Traveling With a Cat

We took our cat, Twister, with us to Alaska a few years ago. We were gone a month. She wasn't very happy about being in our camper van that first day, but she adapted fairly quickly. In fact, within the first week, she had moved from under the bunk to the dashboard so she could watch the world go by and bat at the windshield wipers during rain storms.

Our only heart-stopper on the whole trip was the night she escaped from our motel room in Anchorage. We were on a very busy street, it was dark, and she's black. We gave up the search about midnight and tried to sleep and accept the fact that she was gone.

Amazingly, to our great delight and relief, she came back! It was 3 a.m. and suddenly, a cat leaped in through the window we had left open, "just in case." It was Twister! Then we couldn't sleep because we were so happy to see her.

The reason I bring up this anecdote is to make some very important points about traveling with a pet.

Twister had her identification tags on, but we quickly realized they were useless in Anchorage. We wished we had thought to put a "local," temporary tag on her, with our cell phone number, our name, and our motel name. Using sticky labels, a new tag can be made daily to reflect the day's contact information.

Other pointers we learned on this trip include:

  • Use litter pans designed for travel, or, to save money, make your own. Take two shallow pans, fill one with litter box liners pre-filled with 3-4 cups of sand. Throw away one used batch each day. No scooping!
  • Bring a bucket with cleaning supplies: spray bottles of water and cleaning fluid, liquid or powder odor control product, rags or paper towels, scrub brush, bags to use for disposing of things. Make room for a few grooming supplies, too: a brush, waterless shampoo, cotton-tip swabs to clean ears.
  • First aid kit: more cotton-tip swabs, antibiotic ointments (one for eyes, one for superficial cuts or sores), any medications your cat is taking, or may need again, such as antibiotics.
  • Bring the pet's veterinary records. We put Twister's into a 3-ring notebook with each page laminated. If you need to see a vet while traveling, a paper history is invaluable. Records also may be required if you cross state or country lines.
  • Keep a picture of your kitty in the records, too. If she does get lost, you can show her photo. The photo also will prove she's yours if someone tries to keep her.
  • Be sure your pet's vaccinations are up to date!
  • Bring jugs of water from home. Like humans, pets can suffer digestive upsets from drinking "foreign" water.
  • Bring kitty's own bed so she has something from home that smells and feels familiar.
  • Bring toys. After kitty becomes accustomed to the traveling, she will want to play occasionally.
  • Don't forget her pet taxi or crate. It actually is safest to keep her inside the crate while the vehicle is moving. Secure the crate with a seat belt.
  • If you train her to walk on a leash before you go, it will help on stops when she might like to stretch her legs, too.
  • Before you leave, make a list of motels that allow pets so you can plan your itinerary.

Traveling with a pet can be a lot of work, and some people won't bother. But some people feel it's worth it. Just be prepared and things will go smoothly.

Copyright 2006 - 2007 - RJ Peters 
Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat.