7 Things to Consider Before Going on Vacation with Your Cat
If you think your cat is up for an adventure, start planning weeks ahead of time, experts say
You and your cat may be inseparable, but before you hit the road, ask yourself if the family feline might rather stay at home. Unlike you, she will not enjoy surfing in Cabo San Lucas or strolling through the Louvre in Paris.
On its website, The Humane Society of the United States puts it bluntly: “Cats do not enjoy change and taking them on trips is usually not a good idea.” Noting rather ominously that the stress brought on by travel may cause cat “behavior problems,” the Humane Society recommends leaving your kitty at home with a sitter.
But if your cat is adventurous and you’re determined to take her with you, here are some practical concerns to consider.
Label your cat carrier. No matter how you get to your destination, label your cat’s carrier with your name, address and phone number. Include the cat’s name, date of most recent vaccinations and contact information for your vet on the outside of the carrier.
In the car, keep fluffy in her carrier. If you’re traveling by car, your cat is safest inside her carrier, which should be secured with a seatbelt in case of sudden stops.
Make your kitty as comfortable as possible. Put a familiar blanket in the carrier, with water and her favorite toys and food so she feels more at home. Don’t forget a litter tray, available in travel sizes. And no food at least four hours before travel (water is fine), says Garrett Wood, DVM, of Old Dominion Animal Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia.
If your kitty is likely to get anxious, talk to your vet about medications to ease her stress, suggests der Au Michael, practice manager of Broad Street Veterinary Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. “Some cats do great, even in a car,” she says. “Some cats will freak and they have to be sedated to take the edge off.”
Have your cat’s health certificate and paperwork handy. Cats require a health certificate for travel inside the United States, says Wood, and much more paperwork process for traveling internationally. “Only U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed veterinarians can perform health certificates for travel outside of the country, and even after that, it has to be signed by that vet and a government USDA vet,” says Wood.
Michael echoes Wood’s advice. “Definitely bring the vaccine records, the rabies certificate. You never know when somebody’s going to ask for it.”
She says few people know that even interstate travel requires a health certificate for every animal being transported, although the laws are seldom enforced. “If I take my cat and dog to North Carolina from Virginia, I’m supposed to have health certificates that certify they are safe to travel,” she says. “For state-to-state travel, the health certificate must be obtained less than 30 days before the trip. It’s 10 days for international travel, Michael explains.
Avoid the plane’s cargo section for cat travel. The Humane Society strongly discourages people from letting their pets travel in the cargo section of planes, a practice it calls “dangerous and stressful.” Instead, your kitty should fly under your seat in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided carrier, aka kennel. (Your cat should be able to stand up and turn around easily in it.) Be sure to check your airline for pet restrictions before you fly.
Michael’s veterinary hospital recently cleared a 16-year-old cat — about 84 years old in human years — for a flight to France. “The cat made it just fine,” she says.
If you're flying internationally, plan well in advance. “Flying is safe for cats as long as they have been checked out by a veterinarian prior to travel,” says Wood. “International travel is very complicated, and in some cases needs up to six months of prior planning for travel.” Be sure to bring along your cat’s vaccination and illness records, he adds.
Make sure your hotel
is open to pets.
You don’t want to reach your vacation spot and find out
they don’t permit animals. If you’re
staying with friends or in a group setting, check to
see whether anyone in your party is allergic to cats.
your cat. “All pets should have
a microchip implanted into their back prior to travel or really just in general,”