Traveling with Your Cat


If you’re like most cat lovers, the first thing you think of when planning a trip or vacation is “what about my cat?” Leaving Fluffy home alone doesn't seem quite right. But a bad experience in the car or on a plane can make you both homesick in a hurry. Read on to learn the rules of the road.

Cats on the Go

If you’ve decided to take your cat along, start by making sure your feline friend has proper identification, should he stray or get lost. This means a collar with an ID Tag. Bring along a current photo of your pet should you need to create a "lost" poster. Your next step should be to schedule a visit to the veterinarian. This will ensure your cat is in good enough health to travel and is current on all necessary vaccinations. This is a good time to get an up to date copy of your pet's health records to bring along on your trip. Health records will be required should your pet become ill and have to visit a veterinarian while away from home. These records are also mandatory should you find you must board your pet for some unexpected reason during your travels. Then it’s time to decide how you and your cat are going to get there.

Taking Your Cat on a Plane

Air Travel has become more complex and stressful over the past decade, and not just for humans. Plan well ahead and be prepared to do a good deal of research and comparison shopping before you book a flight for you and your cat. Rules, restrictions and fees can vary dramatically depending on carrier, destination, and time of year.

There are two basic options for the feline passenger: cabin or cargo. Pets weighing fifteen pounds or less (including carrier) can usually go in the cabin, and most cats can squeeze into this category. The carrier, with kitty inside, must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Your cat must stay inside the carrier for the duration of the flight. And don’t try sneaking any extra stowaways, because airlines allow only one cat per passenger. Finally, spots for pets in the cabin are subject to limited availability. You’ll want to confirm that there’s room for your cat on the flight before you commit.

If your cat or cats fail to meet these restrictions, they’ll have to be checked along with baggage into the pressurized cargo hold. Restrictions apply here too, so check with your individual airline.

Here are some questions to consider before you book the flight:

If this all sounds too complicated, there’s a new option. Pet Airways runs charted flights for pets only, aboard private jets with pet-friendly amenities, departing from a growing list of major U.S. airports.

Traveling with Your Cat by Car

Let’s face it. Going by car be a lot less stressful and cheaper than flying for all concerned. If you’re not sure how your cat will do, taking him for a test drive around the neighborhood might give some indication.

For everyone’s safety, cats should always be inside a secure carrier in the back seat when cat_suitcasetraveling in the car, not roaming free or in your lap. This reduces the risk that your cat will distract you while driving, or worse, be injured if the vehicle stops short or is involved in an accident. To make sure that kitty is not feeling stressed it may be a good idea to have someone sitting near the carrier to comfort her and have her bed or a recently worn shirt inside of the carrier to help create the comforts of home.

To help calm your kitty, spray Feliway spray in the carrier before putting her in it. It’s also a good idea to cover the carrier, while some cats may enjoy the view others might feel overwhelmed. Along the way, see if kitty’s preferences change. Never leave your cat alone in the car, even in the shade, even for a moment. Unattended cars can dangerously overheat in a surprisingly short period of time.

As for food and water, resist the temptation to put them in the carrier with your cat. They are likely to spill and make a mess. Your cat may not feel like eating or drinking in strange surroundings anyway. Better to offer her something to eat and drink at the end of the trip once you both settle in. Of course, this only applies if your cat is an adult and in good health. If your cat is very young or very old, diabetic or in kidney failure, or is generally frail, seek veterinary advice before taking your trip.

Don’t forget to pack the necessities (see box), including your cat’s own food, treats, and possibly water from home as a safeguard against tummy troubles. If you’ll be on the road for a while, check out, for pet-friendly restaurants, activities and lodging. And if it’s a big move, you may want to leave it to the professionals. Visit And since emergencies can happen, even away from home, don’t forget a kitty first aid kit.

There’s No Place Like Home for Your Cat

If a “stay-cation” is more up your cat’s alley, there are three main options: boarding, in-home care, or family and friends. As a general rule, cats are strongly attached to their own turf and their own routine. They prefer staying at home. This means enlisting a pet-sitter or trusted friend to care for, play with and feed your feline. If this isn’t possible, or if your cat has special medical needs, boarding is the option.

Your veterinarian knows your cat’s health and temperament and may be able to assist you with recommendations. The following are some online resources for finding suitable professional care for your cat while you’re away:

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
Petsitters International
Sitter City
Boarding Kennels—Pet Care Services Organization

Travel can stress your cat out. Here are some common considerations:

  1. Allow kitty time to decompress and to become acquainted with the new surroundings.
  2. Set up kitties essentials like the litter box, food, water, toys.
  3. Try spraying Feliway around the designated "kitty areas" to help your cat feel more comfortable.
  4. Spend quiet time with kitty talking to her in a calm unstressed voice, to help establish normalcy.

Once you know your feline friend is safe and comfortable, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Heat Stroke and Hypothermia

Essentials for Your Feline First Aid Kit

Car Sickness in Cats

Feliway - A Useful Tool to Help Treat Stress in Cats

Training Your Cat To Use A Pet Carrier

Choosing a Cat Carrier

Reduce Pet Scratching Damage While Traveling

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site. Just Answer is an external service not affiliated with