Cats and travel don’t always mix, so sometimes the kindest, and easiest, thing to do is to leave kitty home when you go on vacation. If your cat gets upset easily and is fearful of the unknown, taking her on your travels may make the experience miserable for both of you. Entrusting a cat-loving friend or relative to feed and play with her each day is one option. Sometimes, however, hiring a professional pet sitter or boarding your cat is a better solution.
Cat travel tips
If you do decide to travel with your cat, first ask yourself some questions: Are cats allowed at my destination? How will my cat adjust to certain rules and restrictions imposed by airlines and hotels? Will my cat be happy away from home? If you think your cat may be fine with traveling, here are a few tips to make it go smoothly.
Train your cat for car rides. Cats tend to be creatures of habit, so help your pet adapt to change gradually. Train her to ride in a car by allowing her to sit in the car and become familiar with the surroundings—and with wearing a collar, if she doesn’t usually wear one. A short drive each day, even just around the block, will help her get used to the idea of traveling. If possible, start when your cat is a kitten, and try to make your training runs happy experiences for her. In other words, making your cat’s first car ride a trip to the veterinarian is probably a bad idea.
Limit your cat’s stress. Cats are creatures of habit and changes in environment and routine may make your cat feel intensely insecure. Some cats, especially those who spend all their time indoors, can get very stressed from travel. Tranquilizing or sedating your cat for air travel may be recommended, but you should always seek the advice of a veterinarian before doing so. In deciding whether to fly or drive, flying is faster, but more stressful. Driving takes longer, but it may be far less stressful for you and your cat.
Cats and Pet-Friendly Hotels
Hotel policies regarding cats vary. There are many, many hotels that promote themselves as being pet-friendly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cat-friendly. Sometimes pet-friendly is only referring to dogs. Dogs are more the traveling type. Contact the reservations department in advance to see if your cat will be welcome. Try to find a pet-friendly hotel that doesn’t just allow cats, but welcomes them, or even caters to them.
petcentric tip: Follow the cat show cats. Cats who travel the cat show circuit are frequent guests of hotels. Sometimes, cat shows are actually held in hotel ballrooms. It’s safe to assume that the people who promote cat shows, and who bring their cats to show, are fairly picky about where their cats stay. So, one way to find a good cat-friendly hotel is to find where cat show cats would stay in your destination city. You can google “cat show” and the name of the city, and you’re likely to find a local cat club promoting an upcoming show. If they have an official cat show hotel, voila!
Once you check in, never leave your cat alone in a room. (If a maid were to enter, your cat could become frightened and try to escape.) If you must leave your cat alone in a hotel room, place her in a carrier and post a “do not disturb” sign outside the door.
Boarding Your Cat
After considering your cat’s possible stress level when traveling, you may decide that a boarding facility is your best bet. Begin by asking your veterinarian or a friend for a recommendation. Look for a reputable place that is clean and odor free. Cat boarding facilities have come a long way, and you should expect more than just a cage with food, water and a litter box. Your cat should at least have enough room to walk around and stretch her legs. Better yet, if you can afford it, look for a cat boarding facility that’s more of a Luxury Pet Hotels, where your kitty will be pampered.
Tips for a good cat boarding stay
Polly Theil, of the Avondale Pet Resort in Des Moines, Iowa, recommends bringing your cat’s food from home, as changes in diet can add to the stress of the new situation. (Purina wholeheartedly agrees with this!) Also, bringing bedding your pet is familiar with goes a long way toward making your pet feel more comfortable. In her experience, “It usually takes 24 to 36 hours for cats to get used to new surroundings.”
She also recommends asking some questions to find out how the boarding facility handles unhappy cats, cats who become sick, or cats who refuse to eat. Avondale, for example weighs each cat on arrival and then several more times during the stay to make sure she’s maintaining her weight.