Preparing for a Trip - Cat Info Detective

Preparing for a Trip

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Hey all you feline fans! Skye Blake here, moving you forward on your path to traveling with your cat.

Once you’ve determined your buddy has a travelin’ purr-sonality, you need to prepare for the trip.

The main thing to keep in mind is safety, comfort, and a smooth trip with no rude surprises!

paw prints coming in from a distance

Here’s what you need to do…

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides and explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

Training – It’s a Lifesaver!

training camp; preparing for a trip

The best way to start preparing for any trip is to begin immediately with name, carrier, and harness/leash training.

Even if you never go beyond the vet’s office, this is well worth the effort.

Some cats, especially kittens, catch on quickly while others take a few months of patience, treats and calm praise.

cat reaching for food bowl, treats

Go at your cat’s pace…

Vet Visit – Preparing Your Trip Documents!

veterinarian listening to a cat's heart; preparing for a trip

No matter where you’re going, have your cat checked by a vet and given a clean bill of health.

It’s important to have a Certificate of Health, along with a summary of the latest vet visit, extra prescriptions (if needed), and vaccination records.

Your vet’s office can help you get the proper paperwork together.

medical record

Keep them with your other important documents (driver’s license, credit cards, etc.) so they’re easily available to show when required.

You’ll be required to show proof of rabies vaccination and a pet health certificate or pet passport at airport security, hotels, customs, etc.

Here is a good resource for detailed information about pet passports and other traveling needs… “Pet Passport Quarantine Dog Cat Import Rules | PetTravel.com“.

first aid on a teddy bear; prepare for a trip

Since this site covers all pets, be sure the information applies to cats, not just dogs.

Learn about first aid and get a kit together to take with you… just in case!

Find out more at “First Aid for Cats“.

Help Your Cat Have a Calm Trip

sleeping cat - staying calm on a trip

What if your cat’s a Nervous Nelly no matter what you do?

Give her some extra help to be calm and happy while traveling.

Thoughtfully preparing for her needs will help you both have an enjoyable trip.

Tonkinese lounging on side; preparing for a trip

Each option below is a tool to help calm your cat, but not a fix for behavior problems.

Talk to your vet about the options you’d like to use since he’s familiar with your individual cat’s health.

Products and brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

Pheromones

cat rubbing head - leaving pheromones

I’m sure you’re asking, “What are pheromones”?

Pheromones are chemicals that cats secrete. They’re not essential oils, flower essences or medicine.

There are positive and negative pheromones given off by cats when they walk or rub on things.

tuxedo cat with mustache scratching on tree-marking

They have various purposes.

In this case, calming pheromones are useful to help with various behavioral problems.

Find out more about pheromones and how important they are to cats at…

“Feliway Messages”, “Pheromones – What They Are and What They Aren’t”

dark tabby cat lounging on small sofa-sleeping

“Everything You Need to Know About Pheromones”

If your cat will tolerate a collar, there are pheromone collars that are good for traveling. They usually last 30 days.

Calming pheromones are also available as a spray that you can use in the carrier, car, hotel room, or other area that your cat will be in while traveling.

You can find them at pet stores and online at manufacturer websites and suppliers like Chewy, PetSmart, and Amazon.

Flower Essences

flower bed-litter mulch; flower essences; preparing for a trip

Flower essences are another option claimed to be effective in relieving stress in cats, although there’s no scientific evidence to back this claim.

They could be a good option for preparing your cat just before, as well as during, the trip.

blue flowers beside a bottle

Just test them before the trip to see if your cat responds to them the way you want.

You can find them at pet stores and online at manufacturer websites and suppliers like Chewy, PetSmart, and Amazon.

CBD Oil

cat sitting on floor looking at dropper of CBD oil held by woman; preparing for a trip

Some people claim CBD oil works well to calm cats but there’s no scientific evidence yet to confirm this.

CBD use with cats is too new and reliable studies have not yet been completed.

There is, however, a lot of information you should know before trying it with your buddy.

Discover more about CBD at “CBD Oil for Cats – What Is It? Does It Work?

Calming Shirts/Jackets

cat-wearing-blue-jacket-harness

There are products such as “Thundershirt®” that claim to help a cat be calm with gentle pressure wrapped around him.

