Can Cats Travel? Tips for Traveling With Cats by Train, Plane, Bus, or Car

Jul 8 2023.

Are you planning a trip and don’t want to leave your beloved kitty behind? Or maybe you’re moving home with your cat and nervous about the safest and best way to do it? The idea of traveling with cats can seem overwhelming. However, with the right planning, taking your kitty on a trip needn’t be stressful. Whether traveling with cats by train, plane, bus, or car (or some other way), Cat in a Flat has some great tips on how to make the experience as stress-free as possible. 

Is traveling with cats a good idea? 

Cats are territorial animals who rarely enjoy any sort of change. Hence, your kitty will most likely feel afraid and insecure outside of their usual familiar surroundings. This is why you should consider your options carefully when deciding whether to travel with a cat. 

Traveling with cats isn’t a great idea if you’re headed off on a short holiday or trip. Instead, you should look at alternative options. You might consider boarding your cat at a cattery or pet kennel where they can receive professional daily care. But keep in mind that your feline probably won’t like it if you take them out of their familiar environment, so boarding your cat isn’t always a great idea. Another (better) option is to hire a cat sitter to care for your cat. They can provide your kitty with daily care in the comfort of their home, therefore minimizing stress for Mr Whiskers. Each cat is different, so you will need to decide what’s best for your fur friend based on their individual needs and personality.

What’s the best way to travel with cats?

Traveling with cats inside your country

If you are traveling somewhere close to home, taking your kitty with you can be relatively easy. When traveling with cats, it’s important to choose how to travel. This ensures the journey is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Traveling by car is by far the best option. You can control the environment and manage noise levels and temperature. Car travel allows you to avoid exposing your furry friend to strange people and animals, too—great for an stress-free traveling with cats experience! If you need to travel by other means such as train or ferry, try to book tickets for quieter times where there are lower activity levels and fewer crowds. 

Traveling with cats outside the country

Moving your cat abroad requires a lot more planning, but it’s completely doable. First, you will need to find out what the requirements and regulations are—these can vary from country to country. For example, the UK may quarantine your kitty for a short period of time upon arrival. On the other hand, the US doesn’t have such a requirement. Do your research, or alternatively hire a pet transport company to do it for you. Also plan beforehand where your feline will live in the new country, where you can source their usual cat food, and look up a good local vet. 

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How to transport your cat

Use a proper cat carrier

What is the best way to transport your cat? A safe and comfortable cat carrier or crate is an absolute must to ensure your furry friend has a good travel experience. Use a carrier that is big enough for your cat to comfortably sit stand up and turn around in. Make sure it has proper ventilation. If traveling by car, secure it by placing the crate in a seat, then wrapping the seat belt around the carrier and threading it through the handle before fastening it. This will ensure the cat carrier doesn’t move around and will help keep your furry friend safe in the event of an accident. 

Include details and identification

When traveling with cats, it’s necessary to make sure that they and their owners can be clearly identified. Attach an ID tag to the outside of your cat’s carrier that includes your name, contact information, and an emergency contact number. If your kitty somehow goes missing during the journey, this will make it easier to get them returned to you more quickly. This is especially important if you are boarding a flight where you and your cat aren’t flying together. And if you haven’t yet, microchip your cat as well. When scanned, a microchip will provide your information so you can be contacted. A microchip also can’t fall off or get lost as it’s placed beneath your furry friend’s skin.

Pre-travel health check

Before hitting the road, make a vet appointment for a health check. Inform your vet of your travel plans so they give Mr Whiskers a thorough examination. Make sure your fur friend’s vaccines are up to date and in line with the specific travel requirements of whichever country you and your cat will be headed to. 

Check transport rules 

When traveling with cats, the rules will vary depending on the form of transportation. Each type of transportation will have its own regulations, so read up on these beforehand so you understand them. 

Airline requirements when traveling with cats

Different airlines will have different policies for pet travel. Some will allow owners to carry their cats onboard if the feline and its crate are of a certain size. Others will require that your kitty travel in the cargo hold of the airplane. If possible, try to avoid this as the cargo hold is noisy and can be really stressful for your fur friend. Seek out airlines that allow you to bring your kitty with you in the cabin. This is the best option for both you and Mr Whiskers! 

tips for traveling with cats

Other tips for traveling with cats

  • Take travel breaks: If you are traveling by car, it’s not healthy to leave your kitty in their carrier for hours on end. Plan regular stops along the way so Mr Whiskers can stretch, eat, drink, and use the litter box. Choose quiet spots for these breaks and keep the carrier closed when opening your car door.
  • Control the temperature: Try to keep the temperature comfortable and check the carrier on a regular basis to make sure it’s not too hot or cold for your kitty. Cats can suffer from heatstroke or freeze in cold temperatures, so you should plan ahead. If necessary, bring cooling pads to help cool the cat carrier down further, or an extra blanket if there’s cold weather. If traveling by public transport such as train, cover your cat’s carrier with a blanket to protect them from the air conditioning and possible drafts. 
  • Bring food and water: Make sure to bring along enough food and water for your feline. Before your trip, feed your cat a small meal and avoid large meals as this can lead to motion sickness. Throughout the trip, offer your kitty small amounts of food and water at regular intervals. And be sure you know how to respond if your cat vomits
  • Provide a litter box: If traveling long distance by car or ship, you will need to bring along a litter box for your kitty. A portable litter box is a great option for traveling with cats. Whenever you take a break, remove your kitty from their crate and gently place them in the litter box. On a flight this most likely won’t be an option, so lay out absorbent pads at the bottom of the crate instead. These are also useful in case water spills in the crate, as an absorbent pad will ensure Mr Whiskers stays dry. 
  • Take safety precautions: Traveling with cats can be stressful for both owners and their felines. So, try to remain calm and follow basic safety precautions. Don’t open the cat carrier unless you are in a safe, quiet area where your kitty can’t escape. In the car, make sure to close all the windows and doors before letting your cat out. And if you are traveling with multiple cats, make sure each one has its own sturdy pet carrier!
  • Prepare your cat beforehand: Don’t wait until the day of your trip to take out the cat carrier. Instead, set it out several weeks beforehand so your feline gets accustomed to it. You can even place treats inside the pet carrier to encourage your cat to go inside. Practicing before your trip will make the experience much less stressful for you both.
How to get your cat into a carrier

Should I sedate my cat for travel?

If your kitty gets particularly stressed or anxious when traveling, you can talk to your vet about giving your cat a sedative or tranquilizer. However, while a sedative can make your furry friend’s travel more comfortable, they also come with certain risks and can have unpredictable effects. Therefore, it’s best to discuss your options with your vet so you can understand the pros and cons of sedating your kitty for travel. 

Traveling with cats isn’t guaranteed to be stress-free, but these tips will certainly help make the journey smoother. Looking for more cat care tips? Learn how to safely trim your cat’s claws before a trip, and how to help your cat adjust whenever you’re away. 

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