Dangers of Cat Travel

The story of Tigger, the much travelled 15-year-old Australian cat, reminds me of the dangers of cat travel over long distances.  Every so often we hear of cats who have become lost at airports.  There are dangers as well for cats in the holds all aircraft and airline travel generally.  It makes you wonder whether cats should regularly travel over long distances using airlines. Sometimes they have to because their owners are obliged to travel and their owners love their cat too much. In addition, I presume there are staying away from home for a long time leaving them little option than to take their cat with them.

In the case of Tigger, you may have heard that he was found wandering the streets of County Armagh in Northern Ireland.  He was apparently in poor condition, starving and suffering from kidney failure.  The kidney failure aspect of his illness is almost certainly due to his advanced age and not his travel woes.

He was picked up by Cats Protection and is being cared for by one of their great foster carers.  They decided that his owners were seasoned travellers, travelling back and forth from Australia (see post below).  Cats Projection said that Tigger was part of a loving family.

However, at the moment I’m not totally convinced. Tigger was apparently left with some friends in Northern Ireland and he escaped. Also, it is reported that in 2004 he turned up as a stray at a veterinary clinic in London but the owners could not be traced. I’m not sure how they figured that out but I presume that he had the same microchip which incidentally had been incorrectly programmed because it recorded his age as 25 years when in fact he is 15-years-of-age.

At the time he was picked up by Cats Protection in Northern Ireland he had been seen wandering around the garden of a resident for several days.  That’s quite a long time for a 15-year-old cat to be wandering around in a strange place without proper care from his owner. It could have killed him bearing in mind his age.

There are inherent dangers in regularly travelling with your cat over long distances to strange places. There are complications. It would certainly put me off trying it.

It does, though, present a dilemma for somebody who loves their cat but who wishes to travel or has to travel.  Somehow, I don’t think cat ownership fits in very well with the lifestyle of a person who is obliged to travel over long distances a lot of the time.

At present, it is reported that there are still looking for Tigger’s owners.  There’s been a media blitz to try and uncover how he got to Northern Ireland and social media has been active in the same cause.  You would hope that very soon his owners will come forward and collect him.

I have read of a number of occasions when domestic cats have escaped the home of a friend who is looking after their cat while the owners are holiday or travelling.  I don’t believe it is a great idea to leave cats with friends.  I don’t think it works that well on several levels unless the friend is extremely diligent and knows cats well.

A cat staying with a friend is obviously in a strange place which makes it more likely that he will try and escape.  Cats are very good at escaping homes if they are determined to do so.  It only takes a single slightly careless moment by the caretaker for disaster to strike and once the cat is outside in a strange place he may be very difficult to find.  This puts a very high level of responsibility upon the temporary caretaker and it also puts pressure on the cat. There may be no alternative but personally I wouldn’t leave my cat with a friend. It would play on my mind whether he was safe and undermine my holiday.

Source: Australian cat Ozzie found thousands of miles….

12 thoughts on “Dangers of Cat Travel”

  1. I’ve taken several cats on international flights when we moved countries and didn’t experience any problems. The cats seemed to find air travel a lot less stressful than car travel as they were always very relaxed when I collected them from customs.

    Most of the accounts I’ve heard of cats being lost at airports or dying en route seem to originate from America. I’ve also heard horror stories of cat carriers being loaded onto the baggage carousel, so perhaps the problem is with domestic flights?

    I know some people prefer to transport their cats in the cabin, but I don’t like the idea of squeezing my cat into the tiny space underneath the seat in front. The only times I’ve taken a cat in the cabin, I paid for the empty seat next to mine so I could place her carrier there.

    Some airlines have a better reputation for transporting animals, so it pays to research the best ones first.

    • Michele, do you still travel a lot and if so do you leave you cat(s) behind with a cat sitter? May I ask where you live?

      • Michael, the cats accompanied me abroad because the move was long term – a year in France and 7 years in Cyprus, before returning to the U.K. where we now reside. I don’t have any plans to move overseas again, so haven’t bothered getting any of my current cats registered for the Pet Travel Scheme.

        When I go on holiday, I prefer to have a trusted friend or relative care for my cats in my home. The only time I wasn’t able to arrange this, I boarded Sophie at a cattery for a week and it was not an experience she enjoyed. In fairness to the cattery, the other cats there seemed happy and relaxed.

