Cats are often taken on trips for various reasons, for example, to a boarding cattery, on holiday or moving house. However, the most common reason for travel is to visit a veterinary clinic.
Safety is extremely important when transporting your cat. To prevent escape, your cat should always be contained in an appropriate cat carrier (or for long distance travel, a crate). Never consider travelling with your cat lose in a vehicle. See ‘How to choose the right cat carrier’.
Travelling can be stressful for a cat for a variety of reasons. Ensuring your cat is comfortable in its cat carrier within the home will hugely help your cat cope with travelling. can ensure the cat is both safe and stress is minimised. See ‘How to train your cat to use the cat carrier’.
When you do need to travel you may find the following tips helpful:
- Book appointments for scheduled trips (eg, veterinary appointments for preventative health care, checking in at a boarding cattery) at times when the journey will be outside rush hours. The shorter the journey, the less stressed your cat will be.
- Unless told otherwise by your vet, withhold giving your cat a meal for 4-5 hours before the journey to keep the likelihood of vomiting, bowel and bladder activity to a minimum.
- If you are taking more than one cat on the journey provide each cat with its own cat carrier. No matter how friendly they are with each other, being confined in a small space together that they cannot get out of can cause stress.
- Spray the inside of the cat carrier with Feliway® spray 15 minutes before introducing your cat. Use sparingly with one spray in each corner and two on the floor and roof of the carrier. This is a synthetic analogue of naturally occurring cat pheromones secreted from glands in the cheeks and face that provide a message of security and familiarity.
- If your cat has a habit of toileting in the carrier, line it with plastic sheeting or newspaper under the blanket and bring additional bedding for the carrier to be used in the event of a toileting mishap.
- Drape a familiar blanket that is used by your cat over the carrier. This will help reduce the sight of everything outside the vehicle moving quickly, which can scare some cats. Find out what is best for your cat. Some prefer to be fully covered, some prefer partial concealment. Sun blinds can also be used to block out views of outside the vehicle.
- When lifting and carrying the carrier to and from the vehicle, use both hands where possible to keep the carrier stable and not tilted in any direction.
- Where possible (eg, if travelling by cat), secure the carrier on the seat using the seatbelt. The seatbelt can be threaded through the carry handle and if possible, around the front of the carrier. Ensure that the base of the carrier is flat against the seat and not tilted in any direction. A blanket under the carrier can often help to keep it flat.
- Gentle music can help mask the sound of the car engine and external noise but should be without loud sudden noises, eg, classical music is ideal but rock music would not be advisable.
- Talking to your cat occasionally during the journey in a gentle, calm voice may help reassure your cat.
- Ensure that any heating or air-conditioning air vents are not directed at your cat.
- Drive as smoothly as possible with minimal harsh braking or acceleration.
- Do not tag other journeys onto the scheduled journey with your cat (eg, do not do the food shopping on the way home).
- Associate separate elements of travel in the carrier with rewards (eg, food treats, gentle praise). Breaking the process of travel into small achievable goals can help train the cat to cope with the whole process. For example, reward your cat for being calm in the carrier in a stationary car in with the engine off. Only once your cat has mastered this, should you consider switching on the engine and progressing to a moving vehicle.
If you find your cat is sick and/or panicking while travel, speak to your vet. Your cat may be suffering from travel sickness for which your vet can help.