Reviews show the majority of users have had good results, while others couldn’t get it on their cat or had trouble with the loud sound of Velcro®.

You can find them at pet stores and online at manufacturer websites and suppliers like Chewy, PetSmart, and Amazon.

Products and brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

Sedatives

yellow stethoscope and medicines on pink background; preparing for a trip

If you feel your cat needs something stronger, talk to your vet about sedatives to use during travel time.

Use these drugs carefully and follow dosage instructions precisely. Only your vet will know the proper dosage for cats.

Never give your cat meds from your bathroom cabinet, the internet or the drug store… Cats easily overdose!

Calming Chews

woman feeding cat a treat; preparing for a trip

Chews are usually used as a treat, but if you’re using them for anxiety or other behavioral problems, talk to your vet about it.

It’s important to know exactly what’s in them and that they’re made just for cats.

Dosages, even of “natural” remedies, are different for cats because their bodies process things slower than dogs.

black, white cat holding, chewing stick

Chews also add calories so if you’re kitty is watching her waistline, it’s best to avoid them.

You can find them at pet stores and online at manufacturer websites and suppliers like Chewy, PetSmart, and Amazon.

Products and brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

What If Your Cat Gets Lost on a Trip?

tabby kitten in tree - preparing for a trip - finding if lost

Bet you don’t like thinking about your buddy getting lost (or even stolen).

Nobody does… but preparing for the possibility on a trip is extremely important.

The training you’ve done with your cat will help in situations where she’s frightened or wanders further than she should.

cat sitting in doorway - preparing for a lost cat

But sometimes things happen that are beyond your control.

This is where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

Good news… you have some control over what happens next if you’re suddenly faced with a missing kitty.

tabby kitten in tree

Planning ahead is key!

There are proactive things you can do to maximize your chances of finding your lost cat.

What if something happens to you but nobody knows about your cat? Hmm…

Discover more at “Pet Identification Tags“.

Get a Good Harness & Leash

bengal cat wearing harness, leash walking on wall; preparing for a trip

Not too long ago, it was unheard of to have a harness and leash on a cat.

Now people are finding ways to satisfy their cat’s desire to explore outside while keeping them safe.

A harness and leash help both owner and cat enjoy a good walk together.

tabby cat wearing vest harness; indoor/outdoor cat

They work well for letting your cat explore while keeping him from wandering off and getting into trouble.

A must-have for every ramblin’ feline!

Don’t wait to get your cat used to wearing a harness.

Ginger tabby scratching on a fallen tree

Some will learn quickly, others will take a while, and some are best staying at home.

Start training at least a few months in advance of a trip.

That way you’ll both be well prepared and can enjoy walks together even when at home.

Always use harnesses, not collars to walk with a leash. Pulling on a cat’s collar can crush the bones in the neck!

Discover more at “Pet Identification Tags” and “Leash & Harness Training Your Cat“.

Best Harness for a Trip

tabby cat wearing harness; preparing for a trip

There are three different types of harnesses on the market…

  • H-Harness: A thin strap that goes around both the neck and shoulders
  • Vest: Goes around the chest and shoulders and usually made from nylon or leather
  • Jacket: A vest that’s longer and covers most of the body
cat in field wearing harness-side view

Be sure the harness fits properly so it’s comfortable and escape-proof and test it indoors before attempting any outside walks.

We cats can surprise you with our split-second escape abilities!

Discover more at “What’s the Best Cat Harness and Leash?

Leashes

retractable leash; preparing for a trip

Leashes used with cat harnesses are usually thin, lightweight nylon.

Some people use the small retractable dog leashes to give their cat more freedom to explore further away.

No matter what type of leash you use, you must be in control of it at all times.

hunting tabby cat

Harnesses that come with built-in LED lights and/or GPS attachments are particularly helpful in case your cat escapes.

Whenever you’re traveling, always have your cat either in a closed carrier or harnessed and leashed before you open doors.

Whether it’s a car, truck or RV, an open door is an invitation some cats can’t resist.

Choosing the Right Carrier for Any Trip

cat in carrier with door closed; preparing for a trip

A carrier is vital when preparing for any trip, even a trip to the vet!

