Travelling with a cat can be a nightmare if you're not properly prepared. Driving down a busy freeway with a cat yelling in your ear and trying to stand on your head is not the right way to start a holiday. Fortunately, by just following our simple cat travel checklist, you'll have a happier time if you need to take your cat travelling, whether embarking on short or long journeys.
- Make sure you have a high-quality cat carrier (airline approved if you're flying) and that you've bought it well in advance of the trip. Get your kitty used to it by putting it close to her favourite spot and letting her use it as a bed or hideaway. Put her favorite cat toys or a little cat nip in it to entice her in. You could even make a few trial runs in the car with your cat in her carrier - make sure you reward her with a nice treat when she's cooperative and she'll soon start to enjoy her travels!
- Unless you're travelling with kittens, the golden rule is one cat to a carrier. Using a dual carrier with a mesh wall lets them see each other without any opportunity for fighting or bad tempers is often the best way to go.
- If you're using a hard-sided carrier, make sure you've added a good big blanket or fleece so that your cat isn't sliding around on hard plastic.
- Remember that a travelling cat should always be in its carrier. However well behaved a cat is, it should never be loose in the car; if you have an accident, your cat could go flying, or simply get out and run off.
- A couple of replacement fleeces or blankets for the bottom of the carrier can be useful. If your cat has an 'accident', you can whip out the soiled blanket and put it in a plastic bag for washing later, and put fresh bedding in the carrier.
- Kitty should be on a cat harness and leash (it's sometimes too easy to slip out of a cat collar if you haven't bought the right one). Many carriers have a small fixed leash so you can keep your cat from jumping out when you need to reach into the carrier, for instance to give him food. Having your cat on a harness also lets you take him out of the car to a quiet spot if he needs to do his business.
- Make sure the harness has some form of ID on it. It should have your mobile number, not your home landline, since you're not going to be at home - it's surprising how many cat owners forget this important point.
- Take a collapsible bowl (some carriers come with one, which is useful). Cats can manage for days without food, but they need a regular drink of water to keep healthy. A collapsible bowl doesn't take up much space, and you can fill it up with water at gas stations, airport restrooms, or in the hotel.
- Take your cat's favourite food. Cats are territorial animals and can get distressed away from 'home' territory, so the key to keeping your cat happy is to keep as much as possible exactly the same as it is at home. You've already made the carrier feel like home - by providing the same food your cat usually eats, you're keeping your kitty on familiar ground. Take special care over this, obviously, if your cat's a picky eater anyway!
- Don't forget any medications your cat needs. Just as you do with your own meds, if you're flying, keep them in your hand luggage. If you use a cat carrier with pockets, that can help make sure they're always to hand. A suitable cat backpack would also be a great option.
- Documentation is just as important for your cat as it is for you. Some hotels and resorts may want to see that her vaccinations are up to date, and of course, if your cat becomes sick, you'll want your papers to show the vet. You should also print out a photo of your cat - choose a photo that shows all the easiest features to recognise, like a white spot on the head or one white paw - so that if your cat gets lost, you can circulate the photo. It does no harm to keep a copy of the photo on your smartphone or tablet, either.
- If you're going to be away from home for a while with your cat, take a litter tray and litter. Collapsible and disposable litter trays are available, minimising the space you'll need to take up. Don't forget to take plastic bags for disposing of soiled litter - a pocket on the carrier is a good place to put them so they are always within reach.
- A cat calming treatment like Feliway will help timid or nervous cats travel happily. If you buy a diffuser, make sure you have all the right plugs and transformers. If you're buying essential oils, make sure they are cat-safe (some sold for human use are fine for us, but not for our furry companions). Catnip can also help, but make sure your cat is the kind that drift off into a catnip doze - some cats can become thoroughly rambunctious when they've been at the 'nip!
- Bring something your cat knows from home - for instance her favourite cat toy, or a folded blanket from her comfortable cat bed she sleeps in at home. The smell and feel of it is familiar and will help make her feel at ease. You could even bring along her favorite cat scratching post to help relieve stress.
If you're flying, don't feed your cat for four or five hours before the flight, and keep her hydrated, but don't let her drink too much. That should help ensure a happy flight for you both.
Remember, from time to time, to talk to and stroke your cat to reassure her and let her know you are there. Even if you're driving, you can stop every so often to give her a little pet - but if you're taking her out of the carrier, make sure her leash is on, and the windows are closed! Using this checklist, you should get to your destination unfrazzled, and with a happy cat.