The Ultimate Cat Travel Checklist
You can usually take your cat on holiday, whether you’re staying at home or going abroad. After all, family holidays wouldn’t be the same without your pet! However, there are a few things that you’ll need to organise in advance, especially if you’re leaving the country.
It’s perfectly possible to go on holiday with your cat as long as you are ready in advance. Taking cats on holiday 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!
How to take cats on holiday
If you’re taking your cat on a holiday in the UK, things couldn’t be easier. If your accommodation is pet-friendly, your cat is microchipped, and you think they’ll happily adapt to their temporary surroundings, you’re ready to go. Cats can travel freely in Europe as long as they are vaccinated against rabies, have been microchipped, and have a valid ‘pet passport’. Most vets will be able to issue pet passports; they contain up-to-date details of your cat’s treatment, so you can prove that they are healthy. If your vet doesn’t issue these, they should be able to recommended one who does. You may also be interested in the Pet Travel Scheme, which can make holidays with cats even easier. Read about this scheme below.
Your airline carrier will need to be alerted that you are bringing at cat with you long in advance; they can tell you what else you need to do in order to get your cat through the airport.
Whether you’re staying in the country or going abroad, you should familiarise yourself with travelling with your cat by plane or car.
Vet check-ups before taking your cat on holiday
In most cases your cat won’t require special medication before going on holiday; 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. 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 holidays with cats
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!
- Before you set off, make sure your accommodation is cat-friendly. Let them know you’re bringing your pet along so things are ready for your cat’s arrival.
- Unless your cat is already familiar with the outdoors where you are going, they will need to be kept inside during your stay. Check that your accommodation is nice and secure.
- Check ahead about appropriate toilet facilities for your cat, and whether there is a secure outdoor space for them to be in – they need to be as comfortable as possible.
- If you are staying in someone’s home or in a small B&B, before travelling with your cat ask about the presence of other animals. Will your cat be alright with other pets around?
- Ensure your cat has everything they need for the first few days of the trip, until you find local supply sources such as food, water, treats, litter boxes and a good supply of litter.
- If possible, take familiar items from home to help your cat settle in well, such as scratching posts, toys and comfy bedding. Like most humans, cats love their home comforts!
- For the journey, take a non-spill water bowl and bottles of fresh water. A hydrated cat is a happier one, and they might need cooling down during the trip.
- Place a suitably sized litter box in your cat’s carrier, allowing separate access to their bedding after they have used it – this will make their environment more clean and comfortable.
- Alternatively, plan to move your cat safely to a separate carrier for toileting every couple of hours, as this will ensure they stay clean and dry.
- However you deal with the litter situation, pack plenty of plastic bags and cleaning equipment to make sure your cat is never caught short!
Arriving on holiday with your cat
The work 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. Going on holiday 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.
Travelling with cats to the EU after Brexit
If you are travelling with your cat to the EU after Brexit, make sure you check the new requirements ahead of time. The official guidance states that you should arrange your pet travel with the vet at least 4 months before your journey. Complete the following steps for a smooth trip abroad:
- Get your cat microchipped if they’re not already
- Ensure your cat’s rabies vaccination is up to date
- After your cat’s rabies vaccination wait 30 days and then return to the vet for a blood test to check if it’s worked
- Wait three months after a successful blood test before travel
- 10 days before you travel, return to the vet for an animal health certificate which includes proof of your cat’s vaccination history, microchipping date and the successful rabies antibody blood test result.
Note: In the event of a no deal Brexit, current EU pet passports issued in the UK will no longer be valid for entry into the EU.
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.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!