It’s almost the most magical time of the year! And with the festivities fast approaching, that means that many of us will be heading out for the holidays. While many holiday travelers feel confident taking their canine family members on the road with them, traveling with cats might seem a bit more daunting.
But with some preparation and kitty consideration, your cat can happily join in on your holiday journeys. And even if you’re not planning on taking your kitty with you this holiday season, these tips are great for making car trips to the vet a breeze, too.
Acclimate your cat to their crate or carrier.
Chances are your cat doesn’t love to be stuck in a carrier; they probably associate it with negative experiences, like trips to the vet. But you can change that!
Make sure you have a carrier that is large enough for your cat to comfortably turn around in, and potentially hold a food and water dish.
Next, allow your cat to get used to the carrier a few weeks to a month before travel. Place it near their favorite spot in the house and entice them into the carrier with their favorite treats until they seem at ease with longer periods in the crate. If your cat is a fan of catnip or silver vine, sprinkle some inside the crate to encourage them to go inside. Never force them into the crate, as they can begin to associate it with stress or discomfort.
Cats love familiarity! Giving them a safe, familiar space to go and hide or rest is absolutely necessary, especially when traveling. Layer the carrier with a towel or blanket that smells of home to increase their comfort levels while traveling.
Let your cat “claim” the car.
Cats are territorial creatures who crave the familiarity and comfort of their own homes. This makes traveling to new, unknown environments stressful and scary. So give your cat time to see the car as part of her home turf. Place the carrier in the car and open it to let your kitty explore (supervised, of course, with the doors and windows closed so they don’t get out.)
Bring your cat’s favorite treats or food bowl and let them eat in the car a couple of times a week. This will help your cat view the car as part of their “home” and not a place to be feared.
Practice makes purrfect.
Try driving short distances with your cat to acclimate them to the car and get them used to the motion and sounds.
Doing some dry runs ahead of time can also help a cat adjust to motion sickness. Most cats can travel without getting car sick, but if you find your cat is extremely sensitive to travel, ask your vet about anti-motion sickness medications.
It's also recommended that you give your cat (or dog) food and water three hours prior to leaving for your trip so he has some food in his stomach but isn't stuffed.
Keep it familiar.
On top of acclimating your cat to their carrier and the car ahead of time, make sure to bring along their favorite toys (like a catnip toy or even a favorite scratcher) and bedding to make them feel right at home.
Cat owners the world over know that cats are notoriously picky about their water bowls. A lot of it has to do their sensitive whiskers touching the sides of the bowl. In any case, you want to make sure that your cat is properly hydrated! One way is to ensure that they will drink from the bowl you fill up - bring along their favorite bowl to make sure they keep hydrated.
Cats are creatures of habit, so it's important to keep up a litter box routine for your cat. Bring the litter your cat is familiar with using. Whether you bring a hard, plastic litter box or a disposable cardboard box for easy litter clean-up is up to you. And be sure to bring some cleaning supplies in case of any accidents in the car.
Make sure your cat has proper identification tags, a harness, and a leash.
If you plan to walk your cat outside of the car and carrier, make sure to find a durable, well-fitting (and comfortable) harness that your cat can't easily escape. Even the calmest of cats can get spooked by something unknown in the environment and run. It's better to be prepared.
It's advisable that you do a bit of leash training before you leave on your trip so that it is not an added stressor for your cat.
Photo via Travel For Wildlife
If you’re traveling and know you have to stop overnight, do your research to find pet-friendly hotels and inns along the way. There are many accommodations that welcome our furry felines, but make sure to book in advance for busy travel seasons.
Once you get to the hotel room, let your cat out of the carrier, show them where their litter box is located … and make sure to give them plenty of love and reassurance!
Once your furry family member gets used to traveling, your trips will be as smooth as can be. Happy tails - er, trails, folks!