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Traveling with Cats

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Basically, there are two ways to travel with your cat: by car and by air. Car trips are going to be fairly common as you’ll probably take your cat to the veterinarian regularly. Airline trips will be less common. Nonetheless, there are some considerations to be made as travel can be a very stressful event for your pet cat.

First Things First

You’ll need to make a few preparations before embarking on any kind of travel with your cat. A pet carrier is a very important purchase. While your cat may not like to be put in a carrier, it will actually make the trip less stressful, for you and your cat. One way to decrease the stress level of your cat on a trip is to allow her to get accustomed to the carrier. Keep it in the house with a comfy pillow or bed in it so that your cat may actually choose to sleep in it. When your cat sees the carrier as a comfortable and safe place to be, she will usually enter the carrier gladly (or at least more easily as when she’s never seen one before). Also, if you plan to take a long car trip, it is best to get your cat accustomed to riding in the carrier in the car. Take a few short trips so your cat can learn that car travel is not a danger. Cats should ALWAYS be transported in a carrier. A cat roaming free may startle you and accidents happen.

In addition, you will need to take your cat to a veterinarian before any travel is planned. Your cat will need to be examined by a vet in order to have health certificates issued before travel. Depending on the type of travel (air, international, etc), your cat may actually have to undergo quarantine. Certain countries, like the UK or Australia, will not allow pets into the country unless they have been through a four-month quarantine. This is meant to prevent the spread of non-indigenous disease, such as rabies.

Car Travel

Because you’re traveling with a pet, it is important to plan your trip accordingly. For example, you’ll want to have several planned stops for longer trips. This will give you an opportunity to make sure your cat is doing alright and to give her a chance to visit the litter box. Stopping in an open space for your cat to use the litter box presents new dangers. Cats can be startled by passing cars or may run off to avoid going back in the carrier. Try to plan shorter trips – no more than 6 to 8 hours. Cats can usually hold themselves for this long and then you can set up the litter box in a hotel room where it is safer.

You’ll also need to make arrangements for pet friendly accommodation. Not all hotels will allow pets so you need to do some careful research before traveling.

Finally, with any kind of travel, make sure your cat is tagged and identifiable. In case your cat escapes, you’ll want to be sure they’re properly registered and you are able to identify them at the pound.

Air Travel

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, it has actually become more difficult to travel with cats. Many airlines will not deal directly with consumers who wish to travel with their pets. Instead, you may be forced to hire a professional pet transporter for your cat. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, airlines will allow you to travel with your cat as a carry-on. However, if your cat must travel with checked baggage, you have little reason for concern. Every year, the FAA estimates 2 million pets are transported by plane with relatively few (less than 30 per year) reports of death or injury to pet.

Some guidelines for traveling with your cat by air include purchasing an airline approved pet carrier or shipping crate. In addition, your carrier or crate must be labeled with live animal stickers, your contact details, feeding instructions, and dishes (for food and water) attached. Your cat will also need proof that it has been vaccinated against rabies. And finally, tranquilizing your cat is not recommended. Veterinarians agree that the leading cause of pet death during flights is tranquilization.

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