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Traveling with a New Cat
By Valerie Trumps
Most new kitten parents are apprehensive about leaving their tiny felines with pet sitters when taking a road trip. So why not take her with you?
Traveling by car is the perfect opportunity to bond with your new kitten while showing her the world. Fellow travelers along the way help to socialize her, and taking care of her needs while traveling creates a strong trust bond. All you need are a few tips to ensure her comfort and make the trip enjoyable for both of you.
Comfort is Key
You like to be comfortable while traveling, and little kitty is no different. Kittens spend a lot of time sleeping, and the motion of the car will lull her into long naps. If you’re driving with a passenger, let your kitty lie on your copilot’s lap* on top of a towel for protection from sharp claws kneading in sleepy bliss.
Solo travelers will need to use a carrier for kitty’s safety, and a cushy blanket in the bottom will keep her cozy. Light, mesh carriers may be torn up in her attempts to escape, so get a hard plastic carrier with peepholes low enough for your kitten to see you while you’re driving. On the other hand, a durable soft sided carrier with a shoulder strap can be easier for taking her with you when you stop for meal or sight-seeing breaks.
Keep her carrier in the front seat, with the seat belt to hold it in place beside you, and offer your fingers through the holes to reassure her that although she is not allowed to roam around in the car, you are still close by.
Kitty Needs Pit Stops, Too
Since she spends most of her time napping while the car is rolling, extra pit stops just for kitty really aren’t necessary. However, stops along the way will take some extra time because you will feed, water, and potty her when you stop for gas or for yourself. Park in a shady spot and put her on the floorboard of the passenger front seat with about a teaspoon of canned food in a small food bowl and an extra bowl of water beside it. New kittens need to use the litter box right after they eat. A plastic shoebox lined with a couple of inches of litter makes a perfect travel litter box for a small kitten.
As soon as she’s finished eating, place her in the box and let her stay there until she’s done with her business; praise her lavishly when she is done. Remove any solid waste to prepare the litter box for your next stop. At the kitten stage, she might be a little messy with her potty practice, so wipe her feet with a wet washcloth or baby wipe to remove any stray litter.
How’s the Weather?
If the timing of your trip is optional, hit the road during the milder weather months, such as in the fall or spring. Doing so will allow you to see the sights along the way without worrying about your kitten getting too hot or cold.
If you must leave the car for more than a few minutes – longer then a gas stop – take the carrier with you. Longer excursions outside of the car should be taken once you’ve gotten a pet-friendly hotel room to stay in while you’re touring.
Do some research on where you’ll stay prior to your trip to avoid crawling under the bed to retrieve your kitty. The ideal cat friendly hotel room will have the bed flush with the floor, with no open space underneath for her to get lost.
Once you’ve checked into your room, let her out of the carrier to explore while keeping a close eye on her. Place her food and water bowls, along with her open carrier, in one corner of the bathroom and her litter box in the extreme opposite corner — cats do not like their potty to be near their food.
When you leave the room for any reason, and also when you go to bed, put her in her carrier in the bathroom with a ticking clock to simulate a heartbeat, i.e. your nearness. While this may seem cruel, her safety is of the utmost importance, and the bathroom is the safest place for her to be while you’re not able to watch her.
Time for Takeoff
Being mindful of these tips should ensure that both you and your kitty have a safe and pleasurable trip together. Establishing this routine early in her life will pave the way for carefree travels with your cat by your side. And that beats worrying about her while you’re away.
*Once your kitten has passed the stage of being a small, sleepy kitten, and has progressed to being a curious, energetic kitten, you must keep her confined to a carrier at all times while the car is in motion. It is an accident in the making to have a cat free in a moving vehicle.