10 Tips for Taking a Cat on Vacation

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Have you ever traveled with your cat? Although vacationing with dogs is more common, it is increasingly becoming popular to travel with cats. Confident and social cats tend to do best with accompanying their people with them on vacation. With some advanced planning, summer travel with your cat can be a great way to spend quality time together.

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Traveling for fun with your cat

In the past, most cats only traveled when their families were moving or relocating. Increasingly, it is becoming possible to bring cats along on vacations. The vacations that are best for cats are quiet ones where you will be spending most of your time at your hotel. That way, your cat will have quality time with you while you're traveling. Social cats that are very bonded to their people and confident tend to enjoy vacations the most.

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Why bring your cat on a vacation?

If you are going on vacation and are thinking of bringing your cat it's important to consider if the trip will be enjoyable for your cat. Do you have a calm and confident cat? Or is your cat nervous about something new? In the latter situation, your cat might be much more comfortable staying at home with a cat sitter.

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Similarly, if your vacation destination is a theme park or a location where you'll be out exploring all day — that probably isn't an ideal vacation location for your cat. On the other hand, if you're going on a quiet vacation where you'll be spending most of your days relaxing and reading, your cat might enjoy the trip. You know your cat best. You are the most qualified to determine if your cat will enjoy the vacation.

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Find pet-friendly lodging

The first step to bringing your cat on vacation is to find appropriate pet-friendly lodging. If you're going on vacation and will be staying with friends or family, talk honestly with them about if it is safe and appropriate for you to bring your cat along. Make sure that there will be a safe and private place in the home for your cat to be.

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Many hotels are increasingly becoming pet friendly. However, some hotels are only dog-friendly and not cat-friendly hotels. When making your reservation, make sure they know that you are traveling with a cat Be sure to inquire about what their pet fees are. Private rentals of condos and cottages through sites like Airbnb or through individuals can also be a great way to find a comfortable cat-friendly vacation property.

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Kitty supervision and hotels

If you'll be staying in a hotel, arrange your schedule so you don't need to leave your cat alone in the room. Make sure the hotel staff knows your cat is there. Don't allow housekeeping or other staff to enter the room while your cat is loose. This will prevent your cat from getting spooked and darting out the hotel room door.

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Road trips with your cat

If you are taking your cat on a road trip this summer, it's important to plan your route with your cat in mind. One option is to put a large dog-sized carrier in your vehicle with cat beds and a litterbox for your cat to use. Another option is to have your cat in a small cat carrier in the car. In the latter situation, it's important to plan for short drives daily and with time for your cat to get out of their carrier — to explore, stretch their legs, and use their litter box. For both of your safety, it's important for your cat to ride in a carrier while the car is in motion.

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Flying with your cat

When booking your ticket, notify the airline that you will be flying with a cat. Most airlines will have an additional pet fee. The airline will also be able to let you know about any requirements and restrictions they have for cats on board. The airline will specify the dimensions that your cat carrier needs to be. Note that many cat carriers are too large to be allowed under the seat in front of you.

Be sure to also check the airline's requirements for vaccination and other veterinary records you may need to provide to bring your cat aboard.

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Keep your cat's identification updated

The worst-case scenario when traveling with your cat is that you could become separated. Anytime you are traveling with your cat, it's important that they can be properly identified. Before bringing your cat on a trip, they should wear a well-fitted collar with identification tags attached to it. If possible, your cat should also be microchipped, with their information on file with the microchip company. Their information should be kept updated regularly.

Use a cat harness and leash

If you are flying or driving with your cat on vacation, your cat should wear a well-fitted harness and leash — regardless. When flying, you will need to remove your cat from their carrier to be carried through security. A harness and leash can help reduce the risk of your cat squirming out of your arms and getting lost in the airport.

For road trips, a harness and leash are also a must. While it's best for your cat to be in a carrier while you're driving, it's also useful for your cat to wear a harness and leash for introducing them to the place where you are staying.

Bring your cat's vet records

Before leaving on vacation your cat should be seen by a veterinarian. Make sure that your cat is in good health and that your vet doesn't have any concerns about your cat traveling. You'll also want to ensure that your cat is up to date on all vaccines. While traveling, keep a copy of your cat's vet record either printed out or somewhere you can easily access on your phone. Depending on where you are traveling to, you may need to have physical proof that your cat is up to date on their rabies vaccinations. It's also a good idea to make sure your cat has been microchipped.

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Cat supplies to bring on your trip

When going on vacation with your cat, be sure to pack everything you need while you are traveling. Don't count on being able to purchase your cat necessities where you are going — especially specific brands of food. When traveling with your cat, be sure to pack travel water and food bowls, and enough cat food for the trip. You'll also want to bring cat treats and toys as well as a portable litter box and cat litter that your cat is comfortable with. You might also want to bring a cat bed to give your cat a safe place to relax.

Cat proofing your hotel room or rental

When you and your cat reach your travel destination, keep your cat in their carrier or on a leash. Closely check all areas of the hotel room or vacation rental for things that could be hazardous to your cat. This could look like something that the previous guest left behind (like medication), cleaning supplies or any kind of bug or rodent traps. Before letting your cat explore, check for spaces where your cat could get lost, like spaces under bathroom counters, behind furniture, or inside mattresses. Once you have determined that the room is safe, it's a great time to play enrichment games with your cat to help them adjust to the new space.

Bring treats on the go

If the only time your cat has ever been in their carrier or in the car is while going to the vet, then your cat might not be super excited to spend time in their carrier. To help your cat enjoy your vacation, it's helpful to change your cat's relationship with their carrier by using positive reinforcement approaches. Let your cat explore their carrier and pair it with treats, toys, and other rewards. Make your cat's crate comfortable with a bed. Then, make sure to stop and give your cat treats on the drive during your vacation.

Most coffee shops like Starbucks will give out "puppuccinos'' or small cups of whipped cream for free to a pet. Although these are treats for dogs, it's an occasional treat that most cats also enjoy. Just be sure not to give your cat the whole puppuccino, as it could upset their stomach.

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In summary

If you have a highly social cat, you may want to consider bringing them to vacation spots with you. Be sure to pick vacations where you will be able to spend a lot of quiet time with your cat and not expect them to stay alone in the hotel room. Regardless of if you are flying or driving, it's important to pack all the supplies your cat will need to be safe and comfortable while on the trip. Be sure to pick locations that are cat-friendly. Before leaving home, confirm that your cat's vet records are updated.

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