As we wind down visiting friends and family over the holidays, and head into frigid temperatures, many of us escape to warmer destinations. While many vets tell you to leave your cats home, more people are bringing their beloved cats along on their travels. With social media, were seeing another side of cats. It’s actually a side that’s well documented from their beginnings in Egypt.
Mel and Fiona Sunquist, (in Wild Cats of the World), state “Wherever people have traveled, they have taken their cats with them. Geographic features such as major river sand oceans, that are barriers to most animals, have the opposite effect on cats. Almost as soon as people began moving goods around on ships, cats joined ships crews. These cats traveled the globe, joining and leaving ships at ports along the way”. While some cats aren’t fans of traveling, videos of cats on boats, frolicking in the ocean, and even enjoying motorcycle rides, have given cat parents a nudge, to get their kitties out into the world. Knowing your cat as well as you do, he or she may be ready for a change of scenery. Let’s take a look at travel and destination tips, for safe, smooth travels with your kitty companion.
Flying often, is the quickest, most convenient way to travel. However, it may be the most dangerous way for your cat. According to the Humanesociety.org, “while most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame”. If your travel companion has what I affectionately call a “smooshy face”, ( brachycephalic), like a Persian cat, they can be vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. This is due to a shortened nasal passage. In such cases, it’s advisable to skip going on a plane, unless you can get your sweet little “smooshy” into the cabin with you.
Taking a direct flight, and traveling during off-peak times, (not the busy holidays for example), lowers the odds of your kitty being mishandled, misplaced, and could help kitty receive more attention and be more relaxed. Choose travel times that lessen the impact of extreme temperatures. If temperatures will be cold, choose afternoon flights, and if temperatures will be blazing, choose earlier morning or evening flight times.
Identification is a must. Your cat should have a collar. One tag having your permanent address and phone number, (plus one other trusted person), and another tag with the info of your travel destination and contact info for yourself and hotel. Affix another two tags with the same info on your cat’s carrier. No other accessories, as they can get hooked onto things and cause injury. Keep recent photos you can easily access of your cat at all times, in the event your cat gets lost during any part of your trip.
Your cat shouldn’t eat four to six hours before traveling. A little water is good to keep hydrated. Your’e not doing your kitty any favors by allowing them to chow down closer to take off time. Tranquilizers aren’t the best idea, despite your wish to keep your cat as calm as possible. I will get into alternatives, such as ginger, further in this article. Once you reach your destination, carefully inspect your cats physical and emotional state. Document anything that seems off, complete with date, time and pictures. If something isn’t right, get your cat to a veterinarian, and get ample documentation of the info for that visit.
As you can see, it’s a gamble putting your cat into cargo. Many airlines do allow a small pet into the cabin, providing you meet certain immunization and cat carrier standards. Call the airline well ahead of time, in case you need to make a trip to the vet, or buy the right carrier. I know I’d ditch my carry-on luggage in a heartbeat, to have my kitty Diesel safe with me the whole time!
Road trips are usually not as quick or convenient when traveling, but they can bring a fun and unique experience to your overall travels. They also are a better option for traveling with your cat. When I was a kid, we took our cats the short few blocks to their vet office in the car, with no carrier. Seatbelts weren’t a law back then, and our cats seemed to hate the carrier, so we figured no harm. In hindsight, having cats roaming the car, possibly going near gas pedals, or getting stuck in crevices of the car was inconsiderate.
For the sake of travel, (even short local vet trips), it’s a good idea to make your cat carrier, part of their daily surroundings. Rather than storing it in a closet, only breaking it out when you have somewhere to go, leave it around and opened. Toss a few cat toys in there, and even their food bowl on occasion. Let it become familiar and comforting. Running out for a quick local trip to grab coffee or a few groceries? Those are perfect times to break your cat into car rides.
A spacious well ventilated carrier will keep kitty feeling safe and secure, in unfamiliar settings like your car, and wherever you stay overnight. Having the carrier secured in the back seat is the safest option. Starting your trip with your cat up front, looking at and listening to you, can help kitty relax. They should become relaxed enough to then go to the back seat, especially if you keep music low, and continue to let them hear your voice.
Motion sickness runs in my family, and it feels miserable! Cats can experience it during their travels as well. As mentioned earlier, ginger drops and chews are one natural option. The Veterinary advice on mercola.com states “Some cat owners planning to travel with their pet ask for kitty sedatives from their veterinarian. But in my experience, they’re actually counterproductive for cats, so I’m not a fan of giving a kitty any type of Quaalude for sedation during road trips. I’ve found homeopathic Aconitum provides far better results calming cats during travel.” Other natural products mentioned to be very beneficial in calming a scared cat are:
• OptiBalance’s Stress and Trauma Relief Formula for cats
• Feliway spray is a calming pheromone product that you can spray in the cat carrier 15 minutes before you put your kitty in it
• Some people have also used Bach flower essences, including Rescue Remedy, with some success.
Now that you’ve decided which mode of travel best suits you and your cat, it’s time to find hotels that are cat friendly. It seems that once I type in “cat friendly hotels”, the usual sites pop up, and you have to enter your travel dates. I couldn’t confirm if they were in fact showing cat friendly hotels. Petcentric.com states “there are several hotel chains that are cat-friendly: La Quinta, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Clarion, Comfort Inn, EconoLodge, Motel 6, and Red Roof Inn, to name a few. Not every hotel in every chain is cat-friendly, so call ahead.“
At petswelcome.com it seems they’ve done a great job of including not only dog, but cat friendly hotels and attractions. In their own words, “petswelcome.com has started a new section of pet-friendly vacation destinations—places that aren’t limited to particular cities or towns but are more in keeping with your borderless imagination—broader vacation environs like the Outer Banks, Cape Cod, Napa Valley, the Upper Peninsula, for example.
So while you may not know all the names of the towns in Cape Cod or Pennsylvania Dutch Country, we’ll break them out for you. We’ll also give you detailed information on associated pet-friendly lodgings, dog-friendly beaches and parks, cat-friendly day-trips, pet-friendly transportation, and any other information that we can dig up”. Here is a list of just a few of the vacation spots they cover:
Catskills Pet Friendly Hotels
Door County Pet Friendly Hotels
Florida Keys Pet Friendly Hotels
Grand Canyon Pet Friendly Hotels
Gulf Coast Florida Pet Friendly Hotels
Jersey Shore Pet Friendly Hotels
Martha’s Vineyard Pet Friendly Hotels
For a brief history about humans traveling with cats check out https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/traveling-cats-brief-history-180963433/.
For some great cat travel Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration and cute cats being awesome, search:
Bolt and Keel
As you can see, you have a bit to consider when traveling with your beloved cat companion. We haven’t even gotten into what the travel necessities for your cat are, (I smell a future article brewing). Let us know about your upcoming travels, or travel experiences you’ve already had with your cat. Safe, happy and healthy New Year and travels to you, and your sweet kitties from me and Diesel!!