Travelling with your cat
Most cats aren’t keen on travelling, feeling much safer at home where the world isn’t moving around them. Whether you’re heading to the vet or a little further afield, any journey can be stressful for our feline friends.
With some careful preparation, you can make it easier and safer for you and your cat. Here are some top tips on how to make your necessary outings a positive experience for everyone involved.
What type of carrier is best for travelling with a cat?
Knowing what cat carrier to buy can be difficult since they seem to come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Whatever you choose, the ideal cat carrier should be sturdy, lightweight, secure, ventilated and easy to clean.
Other things to consider when buying a carrier include:
Size – your cat should be able to lay down comfortably in their carrier and adjust as they need to while on the move but snug enough to ensure that they don’t hurt themselves inside.
Opening – cat carriers with a top opening can make visits to the vet easier since the cat doesn’t have to be removed immediately to be examined. When your cat needs to be taken out, you don’t have to worry about reaching in and losing the battle against sharp claws as you just need to lift them out.
Ventilation – make sure any cat carrier you’re considering provides adequate airflow and has ventilation openings on at least two sides. This will allow your cat to keep cool while viewing the world outside the carrier.
Security – make sure all openings have some sort of locking mechanism so that your cat isn’t able to escape.
How to get your cat used to their carrier
Training your cat to get used to their carrier before you have to use it will help ensure that they already feel safe in and around it when it comes to travelling. Here are some steps to take to help your cat become more comfortable with their carrier:
- Make the carrier a part of your home by keeping it out in a room where your cat spends a lot of their time. Place a familiar blanket or bedding inside the carrier so that it smells just like them to help make them feel more secure.
- It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier so it’s important to remain calm, be patient and reward them for any desired behaviours.
- If your cat doesn’t climb inside to explore the carrier within a couple of days, remove the top half if you can and let them use the bottom half as an extra bed for a week before trying it with the lid back on again.
- Once your cat is happy going in and out of the carrier with its lid you can try closing the door for a few seconds at a time. Be sure to offer your cat a few little treats to eat while inside to build on the positive association with the carrier.
- Once they seem comfortable with the door being shut while they’re inside, you can gently lift up the carrier for a few seconds before letting your cat out again.
- From here, you can build up to carrying them carefully around your home while still providing encouragement and treats.
- The next step would be placing the carrier in the car before turning it on and letting the engine run for a few minutes. Do not: put treats in the carrier while in the car in case of choking.
- If your cat is still struggling, you could try placing a blanket or sheet over the carrier to give them privacy. Some cats can find travelling in the carrier less stressful if they feel like they are more concealed.
- Even when you’re not training your cat to use the carrier, try keeping it out and visible at home so that they remember it’s still a great place to be.
Remember: It’s important that your cat travels inside a carrier as leaving them loose in the car puts you at the risk of an accident.
Car travel with cats
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that you should make sure that your cat is suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. Before you head out in the car with your cat there are a few things to consider to ensure they’re still safe, secure and comfortable.
To help reduce the risk of your cat being sick during the journey, try not to feed them for a few hours before you set off.
Inside the carrier
Placing their bedding on top of some old newspaper or a puppy training pad to help make cleaning up after the journey easier for you if your cat has an accident during the journey.
Secure the carrier
Make sure you secure the carrier using a seat belt in a seat where they can’t distract the driver. The back seat is a great option for carriers. Never place a carrier in the boot, under luggage, or on top of the parcel shelf and try to avoid direct sunlight.
Depending on the length of your journey, you can buy water bowls that clip to the inside of your cat’s carrier so that they can keep hydrated while travelling.
Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation around your cat’s carrier so that they’re not too hot or too cold. If it gets too warm in the car, open the window to allow air to flow around the vehicle.
If you need to open the carrier during the journey, make sure that all of the car windows and doors are closed first to prevent your cat from escaping.
Bus or train travel with cats
Travelling on public transport with your cat will be different to going in the car. Here are some tips on making bus or train travel as straightforward as possible with your feline friend.
Always check if the transport company you’re using will accept cats on board before heading out with your cat.
Consider your journey
Where possible, try and reduce the number of connections during your journey to avoid disturbing your cat once they’re settled. Travelling at quieter periods will hopefully mean there will be less noise around the two of you and more chance of getting a good seat.
Where possible, try and find quieter seats for your journey. There are specific carriages that provide quiet spaces, but you should be able to move about freely to find the perfect spot for you and your cat to sit.
Stay close to your cat and make sure they can see you or that they know that you’re nearby. You could try putting something that smells like you near the carrier if there’s a little distance between you.
Important: Keeping the carrier close or in view will help ensure no one can take your cat.
When you get there
When you arrive at your destination, you’re likely to be somewhere unfamiliar to your cat or somewhere they might not want to be (like the vet!) so it’s important not to rush things.
If you can, make sure there is a safe space for your cat and place the carrier here. Organise everything they might need while you’re there and then open the carrier so that they can explore in their own time.
Remember: Never pull your cat out of the basket if you do not have to.
We know that travelling with cats may seem a daunting task but with some preparation and a few deep breaths, your journey will hopefully go as smoothly as possible.