Tips for travelling with a cat
***I'll start by saying that I am not a vet! I am speaking from personal experience in hopes that this blog helps at least one crazy cat lady/person make their travel experience easier and less stressful! I have spoken to many people and vets about travelling and this is what I've learned!
Meet my cat Winnie,
named after Winnie the Pooh!
I have travelled with my cat many times now,
she seems to like adventure and new places!
She has been on airplanes, in cars, in a Uhaul,
on a leash and in a cat backpack!
We started her very young. We took road trips often to visit family and she always came with us. She got used to being in a car and in her cat back pack! We take Winnie for walks and hikes all the time!
But... if your cat is older and you are about to travel... it's never too late!
Our main rule was always having 2 carriers. A fun carrier and the vet carrier. Her fun carrier is her cat back pack, which she loves. And the vet carrier is just a plain old soft sided duffle bag looking carrier. She now knows the difference!!!
When we say "do you want to go for a walk?" She runs to the door! Clearly part dog!
***Tip! When introducing Winnie to her carriers, we put a t-shirt of ours in the carrier so she had our "scent". She quickly fell in love with her carriers and would often sleep in them! We were told by some vets to leave her carriers laying open in the living room to help her get comfortable with them! It worked!
***Tip! Get some doggy pee pads and put one inside the carrier when you travel incase there is an accident! We also always travel with extra plastic bags and some napkins or paper towel!
Here is the cat backpack we love! This brand is great! It is good quality... has held up for years! There is an extendable option to allow your cat more space when travelling! It was $50 on Amazon in the US!
Here is the soft sided duffel bag carrier. It is a great brand and has held up well! But there are a ton of similar brands that you can find at your local pet store! This one was $34.99 USD.
Here is the leash and harness we have! It was $16 on Amazon in the US!
We found the "string leash like" harnesses are easier to customize to the size and shape of a cat.
Winnie has a tiny head and big body, so the "jacket type" harnesses did not work on her, she just wiggled out of them!
Tips for travel in the car
-Put a litter box on the floor so your cat has the option to
go when you stop
-Food and water bowls also on the floor
(Chances are your cat won't use either,
but having the option is nice!)
Where do I put my cat?
When we first started road tripping with Winnie, we kept her in her carrier. It was her safe place and she felt cozy in it. Eventually as she got older and much much bigger, she started to freak out and wanted to be free!
So we connected both her extendable backpack and her soft sided carrier to give her more space! It was like a long tunnel! We would let her out for short periods of time while we were driving so she could get used to it. If she was bad (went under the gas pedal), we put her back in her carrier. Soon she learned not to be bad!
Then we transitioned to no carrier. She now sleeps in a cat bed while we drive! Sometimes when it's raining, she lays in the back and watches the rain drops on the back window! The girl loves car rides now!
***Tip! We took Winnie for small car rides prior to a big road trip. If we had an order pickup at the grocery store, for example, Winnie came along for the ride. She eventually realized that car rides weren't always the vet!
Tips for travel by plane
Going through security
Unfortunately when you fly, you have to take your cat out of
their carrier and hold them as you walk through the metal
detector. The carrier will go through separately. There are
a lot of problems with this. But one is that if the bags are
backed up, you have to stand there holding your cat while
security checks out the bags on the machine. Yikes.
**Tip: So... if your kitty and you are anxious and you’re concerned, you can request a TSA screening in a private room.
I used to hold Winnie in my arms. I held her back paws tightly together in one hand and her front paws tightly together in the other hand. But the lights, noises and all the people staring are a bit stressful for you and a cat...
So now I request a private screening room. It is easier for everyone.
The con with this method, is that they take your cat away from you in their carrier and place them behind the conveyor belt.
Once you and your bags are cleared, you can walk around to the private screening room to be with your cat.
One time... a TSA agent placed Winnie on top of a table... She fell head first onto the ground from about 4-5 feet high in her carrier. All the people in line were so upset, as was I. It was terrible.
Another time, the TSA agents were poking their fingers through the holes of the carrier at Winnie. For real? What are you 5 years old. Everyone knows not to poke an animal through a hole.
The moral of these stories is... that there will always be a hiccup. So don't expect perfection!
Just go with the flow
And know the goal
Get from point B to point A
Everyone one will be okay!
The songwriter in me had to make that rhyme!
There are portable litter boxes that
fold up to take up less space!
Here is the one I have! It's fabric, folds up and has a zipper!
-Check the regulations for cat littler before you fly! Make sure you are under the allowed amount. One time we were slightly over and the TSA agent made me dump out all Winnie's litter...
-Which leads to the next point... if this happens, you can tear up a bunch of paper towel in the bathroom and use that as a replacement for litter.
Of all the times we have travelled, Winnie has never used her litter box on the road!
