How To TRAVEL With A CAT (Checklist Included!)

How to travel with a cat? There are few cat owners who do not have horror stories to tell about learning the hard way how to travel long distance with a cat. Unless a cat starts getting acclimatized to trips at a very young age.

They will probably react to journeying by car with a mixture of yowls, meows, thrashing and, too often, a mess cleaned up in a gas station bathroom while the frightened cat dashes in circles by the toilet.

Fortunately, even for adult cats, you can learn how to travel with a cat in a way that maximizes the experiences and minimizes the downsides.

how to travel with a cat infographic

Cat Travel Essentials

When it comes to traveling with cats long distance, it is best to be prepared.

Having a checklist before you will help you be ready if the unexpected happens, which we all know can happen at any time when traveling with our feline companions.

Whether the unexpected is a medical emergency or illness, a runaway cat lost in a strange city, or just a lonely and unhappy kitty far from familiar surroundings, the items on this checklist will be there to help.

Many cats are creatures of habit, so items such as familiar food and water bowls, and a favorite blanket or cat bed will make even strange hotel rooms feel like home.

Cat treats and catnip can be given out as rewards, so your cat will learn to associate travel with fun and tasty treats, not just stress, and fear.

traveling with cats

Playing games and bringing toys will also help your cat adjust to the new surroundings, and soon they will feel right at home.

Not all hotels accept our furry friends as overnight guests, so having a list of hotels along the route if you are traveling with cats in a car will save you a tremendous amount of a headache if you are tired after a long day on the road and trying to find a place to sleep.

The same goes for restaurants; some cities have cat cafes and pet-friendly restaurants where you can enjoy a quick meal and not have to leave the cat behind in the car, which can be dangerous especially during the summer months.

If your cat hates being crated and becomes nervous when riding in the car, veterinarians recommend spraying a diffuser such as Feliway into the crate about fifteen minutes before you need to put the cat inside.

The scent has pheromones which calm and relaxes your kitty, reducing travel-related stress problems including vomiting, meowing, urinating, defecation and agitation.

The plug-in diffusers can also be used in hotel rooms to help your cat adjust to the new environment faster and feel more relaxed, reducing the chances that they will act out and cause a mess.

If there is an emergency where you need to find a vet, having your cat’s medical records, contact information for your home vet, and knowing where the nearest emergency vet clinic can be found may be a lifesaver.

You can keep that information, along with a first aid kit and any medications your cat is currently on, in a special “cat bag” full of all your cat’s belongings so you can find it quickly if you need it.

If your cat runs away or gets lost during the trip, a microchip will allow any shelter or veterinarian’s office to locate you and reunite you with your cat.

However, if your cat is not microchipped, then having two sets of ID tags, one with the local address and the other with the home address, will help whoever finds your cat to find you also.

Make sure that the ID on the tag has your cell number, not your home number so that you can be reached directly.

This checklist has all the essentials, from what you will need if your cat gets sick or injured on the trip, to ways to find your cat if he or she gets lost, and finally, some comfort and convenience items to make traveling with a cat go more smoothly.

The Checklist!

  • Updated Medical Records
  • Medications that your cat currently takes
  • Contact Info of your vet
  • First aid kit
  • A list of veterinary clinics near the place where you will be staying
  • An updated picture of your cat (have at least two copies)
  • Two collars with ID tags, one with the home address and number and the other with information for where you will be staying (or have your cat microchipped)
  • Cat crate or cat travel bag with blanket if needed
  • Portable cat bed
  • Grooming products such as brush or comb, shampoo, nail trimmer, flea products
  • Litter and maybe also a portable litter box
  • Cleaning products such as pet wipes, odor remover, stain remover, litter and poop scoop
  • Cat toys
  • Cat Food
  • Cat treats
  • Catnip
  • Food bowl and water dishes
  • Feliway or other kinds of diffuser
  • A list of cat-friendly hotels and restaurants

Traveling With Cats In Car

Knowing how to travel cross country with a cat is a simple matter of being prepared for every step of the way, from crating the cat to stopping overnight at pet-friendly hotels, and keeping everyone in the vehicle happy from point A to point B.​

cat in a carrier on car

Using the Right Carrier

If you have ever been traveling with cats in car trips, then you probably have a story or two to tell about how a cat hated being inside of a cat carrier or crate.

