Traveling with cats (or moving permanently) can be a stressful event for the whole family - between packing, airline travel, and hotel accommodations it can be hard to keep everybody happy.
There are definitely ways to make the experience easier on you and your pet.
Does your cat enjoy traveling? Some do - one of our cats just loves when I put his harness on and take him for a ride in the car. I have him on my lap (NOT while driving!) and I loop the leash through my seatbelt for safety.
For safety reasons, cats should be harnessed or in a cat carrier when in the car. It is too easy for them to block your view from the back window, small cats can get under the seat or brake pedal, or just have a bit of a cat fit and distract you. If there was an accident the cat may be injured or thrown from the window - plus the possibility of escape in the confusion.
If your cat does not enjoy traveling but must go anyway (you are moving or going away for months),
#1) Vet Records: make sure you have photocopies of your vet records - especially proof of most recent vaccinations. If you are going to need a new vet once you reach your destination this will be helpful to let your new vet know immediately what care your pet has received. Include any contact information for your current vet and a list of any medications your cat is on. The records will also be valuable if your cat needs emergency care while traveling.
#2) Customs And Border Crossing: if you are crossing another country's border at any point, always check what their regulations are for pets entering the country. Some countries have a quarantine period for entering pets. Always have copies of your cat's proof of immunization and vet contact information available!
#3) Airline Travel: most airlines have their own regulations regarding traveling with cats. Some airlines allow cats in the passenger cabin as long as they are in a cat carrier - for some airlines you have to purchase a seat in order to have your cat in the cabin. Read our cat carrier tips for choosing a carrier for airline travel. If your airline does not allow pets in the cabin and your cat must go in the cargo hold, ALWAYS ask if the cargo hold is climate controlled. This is very important - pets can freeze in the winter or at high altitude, and waiting for the plane to take off can cause overheating in summer.
If you feel your cat will be very stressed by the flying experience, discuss the possibility of full or partial sedation with your vet before traveling with cats. This is usually a pill to make the cat drowsy or relaxed that your vet will prescribe for you. Your vet will tell you when is the best amount of time before your flight to give your cat the pill. Do not give your cat any medications meant for people!
#4) Pet Friendly Hotels: whether you are driving to your destination or flying, check to make sure your hotels are pet friendly. Best Western and Travelodge have many North American and worldwide pet friendly hotels. It is easiest to plan your route in advance - this will allow you to make reservations at hotels that welcome cats. Confirm each hotel's pet policy when reserving rooms.
If you are staying for more than
one night, ask the hotel for a door sign to let housekeeping know there
are pets in the room. If you don't want anyone disturbing your pet, put
the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and any dirty towels/linens
outside your door. Ask the front desk or housekeeping for replacements.
#5) Car Travel: Reactions to car travel is different for every cat. Some cats can become motion sick in the car, leading to vomiting. Stress can also cause drooling or panting. Air conditioning is essential for pets in the summertime - but even with air conditioning never leave your cat unattended in the car! Cats can overheat much more quickly than people! You can try Feliway spray to try to reduce stress in your pet. Spray just a couple of squirts into the carrier onto the blanket and let it dry for a few minutes before putting your cat into the carrier.