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When vacation time rolls around, finding someone to care for your cat isn't always possible, and you unexpectedly may find yourself with a cat travel companion!
Unlike dogs, who will jump at the chance for a car ride, cats aren't really interested in joyrides. Their home is their kingdom, and leaving the castle can be stressful. One way to alleviate the stress (on both of you) is to create cat travel checklist — items that will keep your fur baby comfortable, happy and healthy on the road.
The safest way for your kitty to travel, even on short trips, is in a cat carrier. A sturdy carrier not only protects your pet from a possible impact but also deters her from getting tangled up in the driver's feet and the gas and brake pedals. A hard plastic model is a good choice for cat travel, and buckling it in the backseat with a seat belt adds an additional layer of safety. Be sure to face the carrier looking out so your kitty can check out the world around her. If she displays anxiety, place a towel or blanket over the gated door to block her view. Your carrier should be big enough that she can sit and stand comfortably, as well as turn around in, but not so big that she has room to roam. A carrier that is too big could result in her injury if your vehicle is involved in an accident or sudden braking.
Food and Water
Pack your feline friend's favorite cat food in easy-to-access containers. Instead of lugging around a giant bag of dry food, transport the kibble in a clear plastic container. Because your kitty can't drink out of water fountains, bring along bottled water so she has a fresh supply at all times. An inexpensive DIY pet travel bowl is ideal for travel. You can keep a small bowl of food in her container in case she gets hungry, but it's best to start out her food slowly to make sure she won't get sick in the car before giving her normal daily amount. Save the rest for when you reach your destination. Don't forget to bring her favorite cat treats to reward her for being good, and console her when she feels cooped up.
Most cats aren't trained to relieve themselves at a rest stop. Therefore, must-have (but not the most pleasant) items include a cat litter box, fresh litter, and a scoop. Traveling with your cat isn't the time to introduce her to a new type of litter, so use her regular brand in a travel-friendly jug with an easy-to-pour spout. Petfinder suggests stopping every two to three hours for bathroom and water breaks.
If you don't want to haul an extra item in your already-cramped car, your hard plastic cat carrier can be turned into a bed! Bring along your kitty's favorite pillows and blankets to line the carrier bottom so she can snuggle up inside. The familiar smell of her bedding will help her relax. Another option is to remove the top of the carrier, if possible, to give her more space when you're not cruising in the vehicle.
You don't need to bring your entire arsenal of toys when traveling with a cat. Instead, stock up on a few old favorites and add a few new playthings to keep her interest. Because you'll be in such close proximity, avoid noisy, jingling toys. The commotion could drive you a bit crazy. Remember, the key to successful cat travel is happy and stress-free for you, too! It's also a good idea to take some time to play with her when you're stopped so she can get her exercise. Spending all day sedentary in her cat carrier could cause her to act out once you reach your destination. By allowing her to exhaust some of that pent-up energy, she keeps her body healthy and could save you from having to deal with a diva kitty.
It might seem a bit excessive to bring along something for your cat to sharpen her claws on while you're on vacation, but if she is used to getting her scratch on, you would rather it be on her scratch post than on some expensive furniture at the hotel or house you're staying at.
ID and Photos
Before leaving home, confirm that your cat's collar and ID tag are secure. In the event your cat escapes, have recent photos on hand to share with locals as well as on social media. If you make a pit stop somewhere to let your cat out of her carrier to relieve herself make sure that the windows are not down for her to escape.
Veterinarian Contact Information
In today's world with smart phones, this may be something that you can access on the go, but if you reach an area on your trip without a great signal, you will want to be able to contact the veterinarian in case something happens to your cat. It is a good idea to keep your normal veterinarian's contact information with you to call to let them know, but you should also do some research ahead of time to find a vet at your vacation destination. This will make life much less stressful than trying to find a good vet after something has happened to your cat.
If you have multiple cats that you are planning on bringing with you it is best to have separate carriers for them to ride in, even if they are used to spending time together. This, again, will help keep them safe in case of an accident. It can also prevent them from getting tired of one another having to constantly climb over one another to get comfortable.
Using a cat travel checklist to prepare for your trip will ensure you don't forget anything to keep your cat happy and healthy.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.