Fortunately, there are a few simple, practical tips to reduce the headaches and stress for both you and more importantly, turn your cat into a feline road warrior.

The first thing you want to do is purchase the right kind of kennel.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends that you use a sturdy commercial plastic or fiberglass animal carrier because they are the most impact resistant, cannot collapse, and offer a visual shield that lets a cat feel more secure during the ride.

They also reduce motion sickness. Coated wire crates are also acceptable, but lack the same level of visual privacy that a cat or kitten may need to feel safe and comfortable during the ride.

Soft-sided carriers will work as long as they have at least two sides of ventilation but provide minimal impact protection in case of a crash.

All carriers should provide adequate ventilation and be padded with absorbent materials in case the cat has an accident.

Acclimating Your Cat to the Drive

Once you have chosen your cat kennel, then you will want to get the cat used to the cat carrier.

You should leave it in the open around your home for about a week before you depart so your cat can sniff and explore it at leisure.

Placing toys, treats, and catnip around the kennel will help your cat associate it with positive things, and you can also purchase and spray a pheromone diffuser around the sides to help your cat relax inside of it.

Then once your cat has gotten used to the carrier, take short drives around the block to get them used to the idea and make sure to reward the cat for a job well done afterward.​

How to Travel with a Cat in a Car Safely​

It is never safe to let a cat roam freely inside of a car while it is moving. Cats are easily frightened during the drive and can pose a safety hazard to themselves and the driver.

They might start running onto the driver’s seat or by the pedals, and scratching, biting, or panicking inside the vehicle.

For everyone’s safety, you need to keep your cat crated at all times and secure the kennel to the car using a seatbelt, so it doesn’t slide if you need to slam on the breaks or make a quick turn.

You should avoid doing those two things as much as possible, but sometimes they happen, and you do not want the cat’s kennel to go flying across the seat when they do.

When carrying the cat to and from the car, keep them in the kennel, because that is the moment they are most likely to make a break for it.

Hold it firmly from the bottom and sides, not by the handle, because the cat will need to be gripped securely if they fight being inside the kennel, and it will also make it feel steadier from inside.​

Here is a video of some tips on travelling long distance with your cat:

How to Travel Cross Country with a Cat​

If you are traveling with cats long distance, more than six hours, you will want to occasionally stop and let the cat out of the crate to use the bathroom and drink some water.

Keep the cat in the car, with all the doors closed, unless they are wearing a harness and leash (not a collar) because if they run away, it is much easier to catch a cat with a trailing leash behind it, and a collar can be slipped out of if the cat is determined to escape.

Always have a collar and ID tags on the cat in case they do get lost, as it will be the easiest way for a well-meaning stranger to reunite you with your cat. A microchip is great only if they take your cat to a vet or shelter and they can scan for the chip.​

Cats should not be fed in the morning before taking the trip, nor should they be fed during the car ride itself.

They are more likely to be carsick on a full stomach and will be better off not eating until after the car is stopped for the night.

On shorter trips, less than six hours, you can leave your cat in the carrier for the entire voyage. They will feel more comfortable not being let out and will be fine for that length of time.​

Safety Tips For Traveling with Cats in Car

  • Use a vet-approved, secure kennel or crate which offers visual privacy, impact resistance, and offers your cat enough room to move and stand comfortably
  • Never have more than one cat inside of a crate at a time, unless it is a queen and nursing kittens
  • Keep the kennel strapped in with a seatbelt in case of an accident or sudden, sharp movement
  • Never walk your cat outside of the car unless he/she is wearing a harness and leash
  • Don't let your cat roam freely inside the car
  • Gradually acclimate your cat to car trips to reduce car-related stress and motion sickness
  • Always have your cat wear a collar and ID tags, or a microchip, in case they escape and get lost

How To Travel With A Cat On A Plane​

Knowing how to travel long distance with a cat often means knowing how to fly with one. On some longer trips, air travel is the best or only way to go.

Taking a cat on a plane ride can be difficult, but with the right preparation and by following these tips for traveling with a cat by plane, you and your feline friend can surmount those obstacles together.

