling with a cat may require a few preliminary
preparations in order to make the experience at least tolerable for you and
your little feline friend.
First… invest in some sort of crate or fabric containment. If you can get
your cat into one of these portable products the cat will be much more secure
physically and psychologically.
Cats go into a sort of “I’m safe in here” mode when they find
themselves enclosed within a crate. They still may yowl and cry but if that
does occur, at least they won’t be able to use your forehead as a
springboard to the ceiling of the car!
Once you have a travel crate, place it in the house with the door open, put
a little treat and a small litter box in it, and then ignore it.
Do not put the cat into it because the kitty will immediately understand
what you are up to and won’t go near it again. They’re not dumb!
- Many veterinarians and pet owners believe strongly in buckling up pets
in a car just as you would a child. There are many types of restraining
devices for dogs BUT FEW FOR CATS.
You might consider using a padded fabric type of crate for your cat instead
of the plastic or wire crates in order to keep your cat in place during a trip
and to ensure additional safety in case of an accident. Collars, harnesses and
leashes are a must for any travelin' cat. The bottom line? Be prepared.
On the other hand if you allow the cat to discover this neat little
den/crate right in its own house, you may find the kitty hangin’ out in it.
Then someday when you need to capture the feline trickster to transport it to
the veterinary hospital all you’ll have to do is keep an eye out for when
the kitty is inside the crate and slam the door on your way by. Now a trip in
the car will be safe for you and the cat. Don’t worry about putting food and
water in the crate; healthy cats can go without food and water for many hours.
Do some occasional trial runs prior to any long trip you need to take so
that you know what to expect when you have to be your cat’s driver on a
If your cat really seems uncomfortable and cries like a banshee for any
longer than twenty minutes, you may need to contact your veterinarian about
using a tranquilizer prior to a long trip.
It can be difficult to discern whether your cat is displaying Hyperactivity
or is in the throws of Motion sickness. Describe what your cat is doing in the
crate (quiet and drooling or going bonkers and screaming) and your
veterinarian will be able to prescribe appropriate medication to allow the
kitty to be comfortable.
For you folks who are really opposed to medicating your pet, be assured
that the medications are very helpful in providing the least amount of stress
on your cat while it is going through an experience it finds horrific and
A terrified cat is probably thinking along these lines…“Thunder!!”
when the engine turns on. “Earthquake!!” when the car starts to move or
bounces over bumps. “Hydrocarbon fumes!!” when it smells auto, bus and
truck exhaust. “I’m falling sideways!!” when it glances out the window
and those trees are whizzing by. Can you blame the cat for feeling
disoriented? Medication may be a very humane choice for your kitty.
Never open a crate with a cat inside unless you are prepared for the cat to
spring out of the crate and make a dash for freedom! One of the most dangerous
and embarrassing events you will encounter with your cat is trying to retrieve
it from the rafters of the building you are in.
And the odds are overwhelming stacked in favor of someone innocently
opening the front door of the animal hospital just at the moment your kitty
spies the tallest pine tree across the parking lot of the animal hospital.
“What was that!” the innocent door opener says as you and half the animal
hospital staff file out the door in hot pursuit of the escapee.
It can be dangerous, too, in the enclosed exam room when the veterinarian
opens the crate or travel container. Some cats are wound as tight as a miser
just waiting for their chance to escape.
The natural tendency is to climb to safety… and injury will result if the
kitty uses a person for a tree. You need to go slowly when removing the cat
from the container; let the cat orient a bit before trying to get your hands
on the kitty. It may be best to open the crate or container and allow the c at
to amble out on its own. Be careful.
A healthy cat may not move an inch for six to eight hours at a time. Allow
a little food and water but don’t expect the cat to even glance at the feast
At your motel sometime during the night, when everyone is sound asleep, the
kitty will use the litter box and have a private banquet on its own terms.
Your cat may use the litter box once, eat once and drink once every
twenty-four hours when on a long trip. The odds are you will be worrying more
about these behaviors than the cat.
Never, ever, let your cat loose when on a trip. It makes no difference how
“good” your cat is at walking with you at home. On a trip you and your cat
are in a different world and if your cat, for any number of reasons, “takes
off” you may never see it again.
Some sort of an ID tag is always a good idea. If your cat simply will not
wear a collar, here’s an idea: Have a groomer or your veterinarian shave
some fur from the cat’s belly. Using a Magic Marker write your name and
phone number on the kitty. Eventually the fur will grow back and the marking
will fade but this little trick may just save your lost cat’s life.
If you are like most cat owners, you will not look forward to traveling in
the car with your little pal. Nevertheless, if done often enough, maybe you
will be one of those lucky 1% whose cat thinks a ride in the car is a human
invention designed specifically for cats to see the world much more
On the Road
The very first rule of traveling with your cat is to have an ID tag or
other means of identification securely affixed to the kitty.
Thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters simply because the owners
never dreamed the pet would get loose or become lost while on a trip. There
are few disasters in a person’s life that are worse than having to drive off
without a pet because all means of locating and recovery have failed. This
kind of tragedy will haunt you for the rest of your life; don’t let it
Get an ID tag!
Before you leave make sure you consider the option of leaving your cat in a
hometown boarding facility Many are just for cats and do not board dogs.
Others have the cats well away from any sight, sound or smell of a canine.
Visit the local boarding facility and see what goes on. Also there may be a
Pet Sitter in your area who would tend your pets in your own home. With a Pet
Sitter you can even call home and tell your cat how much fun you’re
having… Oh, and also how much you miss the rascal.
