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Traveling With Your Cat




Traveling By Plane with your Cat
Traveling By Car with your Cat
Some Considerations for your Point of Destination

Traveling By Plane with your Cat:
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It is impossible to overemphasize the need to consult with the airline well in advance of your trip. This is essential if you hope to avoid last minute problems. Here are some basic tips for airline travel with your cat:

  1. First and foremost, unless there is absolutely no alternative, we strongly recommend for the safety of the animal that cats never travel in the baggage section underneath the aircraft. Instead, it is much more advisable and much safer to travel with your cat on board the aircraft with you.
  2. Some airlines will allow a limited number of pets on board, some won't allow any at all. Check with your airline regarding pets on board before you make your reservation. Any pets traveling on board will always need a reservation to do so.
  3. Check also with the airline on the cage/pet carrier dimensions so that there won't be a problem stowing the carrier beneath the seat in front of you. Other considerations when purchasing a carrier are as follows:
    1. The cage should provide sufficient room for the cat to stand up and turn around easily, but should not be so large that the cat can be tossed about inside during turbulence. Cats feel more secure inside smaller spaces.
    2. The walls of the carrier should be strong enough to prevent the sides from being crushed. Also, the flooring of the cage should not allow urine to leak through the bottom. An absorptive underpad (designed for bedridden people with bladder control problems) can be placed in the bottom. See your pharmacist for these.
    3. The cage should have sufficient openings for good ventilation.
    4. The cage must have sturdy handles.
    5. The cage, ideally, should have a water tray that is accessible from the outside so that water can be added, if needed.
    6. For longer flights and for cats with marginal kidney function, providing or periodically placing a small "litter box" in the carrier (even a small paper plate with a small amount of litter on it) may help your cat to "relieve their urge" more comfortably than simply "soiling" the carrier. The stress of travel may change your cat's normal pattern of urination or defecation.
    7. It's always a good idea also to carry an extra hand towel or absorptive underpad, along with a plastic trash bag in case of a urinating or defecation "accident" while en route.

Pet stores, breeders, and kennels usually sell cages that meet these requirements. Some airlines also sell cages that they prefer to use. Check with the airline to see if they have other requirements.

Try to familiarize your cat with the travel cage before you leave for your trip. Let your cat play inside with the door both open and closed. This will help eliminate some of your cat's stress during the trip.

  1. Have your cat examined by your veterinarian in advance of the trip, especially if it has been more than a few months since the last checkup. This is especially important for geriatric cats. Travel by plane can pose a risk for cats with pre-existing medical problems, such as heart or kidney disease.
  2. Be sure that you have written proof of current vaccinations and, where required, a health certificate. These cannot be obtained "after the fact." You must be able to present them on demand. Most airlines require that a health certificate be dated within a specified time frame prior to the flight. Check with your airline.
  3. You should also inquire about possible requirements to quarantine your cat should you be traveling outside the continental United States or to a foreign country.
  4. Take direct flights and try to avoid connections and layovers. Sometimes, this is easier to achieve if the trip is planned during the week.
  5. Consider in advance all medications that you might need for your cat. Also, give thought to any special diets that your cat may need and whether they can be obtained at your destination.
  6. Since most airports require that the cat be removed from the carrier at the security checkpoint and hand-carried by the owner through the security area (while the carrier is being screened along with other carry-on baggage), it is helpful to consider an appropriate collar or harness and keep a leash with you. If possible, the collar should have a small pet identification tag.
  7. At the time of your flight do not tranquilize the cat unless you have discussed this with your veterinarian. Giving over-the-counter or prescription pharmaceuticals can be dangerous.
  8. To decrease the likelihood of gastrointestinal upset, we suggest that no food be offered for 6-8 hours prior to travel. Water should, however, remain available. If the flight is long (more than 1-2 hours), and you have a geriatric cat or one with marginal kidney function, offering small amounts of water to the cat in the carrier after your are on board may help to prevent dehydration. The cat should always, of course, have fresh food and water after arrival.
  9. If you have no choice other than having your cat travel in the baggage section underneath the aircraft, determine whether the airline has requirements for "acclimation." In the event that you are unable to secure a direct flight, the pet carrier may be left outside the plane for a period of time. To avoid liability on their part, many airlines require a letter from your veterinarian stating that the pet is acclimated to a minimum or maximum temperature (must be given in precise degree, e.g., 20° F) for a defined period of time.
  10. Consult with the airline regarding baggage liability. In some cases, this can include your pet. If you are sending an economically valuable pet, you may need to consider additional liability insurance.
  11. Make sure that the carrier has permanent identification, including your name, phone number, flight schedule, destination, and phone number at the point of destination.

Traveling By Car with your Cat:
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Most cats are not at all relaxed when traveling by car. For many of us, a car ride to or from the airport is more stressful for our cats than the flight. Here are some basic tips for car travel with your cat:

  1. The cat should be kept in his or her carrier at all times, especially if you are traveling alone with your cat. Cats can easily wander under the gas and/or brake pedals if they are outside their carriers, and if they aren't closely supervised. This obviously can be extremely dangerous.
  2. The same cage/carrier considerations as noted above should be followed.
  3. Many cats tolerate car rides better with mild tranquilization. There are a number of different types of tranquilizers that may be used. This should be discussed with your veterinarian to determine which would be most suitable, safest, etc. for your cat.
  4. As when traveling by air, to decrease the likelihood of gastrointestinal upset, we suggest withholding food for 6-8 hours prior to travel. Water should, however, remain available. If the drive is more than an hour or two, and/or if you have a geriatric cat or one with marginal kidney function, offering a small amount of water to the cat in the carrier may help to prevent dehydration. The cat, of course, should have fresh food and water after arrival.
  5. If your cat is loose in the car at any time, even while the vehicle is stopped, be sure the cat is back in his or her carrier, or adequately restrained before any car doors are open. Many people lose their pets every year by not following this common sense rule!
  6. Especially for longer car rides, and/or for cats with marginal kidney function, providing or periodically offering a small litter box may help your cat to relieve their urge to urinate or defecate more comfortably than soiling the carrier or the car. The stress of travel may change their normal pattern of urination or defecation.

Some Considerations for your Point of Destination Include:
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  1. Be sure that your hotel will allow cats. Many bookstores carry travel guidebooks with this type of information. AAA members can purchase "Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook" which gives an annually updated list of motels and hotels that welcome pets, emergency animal clinics, advocacy groups, and pet-sitter associations.
  2. Give thought to litter pan provisions and food bowls for the hotel room.
  3. Place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your hotel door so that housekeeping will not inadvertently let the cat escape. Plan to have your room cleaned only when you are present.
  4. It is probably best to leave the cat in the carrier or inside the bathroom whenever you plan to leave the room.
  5. Should your cat get lost, contact the local animal control officer.

Advance planning is the key to a safe trip with your cat!



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