8 Tips For Traveling with a Cat

Jennifer Grota, DVM
By Jennifer Grota, DVM on Dec. 2, 2022

If you are lucky enough to live with a cat, you are most likely aware of their desire for routine with as few surprises as possible. Cats are generally attached to their home environment, where they feel safe and secure. However, it may be necessary to travel with your cat, and there are many things you can do to ensure that it is as pleasant as possible for both of you. Preparation is definitely the key!

Make Sure You Have the Correct Cat Carrier

There are many types of cat carriers available, but an ideal carrier has a front and top opening to give you and your cat options for entry and exit.

It is also nice to be able to remove the top of a hard-sided carrier for a couple of reasons:

  • It offers a less stressful way to remove your cat from the carrier (do not “dump” your cat out of the front opening).

  • You can place a cozy blanket in the bottom of the carrier and place the carrier in a quiet spot in your home with the top off.

  • Allow your cat to check out the carrier before you travel; this can make going into the carrier just another part of your cat’s normal routine.

Get a carrier large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around in. If your cat is a larger breed, such as a Maine Coon, you may need to use a carrier designed for dogs to ensure that it’s big enough. Many cats also like having a blanket draped over the carrier to block out stress-inducing visual stimuli when traveling.

Cat Carrier Travel by Car

If you are traveling by car, try to make sure that the carrier is level in the vehicle, as this will feel more secure to your cat. It is also a good idea to buckle the carrier in the car with a seat belt if possible. Some carriers come with small dishes for food and water. If your trip is going to be several hours long, it is a good idea to offer small amounts of food and water in the carrier.

Cat Carrier Travel by Airplane

If you and your cat are traveling by airplane, a soft carrier with a waterproof bottom is preferred, but more than one entry and exit option should still be available.

You will be required to remove your cat from the carrier to go through TSA security screening, so be sure to have your cat wear a harness that you can attach a leash to, so you can safely hold your cat during this time. Airports can be loud, scary places, and you wouldn’t want your cat to get startled and run off.

 The carrier should not be larger than a typical carry-on bag—17.5 x 12 x 7.5 inches in some cases. Check with your airline for other requirements before you travel.

Chat With Your Veterinarian About Anxious Cats

If you know or suspect that your cat will be anxious during travel, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian well in advance of your trip to discuss options for preventing and treating anxiety. If your cat does not seem anxious, you can still get your veterinarian’s input on whether they recommend a medication or supplement. Your veterinarian will consider your cat’s age, demeanor, and overall health when making such recommendations.

If medication is prescribed, it’s a good idea to try it at home before you travel to make sure your cat tolerates it and does not have any undesirable side effects.

Examples of supplements and medications used for travel anxiety include:

Ensure You Have Cleaning Supplies for Your Cat

Despite your best efforts, accidents may happen when traveling with your cat. Pack some extra blankets or towels in case one gets soiled. It can also be helpful to place a disposable absorbent pad in the bottom of the carrier.

If traveling by car, bring along some paper towels and a cleaner in case you need to clean up urine, stool, or vomit. If you will be flying with your cat, unscented baby wipes or wipes designed for cats will help with any cleanup needed.

Pack Their Own Litterbox if Possible

When going on a road trip, it’s helpful to bring a familiar litterbox and litter from home if you can. Cats are very sensitive to scents, and asking your cat to use a different type of litter or litterbox may lead to accidents on the road or at your destination.

Bring Along Favorite Toys and Blankets

Just like you, your cat will appreciate having some of their favorite items from home when traveling. A favorite blanket or bed, familiar toys, and their own food and treats will make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful for both of you.

Additional Tips

Make sure to ask your veterinarian if your cat needs any vaccinations, bloodwork, or special documentation before you travel. This is especially important if you plan to travel outside of the United States. Requirements imposed by some foreign countries may require several months of advance planning, so do your research.

Whether traveling by car or airplane, take along proof of vaccinations and ask the airline or state/country of destination what other documentation is needed, such as a health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection.

Always be sure your cat has identification in case you get separated. Having your cat microchipped and wearing a collar with an ID tag with your contact information will aid in reuniting you if you become separated.

Remember that traveling with your cat can be quite enjoyable for both of you, with the right preparation.

Featured Image: iStock.com/humonia

Jennifer Grota, DVM


Jennifer Grota, DVM


Dr. Grota decided at an early age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. A native of Indiana, she grew up in a home where animals were...

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