Travel checklist for holidays with your cat
Sometimes holidays just aren’t right unless the whole family is there, and for some people that includes their pets. Holidays with your cat can be an extremely fun way to bond with your pet, but it's important to make sure you're prepared with a cat travel checklist!
It’s perfectly possible to go on holiday with your cat as long as you prepare well in advance. Travelling with your cat might mean a little extra organisation; as long as everything is sorted in good time, and you know your cat can cope with the journey, you should be fine.
It’s true that cats like their own territory, which is why many owners decide it's best to leave them with a trusted carer – you’ll know what’s best for your own pet. On the other hand, modern pet carriers, pet passports and vaccinations have made it far easier for people to go away with their cats.
If you are planning to go on holiday with your cat, check out our tips for preparation – and get packing!
If you are leaving your cat at home
Before you decide to take your cat on holiday with you, think about leaving them at home. Unlike dogs, your cat is probably quite content to stay at home with their familiar litter box, food bowl and cosy napping spots. For this reason, even though you will miss your cat you might consider leaving them with a pet sitter if you feel cat travelling may be too stressful for either of you.
If your cat has no specific medical needs, you could ask a trusted cat-friendly neighbour, friend or family member to feed them, clean their litter tray, provide food and fresh water and give them some affection and playtime. Alternatively, a professional pet-sitter can care for your cat whilst you are away, or you can leave her at a boarding cattery.
For advice to help you choose what’s best for you and your cat, please see our article about cat sitting and catteries.
Carriers for cat travel
Whether you’re travelling with your cat by train, car, boat or plane, a cat carrier is the most essential accessory. If your cat is put in their new carrier at the last minute, they might react with a lot of anxiety and distress – every cat is different, but many won’t like being made to go in a box when they have the least intention of doing so!
To help your cat get used to their carrier, introduce them to it well in advance. The longer they have to get familiar with it, the happier they will be to stay inside when they begin their journey.
A good way to acclimatise your cat to a carrier is to leave it open on the floor, starting a few days or even weeks before your journey. Soft bedding, yummy catnip treats and familiar scents will make it inviting and pleasant, which should encourage your cat to make themselves at home and view it as a safe space. Airline-type plastic carriers can be disassembled, inviting curious cats to jump in and explore.
Before setting off on holiday with your cat, just remember to check that your carrier adheres to your travel provider’s guidelines – and that your pet is allowed to join you on holiday and your journey!
Consulting your vet before travelling with your cat
In most cases your cat won’t require special medication before travelling; but if you’re unsure, ask your vet for peace of mind. In any case, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet about your cat’s suitability for a long journey, as every pet is different and there may be things that you haven’t considered.
When you’re talking to your vet, consider your cat’s general health and any history of anxiety during confinement or cat travel. If your cat has been unhappy about travelling in the past, you might want to consider whether taking them along on holiday is the best thing you can do. After all, your cat can’t communicate their feelings like you do, so you have to work hard to find out how they feel!
You might also want to think about some of the practical aspects of taking your cat on holiday with you. If your cat takes medication, make sure you have a big enough supply to last the whole trip. If your vet suggests a sedative for their journey to keep them nice and calm, be aware the effects could last longer than the journey; if this is the case, your cat will need somewhere warm and secure to rest until they’ve recovered!
If your vet prescribes your cat medication for the trip, it may be helpful to ask about trialling it in advance, particularly if you are planning to travel long distances. If you know how the medication affects your cat in advance, there is less room for last minute mishaps, which all travellers can do without!
Planning cat travel
While you’re planning your holiday away with your feline friend, you might want to think about the following things. If you can sort everything out in advance, your holiday will be smoother, less stressful, and way more fun – for your cat and for you!
The thought that goes into travelling with your cat doesn’t stop when you arrive at your destination, although by now you’re probably both ready for a bit of a rest! There are just a couple more things to think about, and then your holiday with your cat is ready to begin.
Depending on which country you’re going to, if your cat travels abroad they may need a short period of quarantine. Even if you know they are healthy, it’s a legal requirement in many places – so factor this in to your trip!
When you arrive at your accommodation, your cat will appreciate plenty of time to settle in. Just leave them in their carrier in a quiet place while you unpack, then secure the room and allow her out of the carrier to explore at her own place. Go with your cat if you can, moving between rooms until they’ve all been explored and your cat is comfortable.
Make sure everyone in the family is aware which areas your cat is allowed to access, and that doors and windows to ‘no-go’ rooms are closed. You should also keep the temperature controlled for your cat’s comfort – remember, unlike you they can’t take their fur coat off or put on a warm jumper!
Microchipping your cat is a good idea even if they’re not going travelling with you, but it’s even more important when they’re joining you on holiday. Travelling with your cat poses more risks for getting lost than in your back garden – after all, any curious cat is bound to want to follow that exciting smell or climb through an interesting window!
If you're going overseas under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), microchipping is actually compulsory. Ask your vet for more details, or read about microchipping here.
Cat travel under The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)
You might be interested in The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which is administered by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The scheme lets people take their cats and dogs to some other countries without needing to put them in quarantine, and the same on the way back – which makes things a lot easier for your travelling cat!
To take part in the scheme, you need to book your trip with an approved travel adviser, use an approved route, and ensure that your cat is healthy and fit – they’ll need up-to-date vaccinations and a recent blood test.
Some countries still have additional special conditions, and requirements for different countries change regularly, so before you travel with your cat check with DEFRA to see how you’re affected. You can find information on their website or call the PETS Helpline on 0870 241 1710.
Residents of the Republic of Ireland can find out about travel regulations and requirements here.
Whether your cat is going on an adventure with you or staying safely at home, remember to do whatever’s best for your pet. Even if they do stay behind, imagine how wonderful it will be to come back from an exciting holiday – and be greeted by their loud purr and undivided attention!
If you’d like more information on travelling with your cat or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM.