How to Travel with Your Cat

Traveling with a cat can be stressful.

Traveling with pets can be a daunting thing to consider, and many people avoid trips because of it. There is a lot to think about to travel safely with your cat, but if you do some planning and know what to expect, it can make it easier.

Traveling on a Plane with a Cat

If you are going to take a plane ride with your cat, you'll want to start planning with plenty of time to spare. First, you'll need to find out the regulations regarding incoming cats that the state or country you're visiting has in place.

These regulations change often, so don't assume rules that were in effect last time you traveled will be the same this time.

If you are traveling to another US state, check with the office of the State Veterinarian there to determine what they require your cat to have to come into the state. This might range from simply proof of certain vaccines to blood titers proving your cat is immune to certain things. At a minimum, every cat that flies needs a USDA Health Certificate signed by a veterinarian after a physical examination within ten days of flying.

If you are traveling internationally, things can get even trickier. There may be quarantine times, blood titers, and other things to know about. You can start here to determine what your destination requires: APHIS Website.

Next, you'll need to find out the rules your airline has for traveling with cats. There are two main places in an airplane that pets can travel—in the cabin and in the cargo hold. Traveling in cargo is more dangerous for a cat because of temperature changes and stress.

If your cat is allowed to travel in the cabin, you should arrange for that, and be sure you have the right type and size of cat carrier required by the airline. Also, make sure you have proper identification on your cat at all times, just in case of an escape.

Cats in poor health, especially those that are elderly, have heart or respiratory conditions, or are very young, are at higher risk of suffering adverse health consequences from flying. This could be the result of pressure changes or stress.

Additionally, a cat's temperament should be taken into account before you decide to fly with him. If your cat meows, vomits, urinates, defecates, or paws incessantly while in a cat carrier, you might want to reconsider flying with him.

Traveling in a Car with Your Cat

If you are going in the car with your cat, you will still need a health certificate if you're crossing state or international borders. Your cat should always travel in a secured pet carrier in the car because having a loose cat in the vehicle while it's moving is dangerous for the cat and you.

Keep identification on your cat at all times while traveling in case of an escape.

Never leave your cat unattended in the car because he can dangerously overheat, even in the shade.

If at all possible, refrain from feeding and watering your cat in the car because escapes can happen quickly. Instead, arrange for regular hotel stops at pet-friendly places, so your cat can get out, use the litter box, and eat and drink in a safe, secure room.

If your cat is elderly or has medical conditions, check with your veterinarian about the safety of traveling long distances with him before you begin.

Feliway spray used on the inside of your cat's carrier might help keep him calmer while you travel in the car.

Soft Paws Can Help with Traveling

Cats that are stressed might scratch people or belongings more than calm cats, and traveling is sometimes stressful. Using Soft Paws on your kitty while you travel can decrease the chances that you, someone else, or items at hotels or hosts' homes will be damaged.

Staying Home Might Be Best for Your Cat

If your cat is easily stressed, doesn't like the carrier, or is in frail health, leaving him home while you travel might be better. You can hire someone to come to your home several times a day to feed and play with your kitty.

Be sure to leave clear instructions for your pet sitter on feeding, medicating, and what to do if there's a problem. Leave your veterinarian's contact information, and also let the vet's office know the sitter might bring your cat in and make arrangements in advance for when and how you'll pay.

If possible, have the pet sitter come over a few times before your trip, so your cat can get used to him or her and so you can show the sitter where everything is.

Special Circumstances for Traveling with a Cat

Here are some things that you might need to address when traveling with your cat.

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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.