Unlike dogs, cats are real homebodies and usually hate being taken away from their familiar territory. So when a trip is necessary, you need to make them feel as secure as possible and ensure that they don’t escape.
Firstly, never travel with your cat loose in the car – it’s not safe and could cause a serious accident. Let’s take a look at the options available to keep your cat secure.
You will need a good cat carrier. There are different types available so think about what you need. Most are just the right size for an average adult cat – enough room for them to be comfortable but still snug enough that they feel secure. But if you have a large cat, get a larger carrier!
A good carrier is sturdy, secure and easily cleaned so avoid the cheap cardboard ones, which fail on all these points.
The cage type carriers are lightweight and you can easily check on your cat. They can feel vulnerable in these though, so have a blanket handy to cover them, leaving one end for them to keep an eye on what’s going on.
Solid plastic carriers are great for making the cat feel more secure but many only have a front opening. This makes it tricky to get an unwilling cat inside –they will suddenly be all legs and you’ll need to turn the basket on its side and lower them in. However, at the other end of the journey they are unlikely to want to come out and trying to get them through this opening is difficult.
Further carrier options
Having the option of two openings is recommended – the front gate is more encouraging for cats to come and go willingly, but the top opening is much easier when you have to get them in or out.
Your vet may even be able to examine them without removing them from this double-doored carrier, helping to keep them calm. It is quite heavy though once the cat is inside, so it isn’t ideal for travelling on foot or on the bus.
There are also now plenty of fabric carriers available, which are nicely lightweight and easy to store.
Just a brief mention here on harnesses and leads for cats. It is possible for some cats to become accustomed to a harness and lead with gentle training, but even if your cat is lead-trained it is still recommended to use a cat carrier when travelling, for safe restraint in an unfamiliar environment.
Line your carrier with newspaper and some light bedding. Bear in mind that this may become soiled so make sure it is washable and that you bring a spare if possible.
Contently and conveniently
Most cats become stressed simply by the sight of the carrier once they’ve seen it before – because they only associate it with unpleasant events. Ideally, your cat will have constant access to the carrier so that they are used to it as a safe place.
If this isn’t possible, try to take it out a few days before the trip so they can get accustomed to it. Prepare the carrier before use by spraying inside with a pheromone spray to help create a calming environment.
Keep your cat inside on the night before your trip. This is so that they are still there the next day at the time you need them.
If possible, avoid feeding them for a few hours before you set off to reduce the risk of car sickness. Use a carrier for each cat you are transporting, as they will not appreciate being in close confinement during a stressful experience.
Place the carrier somewhere secure within the car, ideally on a seat secured with a seatbelt, and certainly not beneath your luggage.
When you put the carrier down anywhere, try to do so on a raised surface, as your cat will feel more secure if they are off the floor.
One final thing before you go…
If you are planning a long journey with your cat, speak to your vet about the best way to manage them during the trip. Your vet will be able to let you know about the Pet Travel Scheme too if you need to travel abroad with your cat.
So, there are many different aspects to consider when travelling with your cat safely but, with a little time and thought, you will be able to spend the majority of your time focusing relaxing with your cat can and enjoying life together!
If travelling with your cat simply isn’t an option, take a look at our cat holiday care article to find out who you can leave your cat with, and where, when travelling.