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How to Travel With a Cat: 15 Questions and Safety Tips

Content Specialist

Olivia Bornemeier, MBA

If you are planning a vacation, you may be wondering how to travel with a cat. There are lots of things to consider as a cat parent before booking a flight or starting a road trip.

Most cats aren't great candidates for a road trip or air travel. But, it's possible to teach your cat how to travel with you.

In this article, we answer five key questions you may have as a pet parent about how to travel with a cat. Plus, 10 safety tips for traveling with your kitty.

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5 key questions from pet parents

Keeping your furry friends comfortable and safe while traveling is key to a pet-friendly vacation. From what essential supplies to bring to where your cat can go, here are five questions from pet parents about how to travel with a cat.

1. What do I need to bring?

What do I need to bring

Wherever your trip takes you, be sure you have your cat's essentials. Cats often need certain supplies to stay comfortable and happy on your trip.


Here's a list of the items you should bring while you travel with a cat:

  • Your cat's regular food
  • Water dishes
  • Cat carriers
  • Their favorite treats
  • Harness and leash
  • Cat bed
  • Their medications (flea & tick treatment, vitamins)

2. What safety tips should I consider?

What safety tips should I consider

Pet owners should consider their cat's health condition, comfort, and happiness while traveling. Traveling with your cat doesn't have to be stressful. But, if you’re unprepared, it may be a bad idea.

Here are five essential pet safety tips for pet parents traveling with cats:

  1. Talk to your veterinarian about medications your pet needs.
  2. Keep your cat in a crate or pet carrier.
  3. On a road trip, stop regularly for breaks.
  4. When traveling by air, take note of your airline's regulations.
  5. Prepare an emergency kit for your pet.

3. How can I keep my cat calm?

How can I keep my cat calm

Travel can be overwhelming and overstimulating for pets. And, many cats may get anxious during travel.

To help calm down a cat in the car, bring cat enrichment toys to keep them busy. Or, try calming tools like diffusers and treats to make car travel less stressful for your cat.

PRO TIP

If your cat needs more help to stay calm during travel, ask your vet about anti-anxiety medications for cats.

4. What other health needs do I need to cover?

What other health needs do I need to cover

Aside from anxiety, pets may get nauseous during car rides. If your cat is experiencing motion sickness, they may show signs like:

  • Whining
  • Meowing
  • Howling
  • Drooling
  • Excessive licking

Don't worry, there are plenty of ways to help a cat that is experiencing motion sickness in the car.

Try keeping the car windows cracked for fresh airflow in the back seat. If you're traveling in the car for longer periods, allow for rest stops and play time along the way.

Keeping your cat in a carrier while in the car can help them feel safe and secure. Put their bed inside the carrier and provide toys for enrichment and comfort. And, never leave your cat alone in a hot car.

PRO TIP

If you know your cat gets car sick, visit your vet for a cat check-up and ask about anti-nausea medication for your kitty. Your veterinarian will suggest methods to keep your cat from getting sick during your road trip.

5. Where can I travel with my pet?

Where can I travel with my pet

Humans and their pets can travel anywhere together, as long as the final destination allows pets. Camping is a great option for humans wanting to bring their kitty along on their vacation.

The process of flying internationally with pets is different from flying domestically. You may have to provide a health certificate or medical records for their cat before traveling internationally.

If you plan to go overseas with your cat, book early and allow for extra time at the airport to check in. If you are unsure about your transportation method's policy, check with the company about their pet policies ahead of time.


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10 tips for traveling with a cat

Now that you've answered some important questions when it comes to cat travel, consider these tips for how to travel with your feline friend. Remember, all cats are different and there is no surefire way to travel with your pet successfully.

Here are our 10 best tips for how to travel with your feline friend.

1. Practice traveling while they're young.

Practice traveling while they're young

The best time to train a cat to travel is when they are young. But, if you have an adult cat, you can still teach them to travel.

If you have a new cat, practice taking them for a car ride a few times a week. This will help your cat get used to car travel and road trips.

2. Buy a proper pet carrier.

Buy a proper pet carrier

Before you start your road trip, be sure your cat has a carrier to travel in. Cat carriers keep cats safe during car rides and flights.

To get your cat comfortable in their carrier, introduce them to the carrier before your vacation. Make the carrier a part of your cat's environment, instead of only pulling it out for travel.

Your cat's carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around in it. If you have multiple cats, be sure you have individual carriers for each cat.

Remember, not every pet carrier is the same. If you plan on flying with your cat, be sure their carrier is airline approved.


How to get your cat comfortable with their carrier

Try placing your cat's bed inside the carrier. Lure your cat toward the carrier and reward them with treats as they step inside.

As your cat gets used to the carrier, try closing the carrier door while they lay down inside. Reward them with treats as positive reinforcement, and open the door of the carrier for them to get out.

Slowly work up to more time in the closed carrier. Your cat's carrier should be a safe space, not a stressful one.

