How to Travel With a Cat Long Distance in a Car or by Air

Heading out on a journey and wondering 'should I travel with my cat?' Our Simi Valley vets offer a few tips to help make the journey easier for both you and your beloved pet.

Preparing For Any Trip With Your Cat

If you are planning to travel with your kitty - whether moving, visiting, or going on vacation - you will need to plan ahead. 

One essential point to consider is whether your cat is up-to-date on its vaccines and parasite prevention. Different states have different regulations regarding vaccines for pets but in most states keeping your pet's rabies vaccine current is the law. So be sure to schedule a visit to your veterinarian before you leave so that your cat's core vaccines can be brought up to date, your kitty can be vaccinated against any lifestyle diseases that are common in the place you are headed to, and any parasites can be treated or prevented.

Different Journeys & Different Preparations

There are various things to consider and prepare for depending on your mode of transportation and the length of the journey. We'll go over how to travel with a cat by car, plane, and even train or ship in the sections below.

Traveling by Car with Your Cat

Purchase a Suitable Cat Carrier

Cats are generally uneasy in cars and should be transported in a carrier for their and your safety. To prevent the carrier from bouncing around and injuring your cat, use a seat belt to secure it.

Don't Put Your Cat in the Front Seat

Even if your pet is in a carrier, the deployment of airbags in the front seat can be hazardous to your pet; therefore, it is best to keep your cat's carrier restrained in the back seat(s) of your vehicle.

Keep Your Cat's Head Inside the Vehicle

If your cat's head is sticking outside the window, they're at risk of debris striking them or the cold air harming their lungs. Never transport your cat in the back of an open pick-up truck.

Bring a Human Designated to Care for Them

If possible, it is best to have a human who is there to monitor and comfort your cat riding with them in the back seat. This will help your cat feel comfortable during the journey.

If Your Journey is Longer than 6 hours, They'll Need Litter

If your car trip is less than 6 hours, your cat will most likely be fine in a standard carrier. If your cat will need to be in their carrier for an extended period of time, you will need a larger accommodation that includes space for a small litter box. Prior to travel, consult your veterinarian for advice on the type of kennel or carrier that is best suited to your cat's needs and the journey ahead.

Don't Ever Leave Your Cat in the Car Alone

Leaving a cat alone in a vehicle poses a grave health risk. A short period of time for you could be an eternity for your feline companion when exposed to extreme heat. When the temperature outside is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside your car can reach 116 degrees within an hour. On a day with an outside temperature of 85 degrees, the temperature inside your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes, even with the windows slightly cracked. After only 30 minutes alone in a vehicle, irreversible organ damage or death is possible; even if you don't anticipate taking that long to return, the risk is not worth taking.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Plane

Do cats like to travel by air? The short answer, of course, is no but sometimes it cannot be avoided. Here are the things you should know about traveling with a cat by plane.

Air Travel Can be Dangerous for Cats

Air travel can possibly lead to oxygen deprivation or heat stroke in animals. Perisian cats in particular are susceptible to these effects, as are other animals with "smushed in" faces.

Consider All Alternatives Before Flying

Because flying is so stressful for cats, we recommend finding an alternative mode of transportation whenever possible. Although driving is typically preferable to flying, there may be boarding options that will allow your cat to relax in comfort at a home away from home.

Chose an Airline that Will Allow Your Cat in the Cabin

Many airlines will allow you to fly with your cat in the cabin with you, for an additional fee. While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling are often to blame. in either case, you must inform the airline well in advance that you are bringing your cat with you. If you must travel with your animal in the cargo hold, research airlines and select one with a good reputation for animal handling.

If You See Something, Say Something

If you see any mistreatment of an animal by an airline, yours or otherwise, make sure you say something about it! You could save a life.

How to Travel with a Cat on a Train

Some service animals and pets are permitted on many trains. You must confirm with the railroad whether pets are permitted on your train trip. If so, the same rules as traveling with a cat in a vehicle apply. At station stops, passengers will be required to exercise and feed their cat(s).

How to Travel with a Cat on a Ship

With the exception of service animals, only a few cruise lines allow pets, and typically only on ocean crossings. Some cruise lines allow pets in private cabins, but the majority confine animals to kennels. Contact your cruise line in advance to learn its policies and which ships are equipped with kennels. If you must use the ship's kennel, protect it from the elements and frequently check on your pet.

Prepare ahead for your cat's journey by ensuring that your kitty is up-to-date on their vaccines, free of parasites, and in good overall health. Contact Park Animal Hospital today to book an examination for your feline friend.