Most people don’t consider choosing a carrier for their cat’s comfort and security.

The first thing they think of is finding something easy to carry that’s reasonably priced.

tabby cat in orange soft carrier

In reality, it makes sense to make the cat’s comfort the first priority because it affects her view of the carrier as a negative or positive thing.

After all, she’s the one using it!

There are plenty of options for something you both like.

Discover more at “What Are the Best Cat Carriers?” and “Cat Carriers – Take Your Cat in Style!

Get Your Cat’s Opinion on Litter Boxes & Litter

person cleaning a cat's litter box; preparing for a trip

Litter and litter boxes are two of the most important parts of preparing for a trip with your cat.

Even if you’re on a bike tour, there will be times when your cat is in a car or hotel.

There are disposable and collapsible litter boxes available for traveling with your cat.

Grey tabby cat hanging out in a litter box

Some people like using disposable aluminum roaster pans, but some cats don’t like the sound of their claws scraping on metal.

As with any new litter or box, test it at home before your trip to be sure your cat will use it.

If your cat won’t go anywhere but in her own box, take it with you!

Black cat in litter box

You may be tempted to take something more convenient for you, but if your cat won’t use it, you’ll have big problems!

Never change the type of litter she uses while traveling.

It’s a high risk that she won’t accept new litter and will find other places to go.

That’s the last thing you need to deal with on the road!

scoop with silica litter crystals

Take extra with you in case your destination doesn’t have it available.

Don’t forget a scoop and waste bags!

Discover more at “What Are the Best Types of Cat Litter?” and “What’s the Best Cat Litter Box?“.

Food, Water & Bowls for Your Trip

cat bowl - drawing

How will you provide food and water for your cat while traveling?

This is more important to prepare for than you might think.

Just like you, your cat’s digestive system gets upset when his food and water is changed, especially with the added stress of traveling.

Think “Montezuma’s revenge” for cats!

Let’s find out how to prepare…

Food

cat eating from food bowl - decide what bowls to take on a trip

Prepare for a smooth trip by having plenty of the food she normally eats (and a bit extra just in case…)

The only exception would be if you know for sure the same food is available where you’re going (like Grandma’s house).

Feed on her regular schedule to reduce the chance for digestive upset.

cat eating

Traveling on a full stomach can cause or aggravate motion sickness in a cat.

If possible, feed her a light meal about four hours before leaving.

Make sure she stays hydrated throughout the trip.

cat eating from white bowl/orange paw prints - preparing bowls for a trip

This is easier if she’s eating wet food but offer her extra water as often as you can.

If you cook your cat’s food or feed raw food, take a cooler that will keep it from spoiling. This will only work well for a day trip.

Carefully seal any raw or open food cans in plastic bags or lidded containers so no aroma comes from them.

bear

Bears and other carnivores can smell meat for miles, and you don’t want them crashing your party!

Don’t forget treats for training or emergencies to get her attention!

Discover more about cat nutrition and food at “Cat Food!“.

Plant Nibbling
Ginger, orange tabby cat crouched in grass looking at camera

Cats like to investigate and nibble on plants but are sensitive to various toxic types.

Toxicity can range from mild discomfort in the mouth to kidney failure and death.

When you’re out walking with your cat, no matter where you are, be sure she’s not eating anything unfamiliar.

wheat, green unripened, grass, litter

You don’t need that emergency while traveling!

If your buddy loves to chew grass, consider taking a pot of wheat grass.

Water – The Elixer of Life

cat eating from bowl attached to wall

If you’re preparing for a short trip, bring a jug or bottles of tap, distilled or spring water.

Whatever you use for your cat at home is what you should take, since water can have different tastes.

Make things as normal as possible for her.

Water bottle-glass

Put a couple ice cubes in a bowl to give her water without it spilling everywhere.

Traveling is stressful for you both, so don’t add unnecessary food or water problems.

Preparing for a longer trip requires checking ahead at your destination about the availability of drinkable water.

tabby cat drinking water out of a pan

Ask when you make hotel or other reservations and keep in mind that cats can be picky about the taste of water.

If you’re camping or otherwise doing outdoor adventures, be sure you have plenty of bottled water for both of you.

Discover more about cats and water at “Can Cats Drink Milk?

