Cat owners are the first to admit that felines can be finicky. It’s lovable sometimes, but if you’re trying to convince your kitty to make your life easier by cooperating with travel plans, you could be in for a nightmarish trip. Fortunately, you can relax because that doesn’t have to be the case, especially when you use some of the following tips and tricks. Whether you’re traveling by car or by plane, you and your cat can be well prepared for your adventure.
Step 1: Prepare
Travel is self-explanatory, right? Not to cats. If you overwhelm your feline companion with several drastic changes at once, you’ll probably experience some seemingly disproportionate difficulty. Cats are creatures of habit, so whatever you do, try to maintain some continuity of their usual routines. To help you think about what your cat is used to, make a list of everything in your house that you keep for your cat. You might be surprised at the amount of supplies, food, bedding, snacks, and toys you’ve accumulated, but keep in mind that this is what your cat knows and expects. Figure out what’s small enough to bring along and plan your packing accordingly, maximizing the number of objects that are familiar to your cat. Some of the important ones might be your cat’s bed or whatever he or she sleeps on most (like pillows, blankets, or a box) and favorite toys. Don’t forget to schedule a trip to the vet so you can update your cat’s shots before you leave.
It’s also helpful to think about what kinds of new cat supplies you might need to buy for your trip. If you don’t have a carrier, you need one right away, and you’ll probably need small spill-proof dishes (preferably with lids), a travel litter pan, and a collar and harness with clearly printed ID tags if you don’t already have them. Even if your cat never goes outside, if you start to travel with him or her, you’ll need to be proactive about restraint and identification in case of escape. You can easily find travel litter pans or boxes at your local pet store, or order them online. There are several different kinds, from disposable ones to collapsible, cleanable, reusable varieties, so you can choose the one that best suits your cat’s needs. Just in case you get a bodily fluid surprise, be sure to include some old towels or a roll of paper towels in your packing plans.
[pullquote]Cats are creatures of habit, so whatever you do, try to maintain some continuity of their usual routines.[/pullquote]
Step 2: Practice
Once you have everything you’ll need for successful travel, evaluate how many new objects you have for the trip. Introduce them to your cat one at a time, leaving at least one day in between new supplies. Let him or her get used to them in the familiar home environment so these new things won’t seem so overwhelming when you travel. You might even try giving your cat food and water from the new travel dishes and using the new litter box or pan a few days before you leave for your trip.
Even if your cat is used to his or her carrier, get it out and leave it in a room your cat frequents so that he or she can stay familiar with it. If you have a new carrier, give your cat at least a week to get accommodated in the carrier. After a few days, place your cat and a few toys inside and secure the carrier for no longer than an hour. Try to stay in the same room for the majority of the time, letting your cat know that you’re there and in control of the situation. Once your cat is used to this, try taking short car trips to let your cat get familiar with the sounds of travel.
Step 3: Perform
When you’re ready to go, make sure you’ve packed everything you and your cat might need. It’s better to be over-prepared than to be stuck trying to find a litter scoop in an airport. Checklists are always a good idea for any type of travel and could make things easier for you and your feline friend. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water for your cat if you’re driving and make sure you purchase one at the airport if you’re flying. If your cat seems upset even after your practice sessions, try talking. This is one thing your cat is used to that you don’t have to think about packing: the sound of your voice. Some cats like music, too, so try turning on the radio if you’re in the car as long as it’s not too loud. Try keeping yourself from getting upset or flustered on your trip, and your cat will be likely to respond positively.
Heather Green is a Christian mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice on online nursing colleges.