By Elisa Black-Taylor
This is the time of year when a lot of you will be traveling by car with your cat. While many of you may choose in-home pet sitters or professional boarding, a lot of people simply refuse to leave their cats behind when they visit family.
A lot of the stress associated with cats, carriers and automobiles can be alleviated with a little pre-trip planning. I’m going to off several tips I’ve learned over the years. At the end of this article, I hope the readers will add to this.
One thing to be sure to do when traveling any distance with your cat is to have identification as well as vet records with you. Your cat should have on a collar with lost and found information, as well as micro-chipping. Micro-chipping is more dependable as a collar may break loose and come off should a cat panic and run through bushes or anything that can detach the collar. An identification tag however, may reunite you with your cat faster, as a trip to the vet to check for a microchip wouldn’t be necessary for anyone finding your cat. Just make sure with either one that the information is up to date.
Many states require any traveling cat to carry a health certificate. These are available at your vet.
Also be sure to take along any medication your cat may be on.
Before the trip, it’s a good idea to acclimate your cat with the vehicle in which it will be riding. No matter how tempting it may be to allow your cat freedom in your vehicle, please don’t give in to this urge. It’s important for your safety as well as your cats to be in a carrier. A loose cat can become a projectile in an accident. Or you could accidentally crush your cat. A loose cat may lodge itself under the gas or brake pedal or hide under the car seat. The cat also has a greater chance of escaping when a car door is opened. Many cat owners have permanently lost their cat when a car door was opened and their terrified cat bolted.
It’s recommended to take a few “pretend” trips with your cat beginning at least a week before your actual trip is planned. Place your cat in a sturdy carrier, along with food and water and a few toys. Some cat owners even place a personal item like a worn sweater in the carrier so the cat has a familiar scent. Drive around the block with your cat in its carrier. Cats don’t like breaking from their normal routine, so it’s important to make riding as normal as possible.
If you’re traveling with more than one cat, it’s a good idea to have a carrier for each cat. Some cats may feel more secure riding together in one carrier. Others may go ballistic in a moving vehicle, at which point you’ll have two terrified cats in a carrier instead of one. Personally, I’ve had more success allowing two cats who are familiar with each other to ride in the same carrier. A carrier that can be disassembled and made into a bed is also a better choice than a soft carrier. For one thing, it’s safer in an accident. It’s also a good way to introduce the cat to the carrier by making it into a bed before the trip. This is how we “tricked” Furby into enjoying a car ride.
Sometimes a vet will offer a mild tranquilizer to lessen anxiety on a road trip. This topic is debatable, because it may be better for a cat to meow and release stress than to hold it inside. I’ve traveled with cats for years and the worst thing I’ve experienced is meowing. This always stopped once we reached our destination.
One recommended product for nervous travelers is Rescue Remedy. This is an herbal mix that’s been in use for 70+ years and sells for around $20. For more information on this, their website is www.rescueremedy.com. Calming collars filled with chamomile or lavender have also been reported to calm a cat.
A pleasant scent sprayed inside the vehicle may help calm your cat. Lavender is a good choice. Catnip spray was suggested by a cat owner in a forum I was reading on traveling with a cat. I recommend taking along several favorite blankets. By several I mean you should bring along extra bedding in case of pee and poop accidents while en route. If you know your cat is high anxiety, paper towels crumpled in the carrier may be preferable to cloth bedding. And a good quality trash bag to store any soiled bedding until it can be laundered.
Here’s a checklist of things that are a must have for a traveling cat.
- Dry and canned food
- Food and water bowls
- Bottled water or water from home (strange water can cause tummy trouble in some cats)
- Litter supplies (including disposable litter box and flushable litter, litter scoop, baby wipes and poop bags)
- Medical records
- Emergency vet contact information
- Grooming supplies
- I.D. tags on cat as well as carrier
- Extra bedding
We’ve had very few problems traveling with cats. Furby actually enjoys riding in his carrier in the car. He’ll just curl up and sleep all the way to the vet. Then he sleeps for most of the ride back home. We live half an hour from his vet. The shelter we rescued from was more than an hour from home. The worst case scenario during our rescue trips was a little poop accident between the shelter and home.
Readers, do any of you have any tips to add to those I’ve listed here? Any toys or herbs or sprays that you’ve found effective in alleviating anxiety(the cats, not yours)?
Enjoy the holidays, everyone. Cats included.