The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care



Although cats do not travel in automobiles with their owners as frequently as dogs do, trips to the veterinarian, to vacation spots, or to new residences are frequent enough that real benefits are gained by accustoming your cat to travel when he or she is young. Not only are cats who become accustomed to car riding and to confinement when young more relaxed when traveling, they often come to enjoy it. Many cats have become seasoned travelers, and some have even learned to go car camping, because of their early training.

Take your cat on frequent short rides at first, then gradually lengthen them. Confine your cat to a carrier (particularly at first) while riding. This gives the cat a secure place of his or her own in which to ride and a portable refuge in strange places (e.g., hotel rooms, veterinarian’s offices).

It also prevents the annoying and sometime dangerous movements of a cat who is uneasy about traveling. Although you may eventually become confident that your cat will cause no problems when traveling, it is best to continue to confine your cat to a carrier while riding to avoid problems that might arise unpredictably and to avoid injury to the cat in case of an accident. At the least, a cat loose in a car should be restrained by a harness and leash.


The following items may help you when traveling with or shipping your cat on commercial carriers:

  1. Airlines require a health certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian for shipping, and other commercial carriers may also require one. Be sure to check with the shipper well before the departure date so you have time to obtain the necessary documents. Each state and foreign country has its own entry requirements for cats. Most states have no special requirements, but check with your veterinarian before traveling to be sure. Individual consulates are the best sources of current information for each foreign country.
  2. Your veterinarian can prescribe safe tranquilizers for your cat if he or she seems particularly apprehensive about strange people and sounds. Some cats react unpredictably to tranquilizers, however, and become extremely wild and excitable. Cats accustomed to a carrier or traveling cage at home before the trip (preferably while young) usually travel well without tranquilization, and this is most desirable. Special arrangements may often be made for a cat to travel with you in the passenger area, so investigate this possibility if you think your cat will travel poorly in baggage.
  3. A traveling crate should be strong, well-ventilated, and have enough room to enable your cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Federal regulations specify which crates are permissible for shipping with commercial carriers. Since they may change from time to time it is best to check with the shipper before purchasing a crate. A towel or other soft and absorbent bedding such as diapers can be placed inside. A small box containing litter and a few familiar toys can be provided but these items are not absolutely necessary and on short trips often result in more mess than they’re worth.
  4. Attach an identification tag to both the crate and the cat, stating the owner’s name, the cat’s name, the home address, and the destination. Also indicate the date and time of last food and water.
  5. Do not feed your cat immediately prior to shipping.
  6. Avoid giving water within about two hours of shipping time unless absolutely necessary (e.g., for health reasons or high environmental temperature).
  7. Do not place food or water bowls loose in the crate. A healthy cat can go twenty-four hours without water, unless the environmental temperature is high, and much longer without food. If the trip is going to take longer than twenty-four hours, if the age and health of the cat or environmental temperature warrants it, be sure special arrangements are made for feeding, watering, and exercise. Cats can be trained to lick water from special bottles that can be attached to shipping crates to be sure water is available at all times.