Many feline parents are apprehensive about leaving their cats with a pet sitter or in a boarding facility when taking a road trip - and perhaps even more apprehensive about bringing them along for the ride. As a matter of fact, we see a lot of feline parents who (understandably) are unsure of how the car ride to our clinic will go when it comes time for appointment day!
Luckily, there are some great options today which allow a sitter to mind your cat in the comfort of your own home - so you can even call home to check in on them, and see how they’re doing! Or, sometimes a family member can be appointed to watch them while you’re gone.
However, this luxury isn’t always pawsible. If spring break dictates that your pet cat must go with you for the holiday - here’s what you should know!
Traveling by car can be the perfect opportunity to bond while showing him or her the world. But to make sure the experience is as enjoyable as possible, you’ll want to pay heed to a few important details to ensure their needs are met during the vacation.
Make Comfort - and Safety - a Priority
First things first - make sure your cat has proper identification and is up-to-date on their vaccinations. If you have any concerns about motion-sickness or hyperactivity while driving (take them for shorter test drives, before the longer trips!) you can consult with us prior to leaving to discuss the options at hand.
You like to be comfortable while traveling - and your pet cat is NO exception! Likely they’ll be lulled to sleep over a long car ride, so you want to make sure their zzzzZZZzz time is as cosy as possible. They’ll need to travel within a carrier (at ALL times - a free-range cat in a moving car is a recipe for an accident!) so you need to make sure it’s the right size. They should be able to stand up easily within the carrier and turn around with no difficulty. Light, mesh carriers can get scratched up, so it’s typically suggested that hard plastic carrier with peepholes low enough for your cat to see you while you’re driving. If they’re not much of a scratcher, a durable soft sided carrier with a shoulder strap can be fantastic for stops or sight-seeing breaks.
If you’ll be travelling by way of an airplane, you’ll need to call the airline first to determine which kind of carrier they require - some will require soft bags, while other will require hard cases. They can be very strict about these rules, so you want to make sure you have the right kind of carrier prior to arriving at the airport!
Whichever carrier you choose, be sure to line the bottom with their favourite blanket from home. The familiar scent and fabric will be comforting to them!
If you’ll be driving, keep his or her carrier in the front seat, with the seat belt to hold it in place beside you, and offer your fingers through the holes to reassure her that although she is not allowed to roam around in the car, you are still close by.
When it comes to your music selection - now is not the time to blast your favourite tunes! Our pets can be very sensitive to loud noise, and this could make them feel anxious or uneasy. The Fear Free methodology suggests playing gentle or classical music to make your pet feel at ease.
Mind the Weather
Spring or fall (milder months) can be an ideal time to travel with your pet, so you don’t have to worry as much about your cat getting too hot or too cold.
If you must leave the car for more than a few minutes – longer then a gas stop – take the carrier with you. Longer excursions outside of the car should only be taken once you’ve gotten a pet-friendly hotel room to stay in while you’re touring around and seeing the sights.
When you book your hotel room, be sure to call ahead and ensure they are indeed a pet-friendly hotel, and inform them you will be travelling with your pet cat. While they should come equipped with water and food dishes, we strongly suggest you bring your own - it will make your pet cat feel much more comfortable and will also serve as a back-up in case the hotel doesn’t have any. You’ll need these for the drive, too!
Once you’ve checked into your room, you can let them out of the carrier to explore while keeping a close eye on them. Place their food and water bowls, along with her open carrier, in one corner of the bathroom and their litter box in the opposite corner — cats do not like their potty to be near their food.
When you leave the room for any reason, and also when you go to bed, put her in her carrier in the bathroom with a ticking clock to simulate a heartbeat, i.e. your nearness.
Have a Purrfectly Fun Vacation!
If you can, try to take your pet on vacation with you when they are young - establishing this routine early in their life will make it easier for them (and you!) down the road.
Do you have any tips on travelling with your pet cat? Leave us a comment below - we’d love to hear from you! 🐾
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Thanks for reading,
Dr. Stacey Gastis