Whether you’re heading to the vet or going further afield, a journey of any length can be stressful for your cat. How can you make travelling as easy as possible for you and your pet?
Taking a cat on a journey can be a daunting experience – both for them and for you. Regardless of whether you’re taking your own car or going on public transport, travelling can be stressful for cats.
Not only are they away from the safety and security of their own territory – your home – travel almost invariably means that cats come into contact with unfamiliar noises, smells and sights. To make matters worse, travelling can cause some cats to suffer from motion sickness.
Nevertheless, there will be times when you inevitably need to travel with your cat – if only to visit the vet. So, how can you make travelling with a cat – and even multiple cats – as stress-free as possible?
1. Familiarise your cat with their carrier
Prepare your cat’s carrier well in advance of any journeys and make sure it’s a familiar, safe place for your cat. Keep the carrier close to where your cat normally eats or sleeps and put their usual bedding, toys and occasional treats inside it, so they start to see it as an extension of their usual environment.
Just before you leave, spray the carrier with a calming synthetic cat scent or pheromone spray to help them stay relaxed. Make sure you do this at least 15 minutes before you leave to allow the alcohol from the spray to evaporate or the carrier won’t smell very nice for your cat. Also, focus on staying calm and relaxed yourself so that your cat doesn’t pick up on any stress signals from you.
For longer trips, you could try experimenting with the placement and position of your cat carrier. For example, nervous cats may respond well to having a towel placed over their carrier, while others may prefer to see out. If you are travelling with multiple cats, each cat should travel in their own carrier.
2. Be prepared
When it comes to travelling with cats, preparation is the key to success. If you are going on a long journey, take your cat on some shorter trips beforehand, gradually building up the duration of the trips. Give your cat plenty of rewards and praise at the end of each trip and allow them space to recover.
Your preparations will vary depending on how far you’re going – whether you are travelling a short distance or a long distance, and whether you’re staying in the UK or travelling abroad. If you are going on a long journey, plan for some breaks along the way so that your cat can take the opportunity to drink some water and use the litter tray. If you need to stop off overnight, research cat-friendly hotels in advance of the trip.
When travelling to the EU, ensure that you have complied with the necessary requirements. Should you plan to travel on public transport, research timetables and aim to travel at off-peak times. Depending on the purpose of your trip, you may also want to consider whether it is even a good idea to travel with your cat at all or whether it might be better to use a pet-sitter or book them into a good cattery.
3. Pack the essentials
Before you set off, make sure you have the essential equipment with you. This should include your cat’s food, bowls, bed, blankets, toys and portable litter tray, and any medication they might need.
Your cat should have access to fresh water right up until the start of a big journey, but avoid feeding them immediately before your trip in case they are sick while travelling. Instead, feed your cat a light, high-protein meal, like boiled chicken or fish, three to four hours before you leave. This can help to calm their nerves.
At the end of the journey…
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, your next job is to make sure your cat feels comfortable in their new environment. If you can, kit out an area especially for them, using their bed, blankets, toys, litter tray and food and water bowls. You could also plug in a pheromone diffuser and put the radio on to muffle any loud noises. Aim to create some safe spots where your cat can hide if they need to and give them time to adjust.
What are your top tips for travelling with cats? Tell us on social media using #PethoodStories