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Should I travel with my cat?

If you plan a vacation away, you may be tempted to bring your feline friend along. But what should you do to prepare for the journey? Our Los Angeles vets share some advice on the best way to travel with a cat in order to have a smooth trip.

How to Plan For a 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 their 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.

How to Prepare Based on the Type of Travel

Depending on your method of transportation and the length of the journey there are different things you will need to consider and prepare for. Below we cover how to travel with a cat by car, how to travel with a cat on a plane, and even on a train or ship. 

How to Travel With Your Cat By Car

Below, we'll discuss some tips on how to travel long distance with a cay by car.

Make Sure That Your Cat Has a Large Enough Carrier

Cats are generally uncomfortable traveling in cars and should be kept in a carrier for their safety and yours. It is important to secure the carrier with a seat belt to keep it from bouncing around and hurting your cat.

Keep The Carrier in the Back Seat of the Car

Even when in a carrier, the deployment of airbags in the front seat can be dangerous for your pet - for this reason, it is best to always keep your cat's carrier restrained in the back seat(s) of your vehicle.

Do Not Allow Your Cat to Stick Their Head Out the Window

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.

If Possible, Bring Someone That Can Help With Cat Care

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.

Ensure That You Bring Litter and Food

If your journey by car is shorter than 6 hours, then your cat will most likely be fine in a standard carrier. If your cat needs to be in their carrier longer than that, you will need a larger accommodation that gives them space for a small litter box. It's a good idea to consult your vet prior to travel for advice on the kind of kennel or carrier best suited to your cat's needs and the journey ahead.

Never Leave Your Cat in the Car Alone

Leaving a cat alone in a car poses a serious health risk. Heat can be dangerous to pets, and what seems like a short time to you could be an eternity to your feline companion. When it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can reach 116 degrees in an hour. On an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside your vehicle can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes. Irreversible organ damage or death is possible after only 30 minutes alone in a vehicle; even if you don't expect to be back in that long, the risk is not worth it.

How to Travel With a Cat By 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.

Cats Are Not Best Suited For Air Travel

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

Taking a Plane Should Be a Last Resort

Because flying is so stressful for cats, we recommend taking an alternative route if possible. Driving is generally preferable to flying, and there may be boarding options available that allow your cat to relax comfortably in a home away from home.

If Possible, Choose an Airline That Allows Cats in the Cabin

Many airlines will let you fly with your cat in the cabin for an additional fee. While most animals flown in airplane cargo areas are safe, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year. Extremely hot or cold temperatures, inadequate ventilation, and rough handling are frequently 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 Inappropriate, Tell Someone

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 You Can Travel With a Cat By Train

Some pets and service animals are allowed on many trains. You must confirm with the railroad whether pets are permitted on your train journey. If they are, the same rules for traveling with a cat in the car apply. Passengers are expected to exercise and feed their cat(s) at station stops.

Traveling With a Cat on a Ship

With the exception of assistance dogs, only a few cruise lines allow pets—and usually only on ocean crossings. Some lines allow pets in private cabins, but most confine them to kennels. Contact your cruise line in advance to learn about its policies and which ships have kennel facilities. If you must use the ship's kennel, make sure it is weatherproof and check on your cat regularly.

When is boarding a cat a better option?

Cats typically do not enjoy traveling, as they can become stressed and anxious in unfamiliar environments. A boarding service is a better option when you are going on a trip that would be too long or stressful for your cat to handle, as it provides a safe and comfortable place for them to stay while you are away. Additionally, boarding services often have staff trained in cat care and can provide necessary amenities such as food, water, and playtime to ensure your cat's well-being during your absence.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you're planning a trip, look no further than Shatto Veterinary Center for your boarding needs! Contact our vets in Los Angeles to book a stay for your cat.

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Shatto Veterinary Center welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Los Angeles companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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