Summer is a time for sunshine, flip flops, BBQs, trips to the beach and vacations. What a glorious time of year. Hooray! Do you have any plans to take a road trip this summer? Or, maybe you’re jetting off to a fun vacation spot for adventure or relaxation? Wherever your summer travels take you, will your cat be your co-pilot?
I know, typically, we think of taking dogs on road trips – images of tongues sticking out, and ears flapping in the breeze immediately come to mind. But, cats travel, too – albeit, sometimes against their will. Even if your summer travels with kitty are not glamorous – perhaps just a routine trip to the vet – be sure her/his carrier is a durable, reliable and safe mode of transportation. This article provides a few tips on making travel easier for your cat.
All cat guardians know that our fuzzy feline friends would rather stay home, playing with catnip or toys, or be curled up in their favorite spot in the sun. Travel is rarely on a cat’s “to do” list. You can help make your cat’s trip safer and less stressful by getting a reliable cat carrier and acclimating your kitty to it.
1. Select a comfortable carrier. Cat carriers come in a variety of styles from hard to soft exteriors, little to significant interior padding, and some even come on wheels. It is important to select a carrier in which your kitty feels protected and comfortable. Ensure the carrier has enough room for your cat, without having too much open space which may threaten kitty. Highly fashionable carriers are out there, but unless your summer travels include a trip to the red carpet in Hollywood, you should opt for comfort and durability over fashion. Retail stores such as PETCO, PetSmart and Pet Supplies Plus all have a nice selection of cat carriers.
2. Allow your cat to acclimate her/himself to the carrier prior to travel. Cats are creatures of habit – we all know that. It’s difficult to get anything new past kitty without her/him noticing. If you only bring the cat carrier out when kitty is going to travel, s/he associates the carrier with something s/he doesn’t like. Stress is all about unfamiliarity. I’ve found that if I put the cat carrier out as a “new toy” several days before traveling, my cats initially scope it out as a new play area. They mark it as theirs. After a day or two, they either love it or ignore it. When it comes time to coax kitty into the carrier, it’s much easier since the carrier is no longer a foreign object. This has also reduced the association of cat carrier = “I’m going for an unpleasant ride” in my household.
3. Serenity now. Unless your cat is in the small percentage of cats who are up for any type of adventure, travel will likely be stressful. Thus, it is important to have calming aids ready and administered prior to the trip. I’ve found that the herbal anxiety relief drops from Homeo Pet work very effectively. About 30 minutes prior to travel, I’ll give my cats the drops. This has definitely helped to calm them while in transit. You can also cover the cat carrier with a blanket before placing kitty inside. This reduces visibility to outside distractions and stressors.
4. Pack the right supplies. If you’re taking a road trip with your cat, be sure to pack food and water bowls, as well as a litter box. These can be travel-sized. Just ensure that kitty is comfortable with the travel supplies. Don’t forget any medications kitty may need, and be sure to bring her/his favorite blanket and toys. On road trips, be sure to take breaks where you allow your cat to go potty and grab a bite of food and some water.
5. Secure the cat carrier in your vehicle. There may not be a state law indicating cats have to ride in the back seat and wear a seatbelt, but common sense and love for your kitty will tell you to make sure the carrier is securely fastened. This will keep kitty safe, and reduce unpleasant bumps and movement which may frighten her/him.
6. Let kitty know you’re there. It’s important to check on your cat often during travel. If in your car, be sure to talk to your cat in a calming voice, let her see and smell your hands, and offer encouragement that s/he is doing well, and we’re almost there. Be prepared to allow kitty to take bathroom and food breaks on road trips. If you’re flying with kitty and s/he is with you on the plane, check on her/him to make sure s/he isn’t too stressed out. Speaking soothing and reassuring words to your cat will help reduce her/his stress level. Be a good parent, and let your fuzzy kid know everything is okay, and you’re there.
I hope you and your feline friends have a wonderful and fun-filled summer! With a few extra steps, you can ensure that your vacation is enjoyable for both you and your cat co-pilot. Wishing you safe summer travels!