  2. This is the reason I choose not to travel even for a few days, since although I have housemates, they aren’t here much during the day, and aren’t reliable. One leaves her cat in her room for days and nights. Although she leaves plenty of dry food (the only thing she feeds) the cat cries and scratches, so I let let her out.

    I trust no one with my cat! (In my home or theirs)

    My indoor cat, Mitzy, has started really wanting to go out, even though she has a very nice screened porch, with bird feeders, toys, cat condo, etc. She wants out, and has started crying loudly and pitifully by the door. She lays down, or sits in front of it.

    So, I decided that I’d take her out on her leash, like I used to at another house. We go out for about 15 minutes in the morning and early evening. She doesn’t rush around, but walks and sniffs everything.

    There’s one cat who’s always outdoors, and very close by. About a week ago, she was within 20′ of us, and Mitzy started after her. Luckily I had hold of the leash, which I sometimes let go of. The velcro can pull open, so rather than chance it, I picked Mitzy up, and she was angry about this! So, I got bit on the arm.
    I had to scruff her, so she couldn’t do anymore damage to me. I took her inside, and cleaned my wound.

    I was surprised by her action, since she’s not agressive with the cat that lives in our place. The other cat is agressive with her, so she hides.

    This is a stretch, but I wonder if she may be retaliating on this cat who has the freedom she doesn’t have?

    • Sandra: If the cat that Mitzy wanted to chase doesn’t share your home, then Mitzy probably sees her as intruder and was trying to chase her off the territory.

      As for the cat she shares your home with, even if they don’t get along, most cats will keep their distance to maintain harmony. Cats prefer avoidance rather than conflict and this is especially true when they are indoor-only, because their territory is much smaller than those of cats with access to go outside.

    • I have difficulties on an emotional level leaving my cat with anyone else! I am not sure where that comes from, probably trying to be protective and also being a very concerned cat caretaker, I believe I am better than most other people and they won’t live up to my standards! I am being arrogant. I am scared of losing him if someone else cares for him while I am away.

      • I feel the same way, Michael. I haven’t seen anyone else with the level of awareness that I have about my cat, and many other things.

        In my case, I know that this attention to detail comes from living in an alcoholic household, in which I had to be highly aware of changes that signaled pending violence.

        Now that I’m retired, and home most of the day, I’m able to see my cat’s activity and routine much more than when I was working.

        No one cares more about our pets than we do, so I think it makes sense that we would have some fears around leaving them in someone’s care, whether a friend, a vet, or a boarding situation.

        I do think that leaving a pet in their own environment is best, if possible. And, it’s something we all have to do on occasion.

        The thing that concerns me is if I am suddenly taken to the hospital, what will happen to my cat? None of my few friends could take her in. How do others deal with this potential situation? Do you have something in writing that you let people know about?

  3. I don’t know how frequent travellers can really adequately bond and care for their cats. Even having a sitter in the home would seem like having a nanny raising a child. Absent caretakers are no caretakers.
    And, passing off a cat to “friends” at another location is even worse.
    Caretaking cats is a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s a fulltime job.
    I, fully, understand those people who must work 40 hours per week here. It’s not like they leave for weeks at a time though.
    ASIDE: Oh, god! How, when I worked, I wish that fulltime employment meant the same here as in the UK. Here, it means 40 hours per week and only 2 weeks vacation time per year.

    • I don’t know how frequent travellers can really adequately bond and care for their cats.

      Totally agree. I have to be honest and say I don’t believe a frequent international traveller should have a cat. I don’t think it can work properly both for the cat and person.

    • My preference is to find a reliable cat sitter who lives in your house. The person has to be as good as you are with your cat and your cat has to trust her completely. She has to be very trustworthy and reliable. Difficult! But I set high standards. At least this way your cat has the minimum disruption. It costs a bit though.

    • Thankfully, we don’t travel often. When we do travel, my cat stays at home. A dear, cat-loving friend comes every day and checks on him. I did try boarding him at the vet once because the friend had a family emergency, but he didn’t eat for the four days we hwere gone. I have not done it since. Hopefully soon, I will be able to find him a kitty friend to keep him company the next time we travel.


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