Top titbits for safe and happy travel with your cat

Most countries that expats travel to and from have laws to ensure owners take care of and protect their pets during flights, train journeys, boat crossings and car journeys. Here are some cat-charity tips to ensure travel with your cat is safe, secure and legal too.

Tabby cat loking out of a travel basket
Cats generally prefer small spaces to travel in, not large crates

If you’re a cat owner and a cat lover you’ll probably already know that it’s International Cat Day! It’s a celebration that was created in 2002 by various animal welfare groups including the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The global cat population is estimated to be between 300 and 600 million. Some sources say cats are the most popular pet in the world, while others say dogs are. So, I think we’ll just have to agree that both are very important to a huge number of people!

If you’re one of the many millions of people who own a cat chances are you’ll have to travel with him or her at some point in their lives, even if it’s only to the vet. Before travelling across an international border make sure you have completed all the legal requirements for taking your pet abroad. For example, you must ensure your moggy receives proper vaccinations and, for many countries, has an identification microchip implanted before your move date.

The UK’s main animal protection charity, the RSPCA, provides the following general points to ensure your cat travels safely and arrives in a healthy condition:

• Travel during the coolest part of the day and when it is less busy e.g. leave first thing in the morning or later at night
• Always make sure your cat is secure and that they cannot escape
• Make sure your cat is comfortable and has enough water
• Make sure that there is enough ventilation for your cat, but always take great care to ensure your pet cannot escape from his/her carrier.

Man with his tabby cat on his shoulder
Some cats will go walkies on a lead but not many, so you need to keep cats inside until they are sure of their new territory

The charity International Cat Care has the best cat-specific guidance for travel with cats that I have found in an extensive online search:

“If you wish to take your cat on a train/car or air journey you will have to ensure it is safely and comfortably secure in an appropriate carrier and is kept confined at the end of the journey, at least until it has become bonded to the new territory. The rewards of staying with the family ‘pack’ or the potential of exploring or walking somewhere new at the end of the journey do not excite the average feline in the same way as its canine cousins.”

Here are 12 of International Cat Care’s excellent tips for stress-free travel with your cat:

1. Ensure that your cat flap is shut, if you have one, the night before and remains shut on the morning of your journey.
2. If you are taking more than one cat on the journey provide each cat with its own basket, no matter how friendly they are with each other.
3. Plan scheduled vet trips for vaccinations, dental treatments and preventative health care by making an appointment at a time when the journey will be outside the rush hour.
4. Unless told otherwise by your vet, withhold food for 4-5 hours before the journey to keep the likelihood of vomiting, bowel and bladder activity to a minimum.
5. The lining of plastic sheeting, newspaper and then a towel or washable blanket will be sufficient to deal with any toilet mishaps en route, however it is probably wise to take a spare set and a plastic bag for soiled bedding just in case.

Kitten inside a box mewing
I like little, cosy places

6. In addition to the bedding inside the carrier, take a towel or blanket with you on the journey that smells reassuringly of home. This can be used to drape over the basket in the car. If your destination is the surgery, your vet may wish to use it to surround your cat with the security of home during the examination.
7. If your cat panics at the sight of the carrier try to get it in safely and gently at the first attempt. Have the carrier close by but out of sight. Wrap your cat in a thick towel (preferably one that smells familiar) and place the cat and the towel into the carrier quickly.
8. Once you are in the car and before you start the engine, secure the carrier on the seat using the seat belt. Ensure that the basket is upright and not tilted to one side.
9. Turn the car radio off or reduce the volume and use a gentle, calm voice to occasionally reassure your cat.
10. Ensure that any heating or air-con blowers are not directed at your cat.
11. Drive as smoothly as possible with minimal harsh braking or acceleration.
12. When you arrive, transport the carrier in an upright position and try not to swing it or bang it against doorways or your legs.


International Cat Care’s ‘How to choose and use a cat carrier’.

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