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How To Travel With A Cat: 6 Tips To Calm A Nervous Cat

Author bio: This post was submitted by Kailey Hansen, a communications specialist in the greater Chicago area. She enjoys yoga, reading, and hanging out with her cat, Ollie.

Source: Unsplash

Wondering how to travel with a cat? My rescue cat Ollie spends about 50% of his life bird watching and staring longingly out the window. As an indoor cat, he is intrigued by the great outdoors, so naturally, one would assume that trekking outside the confines of our home once a year for an annual vet visit would be simple. 

If your cat is anything like Ollie, however, you’re probably thinking not so much.

For many, the mere thought of transporting a cat from point A to point B, even for a quick vet trip, brings bouts of anxiety. Whether your furbaby tends to get sick in the car or goes to great lengths to avoid its carrier, traveling with a cat is often stressful for both pet and owner. 

When it comes time for holiday trips or vacations, many owners elect to keep their kitty at home with a drop-in visitor or live-in pet sitter. For others, traveling long distance with cats (due to a move, for example) might be unavoidable.

Minimize stress while you travel long distance with a cat using these six tips:

1. Ensure you have the correct carrier

Can you travel with a cat? Yes,but the key might be finding the right carrier. It’s no surprise that cats are picky creatures, and if they don’t like something, they will do pretty much anything to stay away. Some prefer the security of hard-shell enclosures, while others enjoy the comfort of a soft, mesh carrier for cat travel.

It is also important to check and see if your cat has outgrown its carrier. If they are an adult using the crate you brought them home in as a kitten, they may now find this space cramped and overwhelming. When choosing the best fit for your pet, make sure they have enough space to stand up and turn around. Carriers with top openings can be a good choice for feisty cats who like to put up a fight before their vet visit. 

2. Avoid feeding your cat right before travel

Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you aren’t traveling long distance with a cat often. During car rides, they may experience motion sickness, and it can be a traumatizing ordeal for kitty and a messy ordeal for you. To minimize the chance for accidents, many vets recommend avoiding giving any food to your cat approximately 4 to 6 hours before your travel time. If your cat takes medication, or if you are embarking on lengthier travels, your vet can help determine the best feeding schedule for your feline friend.

3. Make their crate a cozy and familiar environment

This is one of my favorite tips for traveling with a cat. This simple step can go a long way! When introducing your cat to a new carrier, consider it a clean slate. Pet experts advise leaving the crate out in the open, where you can supervise, with familiar toys, treats, or their favorite comfy blanket inside. The idea is that eventually your cat will choose to go in and out of the carrier on its own time and not scramble under the bed at its mere sight. Creating a cozy space right off the bat can help promote this travel tool as a safe space.

4. Utilize pheromone calming spray

For cats that have an especially difficult time adjusting to change, a calming spray may exude comforting and “happy” vibes. These sprays mimic natural cat pheromones which are proven to help reduce anxiety in animals in some cases. While these sprays aren’t a magic solution, they may offer your cat a bit of comfort when sprayed directly onto the carrier (or around the house if you choose to leave him or her with a pet sitter)!

5. Check with your vet about a special cat entrance

Traveling with cats can be hard on their health. Taking your nervous cat into a noisy, bustling lobby doesn’t usually help the situation. When visiting the vet, check ahead for any unique procedures set in place for arriving with an anxious cat. Some vet clinics include a special cat entrance away from excited dogs and loud barking.

6. Consider a harness for cats unable to travel by carrier

The best way to travel with a cat that has a strong aversion to carriers or has experienced trauma regarding cages in the past, traveling may give you extra dread. It can be a hazard to drive with a free-roaming cat in the car and just as unsafe to bring an off-leash cat into a busy vet’s office. Fortunately, harnesses made specifically with felines in mind can keep your cat secure… even without a carrier. For the trained and comfortable indoor cat, a harness can be a great way to experience the outside world, as long as they are wearing the correct size and in a safe setting!