Flying can even be hazardous for certain animals such as Persian cats because of their “pushed-in” faces, which limit their ability to breathe during a flight.​

For Specific Airline Policies Check This Site:

Flying with Cats in Cabin​

According to our friends from Travel Wise, flying with cats in the cabin is the best way to go. It allows you to stay with your cat for the entire trip, is the safest environment for the cat to be in, and removes your worry about how your cat is doing.

Before you can fly with your cat in the cabin area, you will need to talk with the airline well in advance of the flight.

Some airlines do not allow animals in the cabin section, while other airlines have specific requirements for carriers, immunizations, and a health certificate from the vet.

Most will charge an extra fee to have the cat ride in the cabin with you, but it can be worth the money for the peace of mind and safety you are purchasing for your cat.

Have them send you all of that information in writing and carry it with you when you go to board the plane in case any issues are going on board.

car in airplane

Before you can fly with your cat in the cabin area, you will need to talk with the airline well in advance of the flight.

Some airlines do not allow animals in the cabin section, while other airlines have specific requirements for carriers, immunizations, and a health certificate from the vet.

Most will charge an extra fee to have the cat ride in the cabin with you, but it can be worth the money for the peace of mind and safety you are purchasing for your cat.

Have them send you all of that information in writing and carry it with you when you go to board the plane in case any issues are going on board.

When the day comes, do not feed your cat the night before or the morning of the trip. An empty stomach will help prevent plane sickness. Water is ok, but you may want to put pads down in case your cat goes to the bathroom during the trip.

If your cat often reacts poorly to being in the crate, you may want to talk to your vet about a sedative during the journey. It is not ideal, but if your cat is causing a disruption before take-off, the airline can request that you leave the airplane.​

​For security, your cat will need to exit the carrier and stay with you through the checkpoint.

It is best to have your cat practiced at entering and exiting the carrier on command while wearing the harness, as it will be more stressful to do it for the first time while standing in security. Never send a cat through the X-Ray scanner.

Video on some tips on travelling with your cat on an airplane:

​Flying with Cats in Cargo

If the airline does not allow you to bring your cat into the cabin, then your cat will have to fly in the cargo hold.

Under US law, many airlines have to report their companion animal incidents, including those that were lost, injured or died.

You will want to review that information before deciding which airline to travel with and choose one that has a high record of safety.

You may want to do so even if you plan on bringing the cat into the cabin with you in case your cat ends up having to ride in the cargo hold for any reason.

One of the biggest risks comes from heat or cold in the cargo area, so be aware of the temperatures when you will be flying and try to schedule the flight to minimize the temperature extremes.

Many cargo holds are now slightly pressurized and temperature controlled, so there are some safety precautions in place for your cat in the cargo hold.

Feel free to get more details from each airline on how conditions will be for your cat while riding in the cargo area.

Another risk from is the rough handling of the crate itself with your cat inside, so see if the airline will let you watch while your cat is being placed onto the airplane and unloaded again.

Always fly on the same flight as your pet whenever possible, and use direct flights to reduce the chances of something going wrong with your cat’s loading and unloading process.

Make sure your contact information is on your cat, and on the crate, and have a picture of your cat with you in case anything goes wrong.

Tips on How to Travel with a Cat on a Plane Successfully

  • Always carry a picture of your cat with you in case your cat get lost en route
  • Have your permanent and temporary address and contact information on the carrier as well as on your cat's ID tags
  • Do not feed your cat for 5-6 hours before the trip, and give water sparingly no later than an hour before
  • Avoid traveling with your cat on busy travel days, as they are more likely to receive rough handling when it's crowded
  • Do not ship brachycephalic animals such as Persian cats in the cargo hold• During months with extreme temperatures, avoid flying in the hottest or coldest times of day
  • If your cat has been in the cargo hold, ask to watch them being loaded and unloaded and check them immediately upon having a safe location on arrival

When the plane lands, take your cat to a secured location and check them over carefully for any signs of injury or sickness due to stress or poor conditions.

If you feel something is wrong, take them to a vet as soon as possible using the nearest vet on your checklist, and get their situation documented completely in case you need to take up the issue with the airline later.

Destination Reached! What To Do Now?

You've made it! Now you just need to check into the hotel with your cat and start having fun while traveling with your cat.

cats in hotel

Cats in Hotels​

After you have been traveling with your cat, it will feel like a relief to finally get to a hotel. The first thing you want to do is make sure that you call ahead and verify that the hotel accepts pets, specifically cats, and get the name of the operator who told you that it was okay to bring your cat.

