How to travel with a cat and enjoy it

30 August 2023 - 4 min read
Young striped kitten laying in a carrier, looking at camera. One paw is visible and rests atop his plush bed.

Cats are creatures of habit. They find solace and security among familiar people and in familiar corners of your home. When they’re travelling they may still have access to those familiar people—but not to the familiar corners. 

Change and disorientation aren’t the only problems.

In a car, plane, or train, your cat will be exposed to loud sounds and rumbling sensations that may grate on their feline nerves. To top it all off, they’ll be confined in a carrier that may make them feel a bit stir-crazy.

Here are some tips for making your cat’s travelling experience as comfortable as possible.

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Consider your cat's temperament

You know your cat better than anyone, so consider their temperament before taking them on a trip. How do they behave in unfamiliar situations?

Are they calm and adaptable, or are they cautious and easily stressed out? Understanding these traits will help you anticipate how they’ll react to different aspects of travel.

If your cat is naturally curious and adaptable, they might be more open to travel experiences.

(Despite that old grim expression, cats and curiosity can go together quite nicely.)

Even within the confines of their carrier, an adaptable feline may be intrigued by the sights, sounds, and scents of a car, plane, or train ride. These bewhiskered adventurers may not need too much stimulation or distraction during the journey.

But some cats are more cautious and easily triggered by unfamiliar situations and environments. These cagey kitties may need gradual exposure to travel-related sensations before taking a long trip.

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Take your cat on a few practice trips

Whatever type of cat you have, if you're planning a long road trip, you might consider taking them on short practice trips first.

Just bring your carrier-bound cat into your car and gradually get them accustomed to longer drives. You can start with a trip around the block or even a stationary “trip” in an idling car.

Show us a successful kitty outing, and we’ll show you one that was well-prepared for. Here are some tips for preparing your cat for a trip:

Get a comfortable, compliant cat carrier

However you’re travelling, your cat will need to remain in their carrier at all times while they’re in a moving vehicle.

Choosing the right carrier is absolutely essential for your cat’s comfort and, even more importantly, their safety.

For car travel, a sturdy, well-ventilated carrier is best. Hard-sided carriers provide better protection from accidents or sudden stops.

If hoping to travel by plane in the UK you're not able to take a cat into the cabin with you. Instead, it may need to go in the hold and this is dependent on the airline. You should check with your carrier when planning travel.

Train travellers however have more luck, with cat's allowed onboard. You'll need to ensure your pet is secured in a hard-sided carrier. You should check National Rail's requirements before travel.

Be vigilant about your cat's safety

Whether you're travelling by car, train, or plane (depending on the airline), your cat’s safety and comfort should be top priorities.

In the UK it's a legal requirement to keep pets suitably restrained when travelling by car. The carrier should be secured with a seat belt, preferably on the back seat.

Make sure your kitty isn't in direct sunlight, and there's ventilation available. You could always try out a window shade, to protect against the sun.

Make room for a portable litter box

A portable potty won’t be as pleasant as your cat’s regular litter space, but you’ll need to provide one.

Fortunately, there are many different types of portable litter trays on the market. Some of them are made of foldable fabric, while others are made of recycled paper.

On longer trips, you should give kitty a potty break every 2-3 hours.

Keep your cat hydrated

Always keep your cat hydrated. During a long trip, you can let your cat drink from a dripless water dispenser made specifically for travel. It’ll make your cat look like an enormous gerbil, but there’s no shame in that.

Food is trickier. Many cats are prone to motion sickness, and no one wants their feline travel companion to start vomiting.

As mean as this may sound, it’s wise to keep your cat’s stomach empty during short travel sessions. On longer trips, keep a bag of treats and cat food handy, but still keep the kitty feeding to a minimum.

Then your furry friend can enjoy a full meal when they’re back home. 

Bring along your cat's favourite toys

Too much time in a confined space is enough to drive anyone batty (catty?). Pack a few of your feline friend’s favourite cat toys to keep them entertained.

Interactive toys like puzzles can provide the right kind of mental stimulation. You can also provide a blanket or bedding from home. Familiar items and scents can provide comfort and reduce stress.

Ask your vet about sedating your cat

If your kitty has a dislike of travel, or can’t travel without displaying anxiety symptoms like trembling, excessive meowing, or other stress behaviours), a sedative might help.

You should speak with your vet, who will determine the right medication, let you know the correct dosage, and make sure you’re not giving your cat any medication that could exacerbate an existing health condition.

Most veterinarians reach for a medication called Gabapentin for clinic-related or travel-related anxiety, though there are a few options available. Your vet can help you decide which is best for your cat.

How pet insurance can help with kitty adventures

At ManyPets, we know your cat is a housewarming housemate and furry family member. That's why we offer cat insurance to help you take care of them, whether you need coverage for illnesses or accidents.

And if you and your feline friend find yourselves traveling out-of-state (or in Canada!), ManyPets insurance will continue to cover your cat for up to 90 days!

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