3. Consider your cat's breed, personality, and overall health.

Consider your cat's breed, personality, and overall health

Some cats have health problems that may make them unsuitable for travel. If your cat suffers from anxiety, old age, or preexisting health conditions, traveling may be dangerous for them.

Air travel in cargo holds can be dangerous for brachycephalic cat breeds, or cats with "pushed in" faces. Some common cat breeds include:

  • Persian
  • Exotic shorthair
  • Himalayan

Traveling in an airplane cargo hold may be risky for these breeds due to their short nasal passages. This means these cats are extra sensitive to temperature changes and heat stroke.

Even if your cat's disposition makes them a good candidate for travel, you may learn that they don't enjoy traveling. Consider your cat's needs, personality, and health before bringing them along.

4. Bring a portable litter box.

Bring a portable litter box

A travel litter box is essential for traveling with a cat. Or, if space allows, bringing your cat's usual litter box can help your cat feel comfortable.

If you are traveling in the car, stop for potty breaks every few hours. At every stop, set your cat's travel litter box outside the car for them to use.

Cats need a litter box to maintain their hygiene and keep your car and living space clean while traveling. Cat parents can find travel litter boxes at their local pet store or online.

5. Stay up to date on vaccinations.

Stay up to date on vaccinations

Before you leave for your trip, check with your vet to see if your cat needs any vaccinations. Talk to your veterinarian about your destination. They may suggest additional medicines or vaccines to keep your pet safe.

Vaccinating your cat to protect them from disease can help reduce stress while you travel. Accidents happen, but your pet getting sick with a preventable illness may put a damper on your trip.

6. Know the risks of flying with your pet.

Know the risks of flying with your pet

If you plan to travel with your cat on a plane, consider keeping your cat in the main cabin of the airplane. If your cat needs tending to during a flight, get permission from a flight attendant to take them out of their carrier.

You may consider choosing an airline that allows for cats and service animals in the cabin instead of the cargo hold. The cargo holds of airplanes are pressurized, but temperature changes may still occur.

7. Keep your cat safe with a leash and harness.

Keep your cat safe with a leash and harness

While you're out and about on your vacation, be sure you can bring your cat along safely. Leash training is beneficial to keep your cat safe in a new environment.

Leash training isn't common for most cats. But, keeping your cat on a leash can keep them safe while you travel. Whether you're walking through the airport or stopping for a break during your road trip, keep your cat on a leash to keep them safe.

8. Find a cat-friendly hotel.

Find a cat-friendly hotel

When you arrive at your destination, you'll need a place to crash with your furry friend. Most hotels allow service animals. But, if your cat is not a registered service animal, be sure your hotel allows cats.

When you check into your room, try to make it a cozy space for your cat. Set out water dishes, a travel litter box, and toys your cat likes to keep them entertained.

If your pet isn't comfortable around strangers, use the do not disturb sign to keep cleaning staff and other people away from your room. While you walk around the hotel, be sure to carry your cat or keep them close on a leash.

9. Plan a pet-friendly vacation.

Plan a pet-friendly vacation

Traveling with a cat is no small task. Be sure the effort of traveling with cats is worth it when you get to your destination.

When you plan your pet-friendly vacation, consider vacation spots that allow pets at:

  • Lodging and hotels
  • Activities and attractions
  • Parks
  • Restaurants and bars

If you're unsure if your destination allows pets, call ahead and talk to a manager about their pet policies. Some lodging and hotels allow all small pets, while some only allow cats.

Not sure where to start? Check out our guide to pet-friendly vacations.

10. Consider leaving your cat at home.

Consider leaving your cat at home

If you decide in the end that bringing your kitty on a trip isn't a great idea, you have a few options. You can find a cat sitter, pay for overnight boarding, or leave your cat home alone.


Find a cat sitter

When choosing a cat sitter, consider choosing a trusted friend or family member. Bonus points if your cat is already familiar with this person and feels comfortable around them.

Prepare your home or cat sitter with your cat's essential supplies. And, be sure to leave a detailed list of your pet's health needs.

Pay for overnight boarding

Overnight boarding is a good option for cats that need lots of attention and play time. Social cats are great candidates for overnight boarding. When you drop off your cat, be sure to bring their regular food, favorite treats, and their bed.

Leave your cat home alone

If you have independent cats, leaving them at home may be the best option for you. You should cat-proof your house before leaving for vacation.

Put away any poisonous plants that may be sitting out. And, close doors to rooms with appliances and other potential dangers.

Remember to set out enough food and water for them, and clean their litter box before you leave. Consider investing in an automatic food and water feeder for your cat.

All cats have unique personalities and needs, and you know your cat best. No matter what option you choose, be sure your cat will be comfortable and safe while you're away.

There's no perfect way to travel with a cat. But, the most important thing to keep in mind is your cat's health, comfort, and safety.


Author

Meet Olivia Bornemeier

Olivia Bornemeier is a copywriter and photographer by day, dog mom by night to her red lab, Hank. With an MBA from Augustana University, she conducts intentional research and crafts meaningful content to help pet parents stay educated on all things pet wellness.