Traveling with Your Cat – Domestic and International Travel
Planning a trip? Want to take your cat along? We can help you prepare for the journey with a few tips. The key to a successful travel adventure with your cat is preparation. View our tips to make the trip as smooth as possible. We will also discuss how to prepare for travel across state lines and international travel with a cat.
Traveling by Car
Most cats have taken a car ride. Maybe they visit the groomer, and hopefully, they have visited the veterinarian at least once this year. This car ride is often short, and most cat owners are adept at preparing for this adventure. However, if your cat gets stressed during these trips, we have a few tips that can help make the visit a lot less stressful.
- Keep your cat carrier out year-round. Don’t just take it out for veterinary visits- We want the carrier to feel familiar and safe. You can keep the carrier in a safe, quiet area in your home. Make it inviting by putting a favorite blanket or toy inside. You can also spray the carrier with Feliway to make it even more inviting.
- When it is time to take your kitty for a drive, use treats or toys to get them to enter the carrier willingly. If the carrier is a safe space, they shouldn’t be afraid to enter the carrier. You can make this transition easier by feeding small meals in the carrier throughout the year.
- Before moving the carrier, cover it with a towel. It is a good idea to spray the towel with Feliway. Covering the carrier during transport decreases visual stimulus, which can contribute to stress and anxiety. Try to keep the carrier off the floor. Cats prefer to be perched on high places.
- The best place to transport cats in a car is on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Keep the carrier covered.
- Anti-anxiety medication with mild sedative effects can be used to help with the stress of travel. Talk to your veterinarian for options.
For longer trips, you can use a carrier just like you would a short trip. You can also use a larger crate that has room for a litter box. Most cats will not use the box while in the car, but at least it is available to them if needed. In a carrier, you can line the cage with pee pads in case of an accident. Bring spares in case you need them.
Traveling by Plane
Each airline has specific requirements for what is needed to travel with a pet. We recommend travelling with your cat in the cabin; however, sometimes it is necessary to send your pet through cargo. You should speak with the airline when you book your ticket, as there are limits to the number of pets allowed on each flight, and requirements can change without notice. We also recommend calling 24 hours before departure to make sure everything is in order with the flight.
You will have to take your cat through the TSA check point if they are flying in the cabin with you. Cats cannot go through the x-ray machine, so you will need to remove your cat from the carrier. We recommend having a harness on your cat to prevent them from running off. TSA is busy and stressful, even for us, so expect even the calmest cat to get nervous.
I recommend lining the carrier with a pee pad in case of an accident. Bring additional pads to replace soiled ones during the flight. Most cats will be too stressed to eat or drink, but you can bring a small bowl for water and a snack if needed.
Depending on the airline, you may need a rabies certificate or a health certificate. If you need a health certificate, you will need to set up an appointment for an exam (usually within 10 days of the flight) before you leave.
If your cat is flying in cargo, follow the guidelines per the airline. We do not recommend sedatives for cats flying in cargo.
Traveling Across State Lines with Your Cat
It is required that all pets traveling over state lines have a rabies vaccine. We recommend having your most recent rabies certificate with you during your trip. Although not enforced regularly, you don’t want to be caught without the required paperwork.
Traveling to a foreign country with your cat can be complex. Every country has their own unique requirements to bring a cat in. Because of this, we strongly recommend contacting your veterinarian as soon as you know you will be travelling with your cat. Most countries require an International Health Certificate, written by a USDA certified veterinarian, and signed by the State Veterinarian, in order to enter the country. This process can take weeks to months to complete, depending on what is required.
A good starting point to see what is needed, is the USDA APHIS website. Here you will find the specific requirements for each country.
Travel with Your Cat can be Stress Free
The key to a successful trip with your cat is preparation. Contact your veterinarian as soon as you plan a trip to prevent delays. It is important not to wait until the last minute. Airlines won’t let your cat on the flight without meeting their requirements. International travel has even more stringent requirements.