You & Your Traveling Cat - Cat Info Detective

You & Your Traveling Cat

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

Hey world travelers! Skye Blake here, reporting on something most people would think is impossible… traveling with your cat!

This idea is getting more popular because many people love outdoor adventures and want to share them with their cats.

paw prints coming in from a distance

Traveling With My Cat… Really?

You’ve probably seen the videos of a cat riding on the shoulders of a bicyclist going around Europe.

Or a swimming cat who likes to be in the lake with his owner.

You think “my cat would never do that”.

man biking with cat on shoulders

But you’d be surprised… cats can be trained if you’re willing to be patient and consistently put in the work.

Sometimes it doesn’t even take very long!

oriental cat in carrier

Cats Can Be Quite the Paradox

Long haired ginger sleepy cat

There are a few beliefs about us cats that seem to be generally true.

Yet, as with all things “cat”, there are exceptions to every “rule”.

Individuality is a trademark in the feline world! We love to keep you guessing!

A few exceptions to the rule are…

cat wearing glasses

“Cats hate change” = many cats hate change, but some love adventure and new sights, sounds and smells.

Others can be trained to accept it.

“Cats hate carriers” = cats hate carriers because they’re only in them when bad things happen.

kitten emerging from front of hard cat carrier

BUT they can learn to see carriers as safe, secure, happy places (with your help).

“Cats hate wearing a harness” = some cats hate anything on their body, while others want to be outside and are fine in a harness and leash with positive association training.

Plan Ahead!

map of North America with car

When planning a trip anywhere, start well ahead of time so you can avoid unpleasant surprises.

Traveling is not when you want to find out your cat isn’t allowed where you’re going or that he gets motion sickness.

tuxedo cat pulling on leash

If you need to train your cat for traveling, start at least a couple months in advance… the more time you give it the better.

The more comfortable your cat is, the happier your travels will be.

Distance, length of time, and mode of transportation are big considerations when planning a trip, especially when taking your cat.

man biking with cat on shoulders

The basics you need to know are the same no matter how you’re traveling, but there are important differences as well.

For example, you’ll need a different carrier for a bicycle trip than a car trip.

If you’re boating, you must be sure to have a well-fitting life vest for your sea-faring buddy.

cat lounging in a car

Certain questions need to be answered before you can travel in order to be happy with the results.

Once you’ve answered them, you’ll be better able to determine what type of travel (if any) your cat will tolerate or even enjoy.

Balinese cat sniffing a finger (wearing a collar)

If you don’t want to or don’t have time to properly condition and train your cat to be comfortable with the new sights, sounds, and smells of travel, it’s best to have a pet sitter to come in daily while you’re gone.

A house sitter is even better, if possible.

Is Your Cat Ready to Travel?

cat in carrier- hard plastic

Generally, if your cat is skittish and shy, she’ll probably be happiest at home with someone coming in to care for her.

Gregarious, friendly, calm cats will be more accepting of the change involved in traveling.

Even with a calm purr-sonality, many cats hate change and might not want to travel.

Sherpa backpack carrier

They can, however, be taught to understand that changes aren’t threatening.

They feel threatened because cats are prey as well as predator animals, so they’re always concerned about whether new places are safe.

Find out more about how they see the world at “Cat Behavior…Is My Cat Nuts?

Ginger tabby lounging in a cage

Every cat should be trained, using positive association like treats and praise, to be comfortable in a carrier and get used to the motion, smells, and noise of a car.

They should also be trained to come when called by name and wear a harness and leash.

It’s a necessary part of being a responsible cat owner, since all cats need to have vet wellness checks yearly (twice a year for older cats).

cat sniffing a finger

If your cat is happy getting in the carrier it’s so much easier to get to the vet.

And when an emergency arises, your ability to get him in a carrier easily can be the difference between life and death!

It takes patience and willingness on your part to work on it every day.

kitten emerging from front of hard cat carrier

Some cats, especially kittens, respond quickly and easily become comfortable, while others take time (remember that feline individuality).

It’s all based on how the cat views the carrier and how consistent, patient, and calm you are during training.

Fortunately, 10 minutes or so a day is all it takes to make a good start.

Find out more at “Cat Carrier Wars – How to Get Yours to Love It!

How to Know If Your Cat Has a Travelin’ Purr-sonality

cat carrying luggage on back

A good way to figure out if your cat’s a traveler, is with the ASPCA® Meet-Your-Match® feline purr-sonality profiles (pages 10 & 11).

As with all else “cat”, these profiles are generally true but there are exceptions.

