How to Travel with Your Cat: Tips to Know Before You Go

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5 min read
5 min read

Updated - Dec 16th, 2021

Are you planning to travel with your cat soon? Sometimes, a pet sitter is impractical, and you just can’t bear to leave your kitty at a kennel. Other times, you’re moving to a new home, or going to stay at a cat-friendly cabin for a few weeks. 

Whatever the reason, we’re here to assure you that travel with your feline friend can be both doable and even fun. Er, mostly. 

Here are our top tips for a safe and happy journey with your cat, no matter your destination.

Travel tips: Road trips with your cat

Generally speaking, car travel is a pet-friendly way to transport your cat. You can always pull over for litter box breaks or cuddles, and it’s easier to help your cat feel calm in a car than other modes of transportation. 

Car rides are safest (for you and your cat) with a secured cat carrier. Putting them in a cat carrier ensures they won’t jump all over you while you’re driving, and you’ll contain any motion sickness symptoms. 

Many carriers can be secured with a seat belt for extra safety. The Pet Gear signature “car seat” carrier, for instance, sports a seat belt loop for easy attachment.

Before the big drive, it’s a good idea to do a few trial runs. Pop your cat into their carrier for a short car ride to the store or just down the block, and get a feel for how they react. Short trips also help acclimate them to the feeling of the car in motion. 

Expect a few loud meows at the beginning, but trust that your cat will eventually settle in. Some cat owners swear by pheromone spray to help their kitties stay calm on the road. Packing familiar items, like toys or blankets, can also help ease their anxiety. 

Travel tips: Flying with your cat

When flying with your cat, you have two choices: bring them into the cabin with you or fly them in pet cargo. 

Keep in mind that many major airlines, such as Delta, Southwest, and United Airlines, have temporarily suspended their pet cargo services. Be sure to check with your airline beforehand to see what your options are.

No matter your selection, an airline-approved pet carrier is key to successful pet travel. When shopping for a carrier, be sure to look for a tag or label that indicates it’s airline-approved. Most popular brands advertise this feature, so to be extra safe, take a look at the airline’s website for their exact on-board pet carrier specifications.

Packing list: Cat travel essentials

When traveling with your cat, be sure to pack these basics:

  • Cat carrier
  • Cat food
  • Health certificate and vaccination records
  • ID tag (even if your cat sports a microchip, a tag printed with your contact information is an essential addition when you travel with them.)

Bonus items:

Any of these extras can help put your cat at ease on travel day.

  • Catnip toy or other favorite toy
  • Cat bed 
  • Familiar blanket: savvy cat owners know that cats need familiar scents to feel comfortable. A favorite blanket tucked into the pet carrier can help with this. 
  • Special cat treats 
  • Pheromone spray for a soothing scent
  • Portable litter box and litter

How do I deal with cat litter when I travel with my cat?

While not necessary in all travel situations, you’ll certainly want a portable litter box for long road trips. Travel litter boxes like this one are leak proof and have a zipper closure to keep everything contained on the road. 

Portable litter boxes also fold up after cleaning for easy packing. Be sure to pack disposable litter to fill the box with, too!

What health records do I need to travel with my cat?

Airlines and pet-friendly hotels will usually ask for an up-to-date health certificate at check-in. This is done to ensure your pet is healthy to travel and they can’t pass any disease or illness onto other pets or people.

Let your vet know that you’re traveling with your cat, and they’ll check your cat’s records to be sure they’re up-to-date on their shots. Get a copy from your vet before you go, and you’ll be all set.

What about cat-friendly hotels?

Oftentimes, pet-friendly hotels are amenable to dogs, but not to cats. So if a hotel is on your itinerary, be sure to double check their pet policy. 

If you find your pet-friendly hotel isn’t as pet-friendly as you thought, don’t fret – there are plenty of cat-friendly gems out there. Loews Hotel chain, for instance, offers gourmet room service for cats and dogs, as well as complimentary water bowls, litter boxes, and litter. Talk about easy!

Arrival: Helping your cat adjust

Lastly, when bringing your cat to a new location, give them time to adjust. Their new surroundings bring a plethora of unusual smells, sounds, and sights. Experts suggest starting small, and then allowing your cat to branch out over time.

For instance, allow your cat out of the carrier in a designated room with the door closed. Unpack their food, litter box, and cat bed, then let them explore in peace. Slowly expand their territory as they demonstrate comfort in their new environment.

If you’re only going to be in a hotel room for a night or two, it’s important to stay close to your cat. Don’t leave them unattended in the room even briefly; this helps prevent unwanted behaviors like spraying, yowling, or scratching up the hotel carpet or bedspread. This is a great time for room service, Netflix, and chill(ing).

What’s more, most pet-friendly hotels require that pets remain accompanied in the rooms. When in doubt, call the hotel to make sure.

Traveling with your cat: You’ve got this

Your cat is a beloved family member, and they can absolutely accompany you on an upcoming trip. Just be sure to pack the essentials, provide for their comfort, and bring along an ounce of patience – there will be plenty of cuddles and love once you arrive.

Safe travels from all of us at Pumpkin!
Irene Keliher

Irene Keliher

Writer, Loving Dog & Cat Mom
Irene is a writer, NEA Fellow, content strategist & former editor at Rover. She's also mom to 2 rescue dogs & 2 vocal cats.
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