In the Beginning
Cats don’t like to travel. Ask any self-respecting cat if she would like to take a ride and you’ll get a definite answer- with a paw swipe on any part of your body she can reach. Cats are tied to their living space- a house, an apartment, the barn, etc. Unless she was born in a house trailer or a boat, she will not take easily to a moving vehicle.
That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you, her owner and loving friend. She just doesn’t understand why you have to be traveling around all the time. She thinks you should be as content with your home as she is.
Truth of the matter is : your cat probably suffers from motion sickness. When cats look out the window of a moving car, they see a moving world from a static place. That would make almost anyone slightly nauseous. That doesn’t mean that cats can’t travel, it means that if you’re traveling with a cat in the car you just have to work with them.
Planning for the Trip
Before we get too deep into the trip planning, I need to clarify a few things. First, Don’t plan to take your cat on your vacation trip, unless you have no other option. Cats really don’t like to travel, they prefer to say home.
Try to find someone you trust to come over once or twice a day to clean the litter box, put out fresh water and put food down. The other option is to find a good, clean boarding facility for pets. Go check it out first. Plan on boarding your cat with her own bed or favorite “blankie.” Provide enough of her favorite food for the time you will be gone.
Now, back to getting your cat ready to travel, if necessary. This is not going to be easy, but find a harness for your cat and put it on her. Allow yourself some time. If you can, have another person to help you because you can be sure kitty won’t cooperate.
Be sure the harness is snug and your protesting cat can’t wiggle her head or a couple of legs out. She will be lying down with all this activity and she is determined not to get up and stand on her four feet, or walk for that matter. You patiently stand her up and gently pull on the leash to get her to walk. She will immediately flop down on her side while you end up dragging her across the floor.
You will be doing this activity for quite some time. Several days, or several weeks, depending upon how stubborn your cat is. Some cats will never tolerate a harness. In that case she will have to travel in a carrier. Get a carrier that is roomy enough for your cat to turn around in.
Take your cat for short rides in the car. Put her harness on or put her in her carrier and take some short rides. See if she will eventually learn to ride without panic. Make a trip to the veterinarian with your cat. Make sure she is in good health and all her vaccinations are current. The vet can also suggest medication that will keep your cat calm while traveling.
Ready for Travel
Now that you have done everything for travel with the cat, it is now time to get the rest of the family ready for the trip. On the day of departure, pack the cat in the car first. Feed your cat several hours before you put her in the car. Now you can pack out everything else that is needed without trying to keep track of the cat. Keep kitty confined in the back seat of the car in her harness or carrier while the car is moving.
If you were able to teach her to tolerate a harness, you can let her move around in the back seat. Be sure a leash is hooked to her harness, so you can control where she roams. Other things you will need for your cat include a litter box, a bowl for water, a food dish, litter, and her favorite food.
When you pull into a rest stop, let your harnessed cat out. Stay right with her and stay near the car. She is not a dog. You’re not going to take her for a walk.
Show your cat the litter box and a bowl of water. She will probably refuse both and will immediately want back into the safety of the car. If your cat is in a carrier, let her move around loose in the car until you are ready to resume traveling.
Do not be surprised if your cat refuses to use her litter box or drink or eat until you have stopped for the day. Let her get used to her new surroundings before offering her food. Show her where her litter box and water bowl are.
If you are taking your cat on your trip- make it a short trip. Cats just don’t travel well. Now if you must travel because of a job change, preparation for travel is much the same. A lot will depend upon how much time you have to get ready or where you are going. If you are going to a totally different climate, you need to be aware what your cat will need to acclimate herself.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do some advance shopping for the whole family. Find out what grocery stores, what department stores and pharmacies are available. Take extra medications with you that any of the family regularly takes.
If you are going to be on the road for a couple of nights, make reservations at a good motel for the family. Let them know that you have a cat, so that you won’t be turned away.
At the End of the Day
When you reach your destination at the end of each day, take the cat in first. You may want to confine her to an inside room or the bathroom while you unpack the car. When you are in for good, let your cat out to inspect her new digs. She will go over the place with great care. When she finally settles down, feed her and let her settle wherever she wants.
I would love to hear from you. Did I miss anything? Do you have an experience traveling with a cat? you might notice I always refer to cats as of the female gender. It’s because they seem more female in character and actions.