A road trip with a dog is a classic experience, but you don’t hear so much about traveling with cats. Felines can be fine traveling companions, though, especially if you prepare them beforehand and take some common-sense precautions to keep them safe and happy. Here’s our expert advice on taking cats for a ride – whether your destination is a day away or the other side of the country.
▪ If you have a few weeks or months before the big move, begin to accustom your cat to its carrier. Leave it out in the house for the cat to explore, and make it extra-appealing by placing treats or catnip toys inside for the cat to find. You may also want to feed meals in it, leaving the door open.
▪ Accustom your cat to car rides that don’t involve going to the veterinarian. Start with short trips down the street or around the block and right back home. Always make sure the ride is comfortable, with the carriers resting on a level, stable surface. Gradually increase the distance of the trips, with occasional stops for a treat such as a tiny bite of your hamburger at a drive-through or other special treat.
▪ Feline pheromone sprays or wipes can enhance a carrier’s allure and may help your cat relax when in it.
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▪ Tranquilizers are usually not a good idea, but if you have an anxious cat, talk to your veterinarian about chewable nutritional supplements that can have a calming effect. If your cat shows signs of motion sickness, such as drooling or vomiting, it may benefit from a prescription for Cerenia, an anti-nausea medication.
▪ Plot your trip based on the location of pet-friendly hotels. Even if a website says a particular hotel or chain permits pets, call beforehand to confirm that cats are welcome.
▪ Stock up on disposable litter boxes. Annette Maxberry-Carrara, who has moved around the world with various cats, recommends buying one for every stop until you reach your destination, and using “crystal” litter, individually bagged for each stop.
“It’s lighter than clay, cuts the stink in the hotel room or car, and absorbs liquid quickly,” she said. “Toss the whole thing when you leave the hotel.”
▪ Feed your cat at least an hour before departure every morning so it has a chance to use the litter box before you set out.
“Cats generally eat and drink less while traveling,” said Jane Kelley, who moved from Maine to Seattle with her three cats, ages 17, 13 and 1 year. “That gave my cats all the opportunity they needed until we stopped eight to 10 hours later.”
▪ On the road, keep your cat in his carrier.
▪ At hotels, take the cat in first – in the carrier – and place it in the bathroom and close the door. Then you can bring in other items from the car without fear the cat will bolt.
▪ Plan ahead for your arrival. Terry Albert, who moved her cats from Seattle to San Diego and back again, said, “I’m probably the only person who ever checked luggage with an unwashed litter box in a trash bag so the cats would have something that smelled like home when we got to the new place.”
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com.