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How to Travel With a Cat: Tips for a Low-Stress Trip

Do you need to decide between bringing your cat on an upcoming trip or finding care arrangements for them? Today, our Douglasville vets explain how to travel long distances with your cat by car and by plane, in addition to discussing the benefits of cat boarding. 

When it comes to deciding which is the best way to travel with your cat, there are many factors to consider - including you and your cat's comfort, health and safety aspects and whether other care arrangements would be more suitable. You may also want to consider cat boarding for your feline friend. We cover a few means of transportation in this article, including car, plane, train and ship, and discuss some of the benefits of cat boarding. 

How to Travel with a Cat in a Car

Here are a few tips about how to safely travel with your cat in a car. 

Get a Carrier For Your Cat

Typically, cats are uncomfortable traveling in cars and should remain in their carrier for their safety and yours. Remember to use a seat belt to secure the carrier and keep it from bouncing around and inadvertently injuring your cat. 

Don't Keep Your Kitty in the Front Seat

Even if your cat is contained in a carrier, if an airbag deploys in the front seat of your vehicle this can prove dangerous for your kitty. This is a great reason to keep your cat's carrier secured with a seat belt in your car's back seat(s). 

Make Sure Your Cat's Head Stays Inside the Vehicle

Does your cat tend to want to stick their heat out the window? If so, they're at risk of debris striking them or cold air hurting their lungs. Never transport your cat in the bed of an open pickup truck. 

Take Someone Else With You to Care for Them

If possible, it's a good idea to bring someone with you to comfort and monitor your cat, and to ride with them in the back seat. This will help your cat stay more comfortable during your trip. 

Bring Kitty Litter If Your Journey is Longer than 6 hours 

Do you predict your drive will last longer than 6 hours? While your cat should likely be fine in a standard carrier for a trip under 6 hours, for any trip longer than that your kitty will need a larger accommodation with space for a small litter box. We recommend discussing this aspect with your vet before your trip and asking for advice on which type of carrier or kennel will be best for your pet. Your vet may also be able to give you some tips about how to travel long distances with a cat. 

Never Leave Your Cat Alone in the Car

Leaving a cat in a vehicle alone is a serious health hazard. Heat is a risk to pets and a short time for you could be an eternity for your feline companion. When it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour. On an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes. Irreversible organ damage or death is possible after only 30 minutes alone in a vehicle - even if you don't expect it to take that long to return, the risk isn't worth it.

How to Travel With a Cat on a Plane

Do cats like to travel by air? The answer is typically no, but sometimes it can't be avoided. Here are some things you should know about traveling with a cat by plane.

It Can Be Dangerous For Cats To Travel On Air

For animals, air travel could potentially result in oxygen deprivation or heat stroke. Perisian cats in particular are susceptible to these effects, as are other animals with "smushed-in" faces.

Before Flying Consider Alternative Options

Because flying is very stressful for cats, we recommend taking another option if possible. Driving is generally superior to flying, and there might be boarding options available that can let your cat relax comfortably and safely while you are gone.

Select an Airline that Will Let Your Cat in the Cabin

Most airlines will let your cat fly with you in the cabin for an additional fee. While most animals are generally fine flying in the cargo area of airplanes, you should know that some animals are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights every year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling are often to blame. In either case, you must inform the airline well in advance that you are bringing your cat with you. If you must travel with your animal in the cargo hold, research airlines and select one with a good reputation for animal handling.

Say Something, If You See Something

If you see any mistreatment of an animal by an airline, yours or otherwise, make sure you say something about it! You could save a life.

Traveling With Your Cat on a Train

Many trains permit some pets and service animals. You will have to verify with the railway if pets are permitted on your train journey. If they are, then similar guidelines to traveling with a cat in a car apply. Passengers will be expected to exercise and feed their cat(s) at station stops.

Traveling With Your Cat on a Ship

Except for assistance dogs, only a few cruise lines welcome pets—and usually on ocean crossings only. Some lines permit pets in private cabins, but most confine pets to kennels. Contact your cruise line in advance to find out its policies and which of its ships have kennel facilities. If you must use the ship's kennel, make sure it is protected from the elements and check on your pet frequently.

The Benefits of Cat Boarding

If you have doubts when asking yourself the question, "Should I travel with my cat?", another option is to look into cat boarding facilities, where professional staff can care for and feed your cat, and provide social time and companionship, while you are away. 

Some boarding facilities, such as the one we offer at Douglasville Veterinary Hospital, can also provide veterinary care and observation, as well as administer any medications your cat may need. This can be especially helpful with older pets or those that need medical attention.

Other benefits include knowing that your pet will have a daily routine with food and exercise, scheduled for the same time each day. For dogs, there is also an opportunity to socialize with others—both dogs and humans. And cats will often be spoiled with frequent visits by staff.

Need to board your pet? Are you concerned about their health? Contact us to see if our medical boarding facilities are right for you and your pet.

New Patients Welcome

Douglasville Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Douglasville companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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Contact (770) 942-9974