***Tip on this portable litter box... fill it with litter that already has your cats "scent" on it! So take a scoop of the litter from the box they are currently using! Leave the box out for a while beside their current box and let them sniff and explore it! This helps your kitty get used to it!
***Tip! Put the litter box in a plastic bag to prevent a mess in your carry on!
I always find a family bathroom so that I can close
the door and let Winnie out between flights!
Ask the gate agent when you land where the
closest family bathroom is!
Feliway spray is helpful! You spray 8 sprays in the carrier 10 minutes before putting your cat in. Reapply every 4-5 hours. This will help calm your kitty as it contains pheromones!
Gabapentin is the wine for cats! It is a medication that comes in a liquid form, a powdered capsule or a tablet. We have tried both the liquid and capsule. For us, the capsule is the best. This stuff works, so which ever way you administer it, it is VERY worth it!
Here are the options I have personal experience with and can shed some light on:
-Administer by mouth using a oral liquid medicine syringe
-Administer 2 hours before the trip begins. If you are flying this means 2 hours before you plan to arrive at the airport, because all the lights and sounds can be stressful for your kitty!
-Give a tiny bit of wet food (despite people saying don't feed your cat at all before travel) after giving the medication as this helps get the terrible taste to make things less disturbing!
(We stopped using the liquid because it made Winnie foam at the mouth and was disturbing to watch)
-The exact dosage of medication will be determined by your vet based on your cats age and weight!
Pros: You can know the exact dosage when using the pre labeled syringe
Cons: It is tough on your kitty and tough for you to watch!
-The capsule is filled with powder, so you can twist it open and administer as much of the powder as you want
-We open the capsule and sprinkle it in Winnie's wet food, she is none the wiser!
-Give 2 hours before travel with a small amount of food
Pros: More pleasant to use than the liquid. No taste issues like the liquid!
Cons: You are estimating the dosage using your eye balls (but we have never had an issue)
More tips on Gabapentin:
-Give your cat Gabapentin a few days/weeks before travel to make sure your kitty responds well to the medication. This will also help you determine what dosage will have what effect!
-Vets say that Gabapentin will take effect quickly, within 1-2 hours. But we notice a difference in Winnie almost immediately.
-Vets say that Gabapentin can last for about 8-12 hours! We notice it starts to wear off around 8 hours, but still leaves Winnie feeling slightly chilled out!
-Don't be alarmed if your cats pupils get big or they start to act strange. When using the liquid form Winnie got a bit anxious before the medication took effect, because the taste was so bad she would pace and run around licking her mouth, poor girl!! We have not seen that behaviour using the capsule form!
Food When Travelling
There are travel water and food bowls that pop up to take up less space in a carry on! Here is a link to the ones I have!
Avoid giving a big feed before travelling. Some cats get nauseous when travelling, so having a full stomach can be tough on them. With an empty tummy you decrease the chances of nausea, motion sickness and vomiting!
Thankfully Winnie can eat and travel just fine! Once you get to know your cats travelling habits you will have a better idea on what works best for you!
To comfort your mind... it is said that cats can go about 8-10 hours before feeing hungry!
We feed Winnie like normal prior to travel and just give smaller portions. We fill her bowls with just a tiny bit of water, a little bit of hard food and give her a small wet food breakfast!
**Avoid giving too much water a few hours before your trip begins. You don't want your kitty peeing in the carrier! You can give small amounts of water before and during your trip!
**Tip, if you know your kitties bowel habits and are very anxious about an accident in the carrier... it's not silly to book your flight around that time to decrease the chances of an accident. For example, Winnie poops in the morning after breakfast, so when ever we travel with her we hope she gets all her big poops and pees out as normal before we leave!
Tips to calm your cat during travel
Some people say you can smear butter, tuna juice or meat baby food on your cats front paws if they start to get anxious. They’ll go into grooming mode which will naturally calm them down. I found it strange to try and travel with tuna juices or butter... so I have not tried this method.
You can also play with your cat, which will take their mind off the stressful situation and help them relax.
***Tip! We always travel with Winnie's favourite mouse. We keep it in a side pocket of her carrier, if she starts to get anxious, we drop it in the carrier and she instantly calms down!
Of course talking to your cat always helps! People will think you are a crazy cat lady, but who cares... because you probably are! I am!
If you are driving, when ever you stop for gas or a pee break... let your cat out to roam in the car! They will have the option to eat, drink or pee!
One time, when we stopped for gas, Winnie accidentally got out. My husband was filling up with gas and out from under the car came Winnie... She rubbed up on his leg. She was like "hey Dad, what you doin'?" We can laugh about this situation because nothing bad happened! But just don't do that. Be careful as you open and close the door!
Well that's it in a nut shell! I hope this helps you as you take your cat on an adventure! Feel free to message me using the form below if you have questions or comments! Or find me on social media and DM me!!
Thanks for reading!