The ASPCA® uses them to help shelters match adopters with the best cat for them.

Maine Coon cat - ginger, standing on log

There are three color groups of purr-sonality profiles (purple, orange, and green) with three feline types in each group.

The types are based on how a cat responds to new experiences, how much a cat likes to be held and petted, and how playful it is.

Specific breeds have general characteristics, but individual purr-sonality and experiences of each cat are the main factors included here.

bengal-cat-spotted

ASPCA® Meet-Your-Match® feline purr-sonality profilesWhich type is your cat? (check pages 10 & 11)

Purple group: Love Bug, Secret Admirer, and Private Investigator – are only comfortable at home in their safe place and generally aren’t interested in the great outdoors.

It can be very upsetting for them to be taken out, although you should work patiently to teach them to get in the carrier and be calm in the car for vet trips (see “Cat Carrier Wars – How to Get Yours to Love It!“).

Orange group: Personal Assistant, Sidekick, The Executive – are more confident and willing to brave the great outdoors than the purple group, but some individuals may prefer short car trips and the home life to big adventures.

Green group: Leader of the Band, Party Animal, MVP – are very confident, want to go outside and explore, and easily adapt to new situations. They’re more likely to accept a harness and leash.

Steps to Take In Determining Your Cat’s Travel Tolerance

person driving car

Analyze your cat’s behavior in comparison to these purr-sonalities.

If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, a door dasher, a bird and bug obsessive, or a cat who’s constantly meowing to go outside, there’s already an interest in the outside world… a good candidate.

The younger the cat, the easier they’ll take to new places, so starting as a kitten is a good idea.

Tabby cat paws crossed

Senior cats might be fine with short trips, but not long adventures, unless they’re used to them.

Declawed cats might not be secure with the motion of traveling since they can’t grab with their front claws.

You’ll have to test that while training for carrier travel.

bengal cat walking-harness, leash

It’s not a good idea to take declawed cats on camping or wilderness adventures since they’re missing the claws they use for defense and balance.

If you believe your cat is a good candidate for traveling, the first thing to do is work on name, carrier and harness/leash training.

That will tell you whether or not your buddy will accept wearing a harness.

woman walking cat on retractable leash/harness

Many cats don’t take to it at first but adapt pretty quickly, so don’t give up on the first try. Here’s how…

What Mode of Transportation Are You Taking?

airplane climbing into clouds-travel

There are many methods of traveling and you may need to use more than one on your trip.

Whether you’re traveling by land, air, or sea, you’ll need to know well ahead of time what you need for your cat to travel with you.

Discover more at “What Mode of Transportation Are You Using?

What Is Your Destination?

Mobile camper at night

Where are you going? What’s your final destination?

Preparing for a Trip

Kermit & Siamese cat in suitcase

Once you’ve determined you have a travelin’ cat, you need to prepare properly for a smooth, enjoyable trip.

Find out what preparations are important at “Preparing For a Trip“.


Preparing For a TripCamping With a Cat
Moving With a Cat…An Adventure!What Mode of Transportation Are You Using?
Air Travel With a CatWhat Is Your Travel Destination?
Teach a Cat to Come When CalledLeash & Harness Training Your Cat
Cat Carrier Wars – How to Get Yours to Love It!What Are the Best Cat Carriers?
Biking With Your CatFirst Aid for Cats
What’s the Best Cat Harness and Leash?Cat Carriers…Take Your Cat In Style!

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Disclosure

I make a small commission on some of the sources listed below if you choose to purchase them from here.

Some products listed link to companies that sell them, whether or not I make any money.

“10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR CAMPING WITH A CAT”, by Becca Monahan, Tent Report, June 4, 2019

77 Things to Know Before Getting a Cat“, by Susan M. Ewing, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018

A-K

Cat Speak“, by Bash Dibra with Elizabeth Randolph, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY, 2003

The Cat Whisperer“, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York, NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

Cat Wise“, Pam Johnson-Bennett, Penguin Books, an imprint of Random House LLC, New York, NY, 2016

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat“, by Sheila Webster Boneham, PhD, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY, 2005

Decoding Your Cat” by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, editors: Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB; Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, DACVB; Carlo Siracusa, DVM, PhD, DACVB, DECAWBM, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, NY, 2020

L-Z

Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss“, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011

Total Cat Mojo” by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017

“What Your Cat Wants”, by Francesca Riccomini, Thunder Bay Press, Octopus Publishing Group, San Diego, CA, 2012, www.thunderbaybooks.com

Updated July 10, 2022

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