We asked our friend, award-winning author and respected Pet Lifestyle Expert, Sandy Robins to share her best advice for traveling this summer with cats... Take it away, Sandy!
With the travel season around the corner, if you are planning a vacation, now is the time to make arrangements for your pets.
When it comes to cats, most felines are homebodies and don’t really like a change in their domestic situation. So unless you have a reliable family member, friend or licensed pet sitter who can move in and keep them company, or you are comfortable checking them into a pet hotel, its important to make proper plans for them to travel with you too.
When making travel arrangements for feline family members, it’s a good idea to purchase a second carrier so that your cat can differentiate between vacation travel and trips to the vet. Purchase the carrier at least a month in the advance and leave it lying around the house for her to discover on her own. Cats like to be in charge of their territory!
If you are traveling by plane, be sure that the carrier meets your airline’s in-cabin specifications. And, further, be sure to make a reservation. Only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight and you don’t want to arrive to discover that they have filled the pet quota for your flight.
Even if your feline has sniffed out her carrier, traveling in it can be a scary experience because of the movement and the unfamiliar noises both at an airport and on the road. Also, remember vision from inside the carrier is obscured which can make a cat very uncomfortable.
An excellent way of dealing with any travel-induced apprehension would be to put a ThunderShirt on your feline while she is in transit to ease her anxiety and related stress. The ThunderShirt works on the principle mothers have used for centuries of “wearing their babies” in a sling or blanket strapped close to the body so that the baby feels secure and bonded with the parent. Cat behaviorists say that this principle works well with cats too.
But in the same way that the carrier should be left lying around the home for a good few weeks before travel, it’s a good idea to let your cat wear the shirt around the home in advance of the actual excursion. Some cats freeze when any form of clothing is put on them. Start with very short intervals and slowly extend the duration.
Also be sure to give her treats when it’s on so that she associates the garment with something good! The ThunderShirt comes in different sizes. Be sure to size it correctly because although you want the swaddling effect, you certainly don’t want it too tight!
Further, whether you are traveling by plane or car make sure that your cat has access to water at all times. It’s a good idea to freeze a bowl of water in advance of travel so that your cat can lick the ice as it melts. This also prevents spillage inside the carrier. It’s also a good idea to add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to the water bowl to further keep your furry passenger calm. Most veterinarians will recommend this over any kind of tranquilizer as pills can wear off and disorient your pet even more. Not to mention that any travel delays en route will only further exacerbate the problem.
Cats are very clean animals and get stressed if their environment is not clean. So be sure to line her carrier with a puppy pee pad so that if she has an accident, the pad will absorb the mishap and leave the surface of the pad dry. There are also portable litter boxes if you are traveling by road.
Whether you are staying with family or friends or checking into an hotel, it’s a good idea to let your feline wear her ThunderShirt at her destination to further settle her anxiety of being in unfamiliar surroundings. And, if you are traveling to a part of the country that experiences severe thunder storms, once again the shirt will come in handy.
Finally, never leave home without ensuring that your cat is micro chipped, her information registered with the company’s database and also ensure she is wearing a collar with an ID tag with up-to-date information. It’s important to double up because people will look at an ID tag first. But collars can come off. That’s where the microchip will kick in. Remember proper identification is a lost cat’s ticket home.