Written by: Dexter Jones of We Love Cats and Kittens
One of the biggest challenges for all cat owners is knowing what to do during trips and vacations. While many owners are alright with adding a bit of extra food and an additional litterbox if they only plan on being away for a day or so, this immediately goes out the door if a trip is between 48 hours or longer. For some, the best option is to hire a cat sitter or to take your cat to a cat hotel. These are both great options and ones I’ve personally used depending on the situation. If you’re uncertain of your cat’s temperament around strangers or with other cats, one other option is to bring them along for the ride.
Then again, some cat owners choose to travel with their cat simply because they like the idea and want to share that time with their cat.
Traveling with your pet can be a surprisingly bonding experience. Depending on where you’re going and what you plan on doing, having a cat around can potentially transform your trip in all the right ways.
Unfortunately, if it’s your first time deciding to bring your pet along for the ride, you may be surprised that there are some things you really need to think through. For example, the type of cat carrier, you plan to use, what additional travel items you’ll need to bring with you, to the best way to ensure your cat doesn’t go crazy. These are all important factors that you should be aware of before ever hopping on a plane or a train with your furry friend.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to make your next travel plans with your cat as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
What You Should Bring
Proper preparedness is easily one of the biggest factors in play when it comes to determining whether your cat chills out the whole trip or screams its heart out. I’ve been in both camps, and I can promise you that the first is MUCH better than the second.
The main things you’ll need before setting off on your trip are a proper carrier and some familiar items that your cat uses. These will make their trip as comfortable and relaxing as possible. You’ll also want to make sure you have some calming sprays and scents as well as several travel-friendly bowls and litter trays for longer multi-day road trips.
Getting A Proper Cat Carrier
The first big thing you’re going to need is a quality cat carrier. And while that may seem like a no-brainer, there are a lot of cat carriers out there that could be better.
When traveling, your cat carrier should be durable and secure while also comfortable and internally soft. Getting a carrier that is focused entirely on durability will be likely to be heavy to carry and not as comfortable making it unpleasant for the cat. On the other hand, soft and flimsy carriers may be a bit more comfortable for the cat but may also have weak integrity and be easy to escape from (or worse, risk harming your cat while the cat is inside).
You should also consider the type of cat carrier you want. While many people are checking out cat backpacks (where the cat is sitting in a carrier on your back) these are primarily meant for hiking or outdoor trekking. They are difficult to use when taking a plane or a train, as they are a bit too large to sit under your seat.
The ideal carrier opens at the top while also having another access on the side. This makes it easier to put your cat inside while also meaning you’re able to easily peek in to make sure they are fine and have things to keep them calm and occupied. In addition, you can use the side entrance to slip in a toy or some treats while also ensuring they aren’t able to force themselves out.
Bringing Something Familiar
Once you’ve decided on the type of carrier you want for your cat, your next step is to add things your cat will recognize.
Because cats derive virtually everything from their scent, you want to make sure that they are exposed to as many things that share a scent they are familiar with as possible. For example, a new travel blanket which may be physically comfortable when in a high-stress situation like travel, can potentially be seen as a threat to their personal space because it’s unfamiliar.
Instead, consider grabbing one of their used blankets. This will carry their scent on it and will act as a comforting item rather than a potentially stress-inducing one.
Additional Add-Ons For Every Trip
You’ll also want to make sure you have an assortment of other items, especially if you plan on a long road trip.
Travel Cat Litter Trays
Cats can usually go for around 7-8 hours without needing to use the litterbox, but anything longer than that is pushing it. If you’re looking to travel cross-country or driving from one Province to another, bringing a travel cat litter tray is a great way to avoid the hassle of lugging a larger tray around or a 10lb thing of cat litter.
Collapsible Food & Water Bowls
Other useful items to consider are collapsible food and water bowls. These are great because they are usually small enough to go right into the carrier without any issues for the cat when it’s feeding time. This will mean you can easily give them something to snack on while en route or even during the plane ride.
Cat Leash & Harness
Image Credit : Cat Mapper (Max Ogden) – https://unsplash.com/@catmapper
If during one of your stops or your ultimate destination, you want to give your kitty a chance to stretch out its legs and move freely, you’ll want to consider getting a quality cat harness and leash. Cat leashes and harnesses are a great way to offer some level of security and control over the cat even once they’re out of the carrier. I have a lot to owe a cat leash, as one of my cats nearly got lost when at a rest stop, the leash and harness being the only things that made sure he didn’t end up getting too far away.
