Traveling with your cat can be a frightening experience for many cats, since they don’t typically do well in unfamiliar surroundings, but it can also be a traumatic experience for their owners too. Learning to travel in the best possible way for your pet is paramount.
Once you’ve learned how to travel with your cat, it won’t be nearly as problematic and you can relax and have a good time without worrying about it.
The key to traveling smoothly with your cat is advanced planning and preparing your cat ahead of time to acclimate her to the process.
How to Acclimate Your Cat to Traveling
Getting your pet ready to travel is a long game. You need to acclimate her gradually over time, starting with introducing the travel gear and easing into car rides.
Buy a Safe Cat Carrier
The carrier you buy should be safe and comfortable for your cat. You need to find one that is well-ventilated, size appropriate for the length, height and weight of your cat, and well padded for their comfort.
Once you have the carrier, only half the work is done. You will also need to make sure it is a calming and soothing place for your cat. You’ll need to start at least one month in advance preparing it.
Tuck a blanket inside the carrier that smells like your cat, a favorite toy or two for the trip, and maybe even consider spraying it with Feliway pheromones to help your cat feel at home.
Acclimation Process for Traveling With Your Cat
Here are a few things you should do to begin the process:
- Introduce your cat to the travel carrier you’ll be using. This will help your cat become used to the feel of the carrier, the smells inside it, and how it feels to get in and out of it. Leave it open on the floor for a few days so they can climb in and out and transfer familiar smells to the carrier.
- Take several short car rides to get your cat used to the process of getting into the carrier and getting in the car. They can then get used to the noise of the road and the motion of the car. Keep these rides short and try to get in at least 3 before your big trip so you can iron out any problems that arise.
- Give your cat treats while in the car. This will help them associate good feelings with traveling.
- Make adjustments to the process and/or the gear to keep your cat happy and unstressed during the ride.
Bring Things They Know
One of the biggest issues for your cat’s mental well-being is having things around them that they know and feel comfortable with. When taking a ride in the car, it can help to bring along a few things they are familiar with.
Cats release pheromones, chemical substances that can alter their behavior and emotional state, when they rub their faces on certain objects. If you see your cat doing this with certain items, those can be good candidates to take along – their day bed, a favorite toy or two, etc.
If you can’t take their regular bed, get a towel or blanket and put it in your cat’s bed a few days before the trip. They will transfer their smells to the blanket and you can take that with you. The cat will already be comfortable with the towel and find comfort from it.
Preparing for Travel – Things to Know
Prepare the Carrier
On the morning of the trip, or the day before, prepare the carrier. Inside, you’ll want to put their soft bedding, or the blanket that you’ve prepared in advance. Also add in a favorite toy or anything else with scent on it.
Feed Your Cat
You’ll want to feed your cat a few hours before traveling and make sure they use the litter box because they won’t be able to freely go while traveling. You can give your cat food and water as needed on the road and give them potty breaks as well. Be sure to take the litter box!
Allow kitty to get in the carrier
The ideal situation is for the cat to get in the carrier on their own. Leave it out and open so they can explore and get in. This will help them feel comfortable with the confinement.
Never make your cat stay in its carrier for longer than eight hours without providing it with food, water and a chance to use the litter box.
Put the carrier in the car
Place the carrier in a secure spot in the car, even strapped into a seat belt, if possible. You can place a blanket over the carrier if your cat gets scared while looking out.
The car ride can be stressful for your cat, regardless of how much you’ve prepared. It’s wise to keep them in a harness with a leash so you can catch them if they try to dart away. When you take them out of their carrier at rest stops, always have a harness and leash.
Staying in Hotel Rooms
If you’re staying over in a hotel, you’ll want to prepare for a smooth stay with your cat. There are a few things you can do to make them more comfortable and ensure a safe stay.
First, always ask the hotel in advance if you can bring your cat there. There are more relaxed rules for cats vs dogs, but it’s always good to ask.
You can use a spray like Feliway, which is a drug-free solution that mimics cat’s natural facial pheromones that may help your pet feel calmer in common stressful situations. If you spray it or turn on the diffuser before you put the cat in the room, it can provide some comfort.
You’ll also want to set out the other things you’ve brought for your cat, like their bed, the blanket with their scent, the litter box, and a scratching post. Don’t forget that scratching post! If you don’t have one, your cat might scratch the furniture or bedding in the hotel instead.
Once you’re inside the room, it’s best to put up the Do Not Disturb sign so no one comes in and accidentally lets the cat out. Be sure to remind the staff that you have your cat in the room. Consider forgoing maid service so they don’t accidentally let the cat out.
What If My Cat Won’t Calm Down?
There are a few ways that you can help calm down your cat for the journey, after you’ve tried all the natural ways above. You don’t want to result in using medications and sedation until it’s absolutely necessary.
Spray the inside of the carrier and car with Feliway 20 minutes before you go. This mimics the pheromones that cats leave when they’re comfortable and relaxed in their territory. It should soothe your cat on the ride.
If necessary, take motion sickness medication. Your vet can prescribe motion sickness medication if your cat is prone to it. Motion sickness can be controlled with anti-nausea medications such as chlorpromazine.
You can give your cat Bach Flower Essence “Rescue Remedy” to help it cope with the stress and fear of travel. When he is visibly distressed, give him a few drops in his water each day and a drop in his mouth before leaving each day.
Get prescription tranquilizers as a last resort. Your veterinarian can help you sort out which one will work best for your cat.
Traveling with your cat can be a really lovely experience. Not all cats will reject the idea like you’ve lost your mind. You just need to give them a little bit of extra love and make sure they are comfortable and surrounded by things they know.
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