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Kitty Road Trips

Traveling with a Cat

Having a cat or two around the house brings immeasurable pleasure. However, some cat-lovers find that having a cat when it comes time to go away on vacation can be a headache. Who can care for the cat? Should I take my kitten with me? Will my pet be frightened if I leave for an extended period?

Relax, cat fans. Cats are very independent and can usually take care of themselves during a vacation, as long as someone visits regularly to feed them and change the litter.

But if your cat is really part of the family, maybe your stress is personal -- that is, you will miss the feline while you're away. Good news: with some simple planning ahead, your kitty can be a great traveling companion, sharing the road and the vacation with you. In fact, according to animal behavior consultant Sherry Woodard, "If you have a socialized cat, it will be comfortable in most situations, including travel."

But preparation is key to success. "Before you travel with your cat, you need to think about a cat collar and ID tag," says Woodard. "If your cat isn't wearing one now, give her time to get used to it before the trip."

Your cat needs identifying tags whenever you travel into a new area, because there's always the chance your cat will escape or flee the unfamiliar surroundings. A good safety collar and microchip will help you if you need to search for your cat.

Another step before leaving home – crate train the cat. Woodard suggests placing the animal's favorite bedding inside, so the crate smells like home. Then leave the door open and let the cat go in and out and explore at will, so he isn't frightened when the time comes to crate him.

Thirdly, let your cat wear a harness around the house, so he will be comfortable in one when traveling. "A lot of people walk cats, so they're used to a harness," Woodard says. "Be sure to get a safety harness so the cat can't wiggle out of it, then let him walk around the house in it before taking him out."

If you will be traveling by car, you should check with your veterinarian about pet travel medication. Dogs are more prone to motion sickness than cats are, but anti-nausea medication may be good to have just in case. Make sure your car is well-ventilated and air-conditioned.

Practice makes purr-fect, so take your cat on some short trips before a long car journey. Use a cat carrier or crate at all times, even if the cat seems relaxed in the car.

If you have an older cat who needs the litter box frequently, you may want to invest in a larger crate.Then you can fit a litter box inside the crate for the cat's convenience.

Take frequent breaks to allow your cat fresh air and exercise. Use the harness and leash, as cats may be prone to flee in unfamiliar surroundings. Never leave the cat alone in the car, as heat stroke occurs quickly, even when the windows are cracked.

The American Humane Association offers these tips for those traveling with their cats by air:

  • Only travel with your cat by air if it can ride in the cabin with you.
  • Each airline has its own regulations on top of the statutory rules established by the International Air Transport Association. Contact your airline directly to be sure of their regulations.
  • Book your trip as soon as possible, as airlines limit the number of animals permitted on each flight.
  • You will need an approved cat carrier if your pet is riding in the cabin. It should be soft sided because you may have to place it under the seat during take-off and landing.
  • Make sure the carrier allows enough room for the cat to turn around and lie down comfortably.
  • Consult your vet for a flight appraisal. Some airlines require a health certificate for a cat to fly.

When you reach your destination, allow your pet to get comfortable in a small space first. More room can be provided when the cat seems acclimated to the house.

Finally, enjoy your pet while you explore your destination. Cats bring a measure of peace and tranquility to their owners, so what better way to relax on vacation than with your kitty in your lap?

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