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.
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”.
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!
Cats Can Be Quite the Paradox
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…
“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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 arrange for a pet sitter to come in daily while you’re gone.
Even better is a house sitter, if possible.
Is Your Cat Ready to Travel?
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.
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?”
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.
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).
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.
Some cats, especially kittens, respond quickly and easily become comfortable, while others take awhile. (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
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.
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.
ASPCA® Meet-Your-Match® feline purr-sonality profiles… Which type is your cat? (check pages 10 & 11)
Purple group: Love Bug, Secret Admirer, and Private Investigator – are much more 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
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 works well.
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.
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. 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…
- Teach a Cat to Come When Called
- Cat Carrier Wars – How to Get Yours to Love It!
- Leash & Harness Training Your Cat
What Mode of Transportation Are You Taking?
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.
What Is Your Destination?
Where are you going? What’s your final destination?
- The vet’s office/emergency clinic? (See more at “What Is Your Travel Destination?“)
- Are you moving? Is it local or long distance? (See more at “Moving With a Cat – An Adventure!“)
- Where will you be staying? Grandma’s house? Hotel? Motel? Hostel? Campground? (See more at “What Is Your Travel Destination?“)
Preparing for a Trip
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“.
Related Pages of Interest
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary. Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are 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. Thus, when I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
(Links given here are for your information only… I make no money from them.)
“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, Companion House Books, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018, pp. 178-181
“A Brief History of Traveling With Cats”, by Jackie Mansky, SmithsonianMag.com, August 14, 2017
“Cat Speak”, by Bash Dibra with Elizabeth Randolph, New American Library, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY, 2001, pp. 208-211, 80-81
“CatWise”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2016, pp. 283-293
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat”, by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D., Alpha Books, Penguin Group (USA), Inc., New York, NY, 2005, pp. 170-1, 201-214
“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, New York, NY, 2020, pp. 296-7
“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, pp. 257-274
“Total Cat Mojo”, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017, pp. 251-253
“What Kind of Harness Does Your Cat Need?“, by China Despain, Adventure Cats™, October 17, 2015
“What Your Cat Wants”, by Francesca Riccomini, Thunder Bay Press, Octopus Publishing Group, San Diego, CA, 2012