Trip tips for your feline
Written by Sparrow Marcioni
Photos by J.M. Fitzgerald and GoodPhoto
Most cat parents have experienced the drama of tricking, forcing or placing kitty in a travel carrier to visit the veterinarian. The journey is not likely to be peaceful for owners, and the destination is rarely pleasant for him. If the trip to and from the vet is the only experience your cat has with travel, it’s understandable that he doesn’t enjoy the prospect of going on a vacation. Traveling with your cat can also be complicated since most hotels and transportation services are geared more for canine travel companions. Cats, often fearful of the unfamiliar, have an entirely different outlook. These simple tips require some care and planning, but they can help turn your nervous feline into an ideal travel companion.
To have an enjoyable trip with your kitty, begin by making the experience more familiar. Leave the travel carrier out and available for exploration with the door open, even when you’re not going anywhere. If you can get him to become at ease with the travel carrier, that’s a good start.
Choose a carrier that is appropriate to your cat’s size and the length of your trip. Carriers can be soft-sided, plastic or wire, and you can make them more comfortable by adding a soft blanket. Make sure to secure the carrier to the car with a seat belt or bungee cord for safety. Longer trips may require a larger carrier or even a dog crate to accommodate a litter box and water. Consider placing two or three pee pads layered in the bottom of the carrier. Should an accident occur, you can remove the top one and everything remains clean.
Taking your cat on short test trips may ease tension and make the real trip more enjoyable. Try taking your cat to the pet store for a treat or on short errands to show that going places can be fun. He’ll start to associate trips with positive experiences.
Feline pheromone sprays such as Feliway, Bach Flower Rescue Remedy or Jackson Galaxy’s Spirit Essence are organic remedies for stress. If your kitty is more distressed than usual, or you’re traveling for an extended period, you may want to add Zylkene by Vetoquinol that contains a naturally calming ingredient from cow’s milk. Available without a prescription, the capsules can help relieve anxiety. For more intense bouts of stress, consider requesting a prescription from your vet, who may prescribe Xanax or Gabapentin. Likewise, if your kitty experiences motion sickness or is vomiting during travel, your vet may prescribe a nausea-preventing medicine such as Cerenia.
Advance preparation is key for any trip, but it’s even more necessary with your cat. The first step is to have him microchipped at your veterinarian and registered with your contact information. Additionally, your kitty should always be wearing a nametag collar with your phone number. He should also wear a harness and leash, especially when traveling through an airport, where you will likely be asked to take him out of the carrier during security. Pack a bag with a few essentials, including favorite cat treats, a catnip toy (Yeowww! Catnip toys are always a hit), wipes, antibiotic cream, extra pee pads, regular food and possibly some calming wipes. When traveling by car, it’s a good idea to bring a reflective sunshade to cover the carrier and a blanket for warmth in cold weather. Cats’ normal body temperatures are 100 to 102°, so your cat experiences temperature shifts differently than you do.
If you are traveling by air, it’s always best for kitty to travel under your seat and not in the cargo area. Most airlines charge a nominal fee to bring a small pet with you. However, in the event they must be transported without you, always zip tie the doors and sides of the carrier so they don’t open accidentally. One of the most important things to remember is that if you show stress, your cat will, too. The more enjoyable trips you take together, the more your cat will look forward to adventures with you.
Sparrow Marcioni is the chief behaviorist at La Maison du Chat, a Reiki practitioner and founder of CatRangers Cat Rescue. She is available for consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 770.831.5513.