That will come in handy if you hear differently after you arrive at the front lobby with a cat in tow. Be sure to ask if there are any extra fees required to have an animal in the room, and how much those fees are.​

Some people assume that they will just sneak their cat in, but if you are going to be in an unknown city late at night, that’s not the best idea.

If you are caught and have to find another hotel at 10 pm, without any references of where to go, the trip will go downhill fast.

Most towns will have at least one pet-friendly hotel or motel in the area, and a quick online search will usually identify it for you.

That goes for both hotels along the way and hotels at your final destination.

When you arrive at the hotel and check into your room, you will want to look for any cat-sized hazards and find them before your cat does.

That includes holes in the walls, the inside of bathroom cabinets, and spaces behind the beds and nightstand.

Some hotels put out bug poison and mousetraps in their rooms, tucked away in places humans won’t find but cats will, and the last thing you want is for your cat to get into some of those.​

Once you know the place is safe, it is time to help your kitty settle in.

The bathroom is a good place to set up Cat Central: there is very little that a cat can damage if you are gone sightseeing, and the cat is left alone for a few hours, and the tiled floors are easy to clean up if you return to a mess.

Make sure always to have the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Otherwise, your cat will probably bolt if the door is opened and the cleaning crew is inside the room.​

The best place for the litter box is in the bathroom. You can put an old towel or rug underneath to prevent a mess.

The tub then makes for a great cat bed with a few blankets on the bottom.

Keep the food and water apart from the litter box. Finally, it’s best to have bottled water from the same tap or filter you use to fill your cat’s water bowl at home.

That's because some cats will not like the smell of water in another city or state, and their stomach may be sensitive to the changes.

Toys, scratching posts, and other fun distractions are a must if you plan on leaving your cat in the hotel room while you sight-see around the destination.

When nervous, many cats default back to undesirable behaviors like spraying and scratching, so using a diffuser to relax your kitty or providing a particular toy or scratching post for marking instead will give your cat an outlet and not leave you with an extra bill at the end of your stay.

Be sure to spend quality time with your kitty every morning and evening if you will be gone for most of the day to burn energy and help them feel at home.​

Cat on a table in restaurant

Cat-Friendly Restaurants and Establishments​

If you want to know how to travel with a cat in style and not just leave your fur baby in the hotel for the whole day, you can use the internet to find local eateries that are pet-friendly and welcome all family members, both two-legged and four.

While many locations are dog-friendly, it is becoming more and more common to see cats out enjoying the town too. The benefits are two-fold.

Not only will you be able to spend that quality time with your cat, but your cat will not be alone in the hotel, possibly getting into trouble or feeling lost and lonely without you there.

Before you go, however, you will want to make sure that the location does accept cats and that your cat is comfortable with being on a leash or back in the crate during your meal.

As collars are easily slipped out of, and your cat will be far away from any common location, you will want to use a harness instead, just like during the real road trip.

Cat Cafes are a current trend in many cities across the country. They look and have all the menus of a regular coffee shop, but with a bonus for your feline diner, including special menus, drinks, and other cat lovers out on the cafes swapping stories about their fur babies.

Hotel Safety Tips for Your Cat

  • Always call ahead to see if they allow pets and what the requirements are
  • Investigate the room to make sure it is cat-friendly
  • Have the names, addresses and numbers of local vets in case of emergency
  • Talk to the concierge about possible pet sitters if you are going to be gone all day
  • Keep a Health Certificate with you in case the hotel requests vet certification
  • Make sure your cat is up to date on all shots and medications
  • Noises are out! Keep the TV on and have plenty of toys and entertainment so your cat doesn't become bored and make noises which may irritate other guests.
  • Hang your "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door if you are going to be out and leaving the kitty at the hotel
cat travel

With this guide, you will have a better idea of how to travel with a cat in a car, an airplane, and into new places.

Hopefully, you have found these tips for traveling with a cat both enjoyable and informative and will be better prepared when you and your cat take your next trip together.

Do you have any cat travel stories? Let us know what you think in the comments section and feel free to share our article with all the crazy cat people in your life.

Additional Resources:​

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