How to travel safely with a cat?
Some cats love to travel; others treat it as a ‘necessary evil.’ Although the most common destination is the vet, at some point you might be compelled to take it along, for example, on a holiday. Or, perhaps you plan to participate in cat shows? In each of these cases, you need to know how to transport your pet safely.
Travelling with a cat may constitute a real challenge, so if you travel often and know that your cat will need to accompany you, it is essential to get it accustomed to a cat carrier and frequent changes in the places of stay. It is a crucial measure as most cats prefer routine and predictability. What equipment do you need to properly take care of your pet’s comfort while travelling?
A cat carrier
For both short and long journeys, a carrier is indispensable. Many types of carriers are available on the market: traditional ones (a container with a cage door and a detachable upper part), locked basket with a handle, pet travel bag (with an option to carry it by hand or hang it on your shoulder) or a backpack-carrier, which facilitates the transport of heavier cats.
What kind of cat carrier to choose for a journey? It is suggested to choose a carrier made of a light but resilient material. Naturally, it needs to be safe – the lock has to prevent the cat from accidentally opening the container. The carrier must ensure that the cat has access to fresh air and a view on its surroundings. The container needs to be large enough for the cat to be able to comfortably turn and stand up. It should be, moreover, easy to clean. The added benefit of using some carriers is a snap hook inside on a short line, which can be attached to a cat harness. It is an additional safety measure in case the container opened.
You should consider making the carrier a part of your cat’s everyday life – your cat should not associate it only with veterinary visits. It is best to leave it in an easily accessible and visible place, so that your pet can enter it at any time. In such a case, the carrier becomes an intrinsic part of the household and not an object which appears only in the ‘darkest’ of moments.
You need to bring travel pet bowls (for example collapsible or silicone ones) and bottled water. If going to a place where your pet’s regular food might not be available, you should bring an appropriate amount. Remember not to feed your cat immediately before the journey. The pet should eat its last meal 3 hours before your departure. If the journey lasts longer than 6 hours, you can feed your cat on the way.
Another essential accessory is the litter box, which may be either a recyclable litter box made of cardboard or another type of easily transportable cat privy. As an additional measure, you can line the carrier with cat litter pads and keep pet wet wipes handy.
Identification of the cat in case it got lost
Each time you travel with your cat, there is some risk it might get lost. It is much more likely that you can safely recover your pet if the finder knows whom to contact.
Each cat may be microchipped and, if it is, its owners data can be read in any veterinary clinic. If your cat is not microchipped, it needs to at least have a collar with an identity tag engraved with your name and phone number. The collar needs to be safe – it should only open when pulled firmly.
How to calm your cat during a journey?
Can sedatives prove useful when travelling with your cat? To a large extent it depends on how easily the pet gets used to new situations and how it copes with travelling. When in a car, some cats do not even have to stay in their carrier; they are comfortable enough next to a passenger or on his or her lap. In that case, the cat should be wearing a harness with a leash attached to it. For increased security, you may attach the harness to the safety belts instead. Thanks to that, your cat will not be able to move around the car. If your pet is travelling in a carrier, secure the container with a belt, so that it remains safely in the seat.
If your car is nervous and afraid, do not in any case take it out of the carrier. You can, however, pet it through the carrier bars and talk to it soothingly. Before you begin the journey, consider spraying the inside of the carrier with Dr Seidel Adaptation Spray for Cats. It soothes the pet and makes it feel safe. It is perfect in the case of short trips to the vet as well as during longer journeys since it contributes to the reduction of stress in situations that may be difficult for cats. The spray is safe and can be used in the case of cats of all ages, including kittens. Note, however, that the product is meant to be used onto the surroundings of the cat and should not be applied directly onto your pet. The inside of the carrier should be sprayed with the product about 15 minutes before the cat enters it. If you are planning a longer journey, you might have to spray the carrier again. It is a good idea then to include the product in your hand luggage.
Consider putting into the carrier a few of your cat’s favourite toys or a beloved blanket – items with a familiar smell will soothe the cat.
Cats’ train of thought – cats and public transport
Sometimes, there can appear a necessity to use means of transport other than a car. Fortunately, many urban, interurban and international transport operators allow you to bring a pet onboard. The most convenient means of public transport might be trains, whose movement is typically smooth, without uncomfortable jumps caused by potholes, which can be experienced in other vehicles. Cat can usually be transported by railway free of charge as long a the pet does not take up a separate seat and remains in a cat carrier.
Cats can be also transported in coaches. Many companies are cat-friendly provided the pets do not occupy additional seats, are brought in a carrier and do not bother other passengers. Some transport operators might additionally require a health certificate for each cat or charge an additional fee for carrying the pet. In the case of public transport – buses, tramways or tube – the cat should at all times remain in a carrier. Note that public transport may expose the cat to various stressors, such as new smells and sounds. It is thus essential to use appropriate means to calm it and give it a sense of safety.