While cat leashes can be great, they only work if your cat is already used to being walked with them to at least some degree. If your cat is being put in one for the first time, a harness can be very upsetting, resulting in it either fighting to have it taken off or just not moving even when you want it to.
This will largely depend on the type of cat you have and what type of medication you need. If your cat has health issues, you’ll want to consult with your veterinarian specialist to make sure they are fit enough to travel. You’ll also have to ask about the dosage and if it should be increased or decreased due to traveling. For example, heart medication may need to be increased or decreased to offset the potential stress your cat may be under during the traveling experience.
If your cat doesn’t have any health problems, you may want to consider looking into medication or supplements to help sedate them over the trip. While it may not be necessary for most trips or situations, it may be required for pets that get very loud or aggressive when put in a carrier or moved. Ideally, you’ll want to gauge their attitude on a shorter trip before looking into a medical option.
Tips To Keep Your Kitty Calm
Now that we’ve gone over all of the different things you’ll need to bring with you for your cat, here are some useful tips you should consider implementing to make the travel process as smooth as possible.
1. Get Your Cat Microchipped
One common misconception that many people have about microchips is that they are some type of tracking device. As cool as that may seem, we still aren’t quite there technologically. What microchipping your cat actually does is act as a sort of alternative remote collar. If your cat escapes or runs away, if the pound or local animal shelter finds your cat, they will immediately attempt to check if they have a chip. This can ensure that you get a call to reunite you even if they have otherwise lost their collar somewhere.
2. Consider Calming Scent Sprays
We talked a bit about the importance of smells as well as ways to calm your cat down while traveling. One of the best ways you can keep them relaxed without medically sedating them is through the use of different calming scent sprays. These wipes and sprays will naturally calm your cat down and help alleviate any stress it may have. You can also try sprinkling some catnip on different parts of the carrier or certain items. This will also calm them down and take their mind off of the whole situation.
Be aware of how your cat acts when taking catnip. While some cats can find themselves acting relatively calmly, other cats can often end up seeming to have bundles of energy. If your cat is naturally high-strung, consider instead focusing on the calming sprays.
3. Bring Snacks!
You also want to think about bringing some cat treats and snacks for them to eat. Keep in mind that while the trip may seem like a vacation for you, for them, this can be pretty stressful. Taking along some cat treats helps them find some sense of normalcy throughout this sudden shift. In truth, your cat should feel very spoiled by the end of your travel due to how many treats you give them.
4. Consider Taking Them On Shorter Trips Initially
A great way to acclimate your cat to travel is by going with them on super-short trips. These can range in duration and destination, but they shouldn’t be to the veterinarian. Doing that can result in your cat associating the carrier with the vet, which can lead to a whole other sort of problems to deal with.
5. Don’t Go Buying Your Cat New Toys
We talked about this earlier but it’s worth repeating. If you’re trying to get your cat to relax and calm down, you want to make sure they’re exposed to as few foreign or threatening smells as possible. This goes for brand-new toys or blankets. You may think that these things are a great way to quickly relax your cat, but the reality is that, for them, these items will seem like more foreign smells piling onto their already stressed state.
As stated earlier, you’ll want to look into getting some toys and blankets that your cat already has a history with. These will have their smell on them, which will be infinitely more calming and relaxing than any other item. If you do happen to have a last-minute toy or blanket on hand, consider spraying it with a calming cat spray. This won’t be quite as good as their scent but it’ll certainly be better than nothing.
Enjoy The Trip!
When it comes to traveling, the best tip you should always keep in mind is that your cat didn’t ask to be moved. While you and the rest of your family may have decided you want to go somewhere, your cat doesn’t have a say in those decisions and won’t know where you’re planning to go or what you’re planning to do. As such, you should do everything you can to make the travel there as calming as possible for them. If you act with that in mind, not only will your furry feline friend stay happy and content (even in the midst of a crazy trip), but may end up even more excited for the next trip.
About the Author
Dexter Jones is the head of content at We Love Cats and Kittens. He has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.