Travel comfortably with your cat
Traveling tips to keep you and your cat happy.
Choosing an appropriate travel carrier will play a large role in how comfortable both you and your cat are with traveling. When you begin to think about the type of carrier you’ll need, keep in mind your cat’s comfort, your own comfort and any guidelines that airlines—or whatever mode of travel you choose—might have.
Some things to consider for your own comfort are the way the cat is put into the carrier—top, side or front entry—and whether the carrier has soft or hard sides. You’ll also want to consider how the carrier will need to be cleaned. Most plastic shell and wire mesh carriers can simply be wiped clean, while some luggage-type carriers require machine washing.
For your cat’s comfort, look for a carrier that includes a separate bottom tray. This can be used to hold absorbent pads to help keep your cat free of urine and feces. If your cat prefers to be hidden from view, select a covered, enclosed carrier. If your cat prefers a view, try a wire mesh carrier.
Before purchasing any carrier, check that your ideal carrier also fits the guidelines and regulations of whatever airline or hotel you might use.
Most airlines require that the walls of the carrier have adequate ventilation (preferably three sides) and should be strong enough to prevent it from being crushed. They also ask that the carrier have sturdy handles, an attached water bowl and enough room for your cat to easily stand up and turn around.
Basic tips for airline travel with your cat:
- Begin with a visit to your vet to make sure your cat is in good health for flying. Depending on your cat’s temperament, your vet may recommend a mild sedative for your cat during travel.
- A few weeks before your trip, get the airline’s regulations for pet travel, including acclimation, carrier specifications, baggage liability and vaccination records. Some airlines allow carriers onboard—ask if the airline you’re using permits it.
- Bring all pertinent veterinary records and other documentation to the airport with you to avoid delays.
- Schedule a direct flight if possible.
- Make sure that your carrier is well marked with permanent identification, including your contact information, flight number, final destination and destination contact information.
- Place any food, water and medication that you may need for your cat in an easily accessible location.
To help prepare your cat for any trip, consider the following tips:
- Introduce your cat to his or her carrier in familiar and comfortable territory—not just on the day of travel or for trips to the vet or kennel.
- Make the carrier as familiar and friendly as possible: Line it with a favorite blanket and include a special treat or toy to entice your cat to spend time inside.
- Begin by taking your cat on short, frequent car trips before a longer trip.
- During these shorter trips, provide plenty of treats, toys or other special items to help your cat associate travel with positive rewards.