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Transporting and Traveling with Your Cat

Cats are not known for their love of travel.  However, there are times when you need to take your cat someplace -- whether it’s to the vet or on a cross-country move.  In a fire, flood or other disaster, you might have to evacuate your home and take your cat with you.  The following are some pointers for getting your cat from one place to another safely, comfortably and with minimal stress.

Bird's eye view of a highway
ID and Microchipping


Because there is always the risk of a cat escaping and getting lost when being transported, make sure that your cat has a collar with an ID tag showing your name and phone number, and that it is microchippedAll Purrfect Angels cats are microchipped prior to adoption.


Choosing a Cat Carrier


All cat owners should own a sturdy plastic cat carrier.  Except as a last resort, do not use foldable cardboard carriers, as they tend to fall apart.  Plastic carriers are not only rugged, but they can be easily cleaned and sanitized.  For added comfort, line the carrier with a towel or small blanket that can be washed (preferably a favorite blanket that smells familiar), along with pee pads.


Choose a carrier that is large enough to accommodate your cat comfortably.  Standard cat carriers are approximately 19”L x 13”W x 10”H; for a large cat you might want to choose a larger model.  If possible, choose a two-door carrier with doors on the side and top; this will make it easier for you to get your cat in the carrier.


Before placing your cat in the carrier, make sure that the carrier is sound and not damaged.  Most carriers are designed to be taken apart, so check that all nuts, bolts and fasteners are in place and tightened.  Ensure that the door opens and closes easily, and that it locks firmly.  Make sure that the handle is secure; if you have a large cat whose weight could put strain on the handle, carry the carrier with one hand underneath.


Before your trip, let your cat get used to the carrier.  Place the carrier near where the cat spends time, and even place some treats inside to assure the cat that the carrier is not a “bad place.”


Getting a Cat in a Carrier


A docile cat can easily be lifted or guided into a carrier.  However, a more feisty or frightened cat will need more work.  If you think a cat will fight you when being placed in a carrier, try wrapping it in a towel or pillowcase.  You might also need hand and forearm protection such as leather gloves, oven mitts, welder’s gloves or feral animal gloves that protect the arm up to the elbow.  You can also calm your cat with pheromones.  In extreme cases, your vet might prescribe a sedative for your cat, allowing you to handle it more easily.

See how to get a cat in a carrier...

And for more cantankerous cats...

Once the cat is inside the carrier, do not open the carrier door until you are in a safe, secure place.  Opening the door even a crack can allow the cat to jump out and get lost.  If you feel you will need to take your cat out at any point, place the cat in a harness before getting it into the carrier.  Place a towel, sheet or blanket over the carrier; this will help calm your cat, and also keep out drafts and cold air on chilly days.  


Taking Your Cat on Long Trips


If you are taking your cat on a trip lasting for more than a couple of hours, consider getting a portable crate or kennel that can fit a small bed, food, water and a small litter box (a small cardboard box will do in this instance). If your cat is nimble enough, you can place a hammock in the crate to maximize the crate’s floor space.  


On a road trip, stop as little as possible to prevent your vehicle from becoming too hot or too cold for your cat.  Make rest stops brief, and use drive-thrus or pack food to avoid having to take extended meal breaks.  


Additional items you will need to take are:


  • Food and treats

  • Water

  • Spare blankets and towels

  • Pee pads

  • Medications

  • Litter

  • Paperwork showing vaccinations, licenses, etc.

  • Cleanup supplies (paper towels, wipes, etc.)

  • Extra food and water bowls


When booking hotels or other accommodations, make sure that the facilities are pet friendly.  Do not let your cat out of its carrier or cage while in the hotel room.


If you are planning on taking your cat on a long road trip and are not sure how it will react, take a “dry run” to help both you and your cat acclimate to the idea of car travel.  A short trip will not only let you know how your cat will respond to a longer journey, but you’ll learn what you need to consider and take with you when you travel.


Taking Your Cat on a Plane


Before taking your cat on a flight, consult the latest US Dept. of Transportation guidelines as well as your airline’s requirements around pet travel, as regulations can vary based on current conditions such as COVID.  Whenever possible, you should take your cat in the cabin with you, as placing pets in the cargo area can expose them to cold temperatures and low atmospheric pressure.  Overall, plan ahead as much as you can to make sure you don’t run into problems when arriving at the airport.


Additional Resources:


Updated March 14, 2023

DISCLAIMER:  These resources are provided for information purposes only.  Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue makes no warranty as to the performance or availability of these resources, and inclusion of a resource here does not necessarily imply endorsement.  Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue has no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these listed resources.  

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