In this section we’ll sample a few ideas that will help to facilitate a
safe and enjoyable road trip. Make sure you know how your cat reacts to trips
by taking a number of local short trips, then if you need to take an
“all-dayer” you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Any
“all-dayer” is just a bunch of short trips anyway. So, before you set off
on that cross country trip be sure that you are confident that you can predict
how your pet will behave.
Vomit happens. Sometimes even humans get carsick. Most cats can overcome
motion sickness through desensitizing them by repeat short, uneventful trips.
Gradually accustom the cat to spending time in the car with the engine off,
then with the engine on, then short trips, then the cross-country adventure.
Prior to a trip be sure the cat has had food and water available, then
remove food and water at least three hours before you set off.
You can also use anti-motion sickness medications to help settle the
stomach and prevent the sometimes prolific drooling that occurs in a nauseous
cat. Most medications used to prevent motion sickness are very safe
antihistamines and many cats eventually will travel without the aid of medical
assistance. Just in case, bring a roll of paper towels.
- Motion sickness or hyperactivity? Here’s the difference… cats with
motion sickness are generally quiet and even a little depressed because
they feel awful. They will drool all over the place, maybe even pass
stool, and eventually start vomiting.
The forlorn howling you might hear reminds one of a dark, creepy Halloween
night! Even with an empty stomach the vomiting reflex can be very strong.
These cats will greatly benefit from anti-motion sickness medication if it is
given long enough in advance of the trip to be working by the time you start
The cat that goes bonkers when in a vehicle demonstrates hyperactivity.
These cats aren’t sick, they’re possessed! Salivating, panting, whining,
jumping from front seat to back, swatting at non existent butterflies and
trying to cling upside down to the roof of the car are common characteristics
of the hyperactive feline traveler.
If you must bring the hyperactive cat with you, medication to sedate the
kitty will surely make the trip safer, easier and less stressful for both you
and the cat.
This Cat's Hyper!
The key to successful use of pretrip medication is to administer it well
before the trip starts. Some cats start their Tae Bo routine as soon as they
HEAR the word car! Be nonchalant, sneak a little medication in a treat, and
don’t mention the c a r anywhere near the cat prior to your trip.
If you believe your cat may be a candidate for medication, be sure to do a
leisurely pretrip trial well ahead of the time you REALLY need it. About one
cat out of ten will not respond in the common way to a particular medication
or a particular dose.
You do not want to find this out the morning of an eight- hour, midwinter
trip through the Rockies to accept that national writing award you won for the
article on "Logical Steps To Effective Planning".
Yours should always be on the traffic, not on the cat!. If your traveling
pal is a good traveler, it might curl up next to you on the seat and, ah...
well, take a cat nap. (Sorry, had to say it.) Do not ever allow a pet to go
near the driver side floor where the brake and gas pedals are located. And the
dashboard must be out of bounds for safety sake.
These inventions are very handy. Your cat, if happy and comfortable in a
crate, will be safer and you will have the peace of mind knowing it is secure
when you must leave your friend alone for short periods.
If you do use a crate, be certain that the cat is totally accustomed to it
well prior to the trip.
Plan ahead… well ahead. If you know you will be staying overnight
somewhere, be sure to have reservations at an establishment that welcomes
A handy list of “Pet Friendly” motels/hotels can be found if you do a
little searching. Don’t even think about it if you hope to hide your cat in
your room or think you will launch a successful appeal to the motel owner’s
sense of sympathy if you show up with an 25 pound Maine Coon!
And don't forget to bring along some disposable "Scoop n Toss
Bags"; you must be socially conscious about where your kitty chooses to
relieve itself. Your portable litter box may not be the cat's first choice. Be
Food and Water
It wouldn’t hurt to pamper your pal… bring along your cat’s own food
and drinking water from home and you will be better off. Not that you’re
And a few old towels or rags will make good cleanup devices if the cat
happens to discover a mud puddle or contacts something nasty like spilled ice
Emergency first aid kits are very handy for you and the cat if a sudden
cut, sliver or rash intrudes upon your day. Anti-itch medication, bandages,
and antibiotic ointments may save the day when you least expect something will
go wrong. It is a good idea to have your veterinarian give you a copy of the
cat’s medical history to take with you just in case a visit to a
veterinarian along the way becomes necessary.
Here’s a safety tip… Bring two leashes. That way you’ll have a spare
when you misplace one. Cats are notorious for doing Houdini-like escapes from
A harness is much more secure, especially the ones that will adjust
according to the amount of tension placed against it. The harder a cat pulls
the tighter and more secure the slip harness becomes. Travel crates human
versions of dens, make great containment devices and many cats enjoy hiding
out in them while traveling.
Leaving a pet alone in a car has a number of potential risks. Always be
conscious of the effects of heat buildup in a parked car. It only takes a few
minutes for the internal heat to build up forty degrees above the outside air
temperature especially if direct sunlight bakes the car.
Even the cat’s body heat (expired air in the cat’s breath is 102
degrees!) will act like a heater inside the car. Leaving windows open slightly
at the top surely helps IF there is a breeze. Be very cautious about leaving
pets unattended in parked cars.
Heat stroke is a dire emergency and one from which many pets do not
recover. And you'd be shocked to find out just how fast it can happen.
Don’t forget to bring along some fun toys and
tasty treats... just so the
kitty knows that this traveling stuff is really fun! Don’t forget the