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Traveling With (or Without) Your Cat

Many people don’t think to bring their cats along on their vacations to Disney World or the Grand Canyon, but as a pet owner, at some point in your life you will probably have to pack up your cat to take a trip.  Unless your feline is adventurous, loves traveling in his or her carrier, and enjoys the exciting change of scenery that the back of your minivan offers, you’ll want to take a few precautions to ensure that your pet travels as comfortably and stress-free as possible.

Some people, when faced with a pet who hates to travel, instead decide to use a pet-sitter or boarding facility, so we have also included some advice to consider if you choose to leave your furry loved one in the care of others.

Traveling by Car
Almost everyone has seen it: a loving pet owner driving down the road with their furry companion wrapped around their shoulder, darting from the back to the front of the vehicle, or worst of all, hanging a head or paw out of a partially-opened window in search of a fresh breeze.  Children are required to travel with seat belts and car seats for their safety, and transporting pets should be no different.  For the safety of your pet, your passengers, and other drivers on the road, and make sure your cat travels safely and securely in a carrier.

If your cat has never made a trip further than your vet’s office or the local groomers, get him or her used to the idea by leaving the carrier out at home, and taking more frequent short trips to get your pet used to the process.  Remember to use lots of encouragement (cats love the treat variety), and your pet should soon dread car trips a little less.  Many people choose to administer a tranquilizer prescribed by their veterinarians, but with proper preparation, your cat may settle into the idea of a road trip just fine.

In preparation for a trip out of state, make sure that your cat is up to date on his or her vaccines and has an identification tag readily visible in case he or she somehow escapes in transit.  When packing for your journey, be sure to include your cat’s favorite bedding and toys, along with the necessary food, fresh water and litter box, so that your pet will feel at home wherever you go.  If you plan to stay at a hotel along the way, call in advance to make sure that it allows pets.

Traveling by Air
Today’s air travel regulations give people headaches, but your headache might get worse if you don’t start planning your trip far in advance: shipping animals can be difficult and almost impossible if attempted at the last minute. 

Make sure to call the airline early and let them know that you need to ship your pet.  The representative should be able to tell you all the regulations regarding air shipment of animals.  Try to choose a time of year with moderate temperatures, to avoid your cat becoming too hot or cold when waiting on the tarmac to be loaded.

In addition, make sure that your cat’s carrier is clearly marked “Live Animal – Please Handle with Care,” or other large wording that says something similar.  Airline personnel are likely to be more careful if they know that someone’s family pet is in the carrying crate they are loading.

You should also talk to your vet about whether your cat is healthy enough for air travel, and whether prescribing a tranquilizer might make your cat’s trip easier and less stressful.  Your cat will likely handle flying much easier with a mild sedative, but discuss the risks with your vet first, as some medications have different effects at high altitudes.

Choosing a Pet Sitter or Boarding Facility
When faced with taking a nervous cat along on a long trip, whether by car or by air, many people instead choose to hire a reputable sitter or boarding facility.  If your cat rooms outside of the home while you are away, he may still be a little bit out of his element; however, many cats respond better to a temporary change of home or caregiver than they do a long trip in an unfamiliar vehicle.

If you decide to leave your pet at home with a pet-sitter, choose someone that you know well, and preferably who knows your cat, such as a trustworthy family member or neighbor.  While your cat may still hide from the individual, he or she will be most at ease in a familiar environment.  Make sure that you give detailed instructions to the sitter, including how much food or water your pet should have, phone numbers to the local vet in case of emergencies, and contact numbers where you can be reached.  If possible, the sitter should stop by at least twice a day to check on your feline and provide some companionship.

Searching for a boarding facility is a little bit different, if you’ve never used one before.  If you can, try to get referrals from friends, family, and your vet’s office.  Be sure to visit the facility and ensure that it offers a warm and friendly environment, with both sleeping areas and play areas, and that the building is clean and well-kept.  Interview a few members of the staff and try to get a feel for how they deal with the animals that stay at their boarding kennel.  Ask about their practices when an emergency arises, and any other questions you have about how they care for the animals that board with them.

For those of your in the Denver Area, we highly recommend the Animal Lodge at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital.
Their 10,000 square foot facility provides a fun and safe environment for both feline and canine family members! 

Different felines have different temperaments, and while some are well-suited to globe trotting, some prefer having their paws firmly on solid – and familiar – ground.  Whichever temperament your cat has, by handling your trip preparations with close attention to detail and by making careful arrangements, you can rest assured that your cat will handle either a long trip or an absence from you just fine.  But just in case, be sure to buy them souvenirs!

Moving to a new home?  Get some helpful tips on Moving With Your Pet!!

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