Bowls

cat bowl - drawing

If your cat will eat out of anything, you may not want to bother bringing special food bowls, although a small one for water is a good idea.

Sturdy paper plates or bowls are a good option since they’re disposable.

You can also use collapsible metal or plastic bowls made for traveling.

graphic of water bowl with paw prints

If your kitty is finicky and will eat only from his special bowl, take it with you.

Make the trip as stress free as possible for your cat and you’ll be happy too!

If your carrier has attached bowls, be sure your cat’s comfortable using them before the trip.

graphic of cat watching fish in bowl

You can find bowls at pet stores and online at manufacturer websites and suppliers like Chewy, PetSmart, and Amazon.

Products and brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

Miscellaneous Items for Your Trip

person driving a car

When preparing for a trip, there are some other things you might consider taking to help your cat be comfortable.

It all depends on your cat, your planned activities and you.

Scratching Post

scratching post graphic

It’s a good idea to have a scratching post or pad along to help satisfy her scratching needs without damaging anything inappropriate (like hotel furniture).

It should be one from home that has her familiar scent, not a new one.

Go with what she prefers, either horizontal or vertical.

If you’re camping or otherwise outdoors with her a lot, you might not need them.

Toys & Beds & Blankets, Oh My!

cat toys - preparing for a trip

Favorite beds, pillows, blankets, towels, and toys are great for keeping a consistent play, eat, and sleep routine, which would help her feel at home and comfortable.

Familiar things that have her scent are very important and make her feel secure.

If you want to buy her new things for the road, let her have them before going so she has time to get her scent on them.

Dark tabby, white kitten in blanket very interested in something

If you’re going camping, discover more about preparing for trips at “Camping With a Cat“.

You can find them at pet stores and online at manufacturer websites and suppliers like Chewy, PetSmart, and Amazon.

Products and brands mentioned on this page are for your information and convenience only… I make no money from them.

Cat-Friendly Mosquito Repellent

mosquito - drawing

Preparing for a trip, especially in summer, includes bug repellent for both you and your cat.

The main pests that bother cats are mosquitos, fleas and ticks, so have your cat’s treatments up to date.

Only use products recommended by your vet for your kitty’s specific needs.

A tick questing from a blade of grass

If you’re the one applying it, be sure you have the correct dosage for your cat’s weight and follow the instructions carefully.

Don’t forget… cats lick their fur, so you don’t want to apply anything that’s toxic if swallowed.

This is why vets apply it between the shoulder blades where cats can’t reach.

drawing of a flea

Any bug repellent you use must be specifically for cats… human, dog only or general pet products can be dangerous on your cat.

Don’t squirt mosquito repellent on your cat. You could easily get it in his eyes and mouth.

Spray it on your hands and apply it carefully according to instructions after discussing it with your vet.

two-yellow-sunflowers-with-clear-glass-bottle - oils, fleas

This is especially important if your cat has allergies.

Cats require different dosage amounts than dogs for everything, including “natural” products.

If you have questions about oils and their safety for cats, go to “What Are Essential Oils?“.

Dark tabby cat scratching his face while standing

In most cases the dosage and concentration of an oil are what determines if it’s toxic for cats.

Be sure you read the directions carefully and check with your vet before using it.

Related Pages of Interest

Jeep traveling on gravel road among wildflowers

As part of preparing for a trip, you’ll need to consider where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

Discover more at “Traveling With a Cat” and “Air Travel With a Cat“.


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

“77 Things to Know Before Getting a Cat”, by Susan M. Ewing, Companion House Books, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018, pp. 178-181

“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. 201-214

“Everything You Need to Know About Pheromones”, Nom Nom Now, Inc.®

“Feliway Messages”, “Pheromones – What They Are and What They Aren’t”, by Jessica, Feline Engineering, October 7, 2018

Pet Passport Quarantine Dog Cat Import Rules”, PetTravel.com

Traveling with a Cat in a Car Long Distances“, by Shane, Cat Expedition

“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

“What Your Cat Wants”, by Francesca Riccomini, Thunder Bay Press, Octopus Publishing Group, San Diego, CA, 2012, pp. 66-67, 88-89

Updated April 20, 2024

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