UPDATED 7/05/10

Many people travel with their cat, as can be seen by the YouTube videos that depict people taking their cats on hikes, boat trips or bike rides. While it can be fun, it requires a lot of careful planning and consideration of feline and human needs. This guide will help you travel with your cat successfully.

Things you Need to Pack

Just like humans, cats also have a list of items they need to take with them on vacation. In order to keep Fluffy healthy and happy and to prevent problems, she will need the following items:

  •  Veterinary records, including health certificate and proof of vaccination
  •  Cat carrier with absorbent lining
  •  Any medications taken regularly
  •  Contact info for the regular vet
  •  Information about veterinarians in the vacation area
  •  List of accommodations, restaurants and attractions that accept cats
  •  Litter pan and cat litter
  •  Food and water dishes
  •  Cat food
  •  Water
  •  Favorite blanket
  •  Favorite toys, easy to pack like the Cat Tamboo
  •  Collar, cat harness and leash
  •  ID tags

You can also check out catster.com for more things to pack while traveling with your cat.

Travel with Your Cat by Plane

According to the Humane Society, traveling by plane is not safe for cats. It should therefore be done only if it’s absolutely necessary and there are no other alternatives.

Air travel is particularly dangerous for Persians and other cats with brachycephalic or “pushed-in” faces. Their extremely short nasal passages increase their vulnerability to heatstroke and oxygen deprivation. Hairless cats like the Sphynx are more vulnerable to temperature extremes. Such cats should never be sent to the cargo/luggage hold.

Advanced Arrangements

Check the airlines’ guidelines regarding cats on planes while you travel with your cat.  Each airline has their own policies on travel with your cat.  Call the airline directly to make the reservation. Ask if there is space in the cabin for your cat before booking your flight, for many airlines restrict the number of pets allowed in the cabin. Try to get a direct flight if at all possible, for transfers and lay-overs will only add to the cat’s stress and increase the chances of something going wrong.

Ask about the space under the airline seat to make certain your carrier will fit. Also ask about what paper work you will need; many airlines ask for health certificates and/or veterinary records.

Schedule a visit with the vet shortly before the trip to make sure Fluffy is up to date on her shots and you have the needed certificates and records.

Get your cat acclimated to the carrier beforehand. Leave it out and open so Fluffy will get used to it. Feed her in the carrier so she will associate it with good things.

Practice entry and exit from the carrier to make it a routing process, for you will have to take the cat out of the carrier during the security screening.

The Day of Your Flight

Traveling on an empty stomach reduces the chances of nausea and vomiting. Therefore, don’t feed you cat four to six hours before the flight. You should, however, give her small amounts of water. Also, put ice cubes in the carrier’s water tray; a full water dish will only spill and make for an uncomfortable flight. Try to make it as comfortable experience as possible for your furry friend!

The cat’s carrier will have to go through the security screening. You may be able to request a special second screening so you don’t have to take the cat out of the carrier. If not, take your cat out of the carrier and hold her while the carrier goes through the X-ray scanner. Your kitty will have to be leashed so you can keep her under control while you travel with your cat. Meeow!

Pet Carriers

Pet carriers for cats can be hard or soft. The hard ones will be made of plastic and have holes for ventilation, and the soft-sided carriers have metal mesh panels for ventilation. Depending on your airlines policy my personal favorite is the mesh pet carrier if your furry friend is allowed to stay in the same seat as you when you travel with your cat.

The carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you, and it must be large enough to let the cat stand, turn around and lie down in a natural position. The cat must stay in the carrier for the whole flight.

The carrier must be clean, leak-proof and escape-proof. It should have absorbent bedding that is non-toxic and safe for the cat.

Airline Guidelines

Different airlines have different rules about transporting cats. Most airlines will allow only so many animals to be transported in the cabin. Similarly, many airlines have “one carrier per customer” rule, and many have weight restrictions.

Some airlines allow people to check cats as luggage, but many do not. Practically everybody agrees that the cat has to be fully weaned and at least eight weeks old, in order to travel with your cat.

Check out the various policies for some of the more popular airlines below:

Safety Tips

  •  Do not give the cat tranquilizers unless prescribed by their veterinarian. Make very certain the vet knows the cat will be traveling by airplane.
  •  Consider non-medical alternatives for keeping a cat calm like Feliway® pheromones or the Thundershirt® which swaddles the cat like a baby.
  • Clip the cat’s claws beforehand, so they won’t get caught on the carrier’s door, holes or other crevices.
  • When boarding the plane, tell the captain and a flight attendant that you have a cat on board. They may make special arrangements.
  • Try not to fly with your cat during busy times like the holidays, for the staff may be too hurried to handle your pet gently.
  • Attach a travel label to the cat’s carrier that includes contact information like your name, phone number and destination.
  • Keep a current photo of the cat with you, so if the airline does lose her during the flight, the employees will have an easier time searching for her.
  • Once you’ve reached a safe place at your destination, open the carrier to examine your cat. If something seems to be wrong, take her to a veterinarian immediately. Ask the vet to give you the examination results in writing. 

Travel with Your Cat by Car

While traveling by car is generally safer and provides more flexibility, there are still concerns that need to be addressed to make the trip a successful and pleasant one. There are many details to consider while you prepare.

Prepare For the Trip

Consider having your cat microchipped. Microchipping is a quick procedure that can be done at a vet’s office. The veterinarian will use a needle to implant the microchip under the cat’s skin between the shoulder blades. The procedure is about as painful as having blood drawn.

The microchip has a unique number that can be read by a scanner. That number is then matched with information about the cat and their owner. Many shelters and veterinary clinics have scanners, so if a lost cat is brought to them, they can use the microchip to track down their owner.

Take your cat to the vet shortly before leaving. Make certain Fluffy is up to date on all of her needed shots and that you have all of the necessary health certificates and proofs of vaccination when you travel with your cat. This will certainly give you peace of mind while you travel with your cat.

Safety Tips

Cats are generally not comfortable with car rides. It is therefore safer for everybody to keep them in a carrier. Secure the carrier by fastening a seatbelt around it to keep it from bouncing around the car when you travel with your cat. Put the carrier in the back seat. Otherwise, if an airbag deploys, it could injure Fluffy.

Regardless of how cute it looks, don’t let a cat stick her head out of the window. She could get hurt by flying debris, and the cold air forced down her lungs could make her ill.

Take plenty of pit stops to give Fluffy a chance to stretch her legs and go to the bathroom. Make sure she is properly leashed and has a collar and ID tags before letting her out of the car.

Consider bringing a human traveling companion to help with the driving and pet-minding. A human friend can also watch your car and cat when you have to visit a restroom or shop while you travel with your cat.

Never leave a cat in a car unattended when you travel with your cat. A car’s interior can become dangerously hot very quickly, even if it’s mild outside. For example, if the temperature outside is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the car interior can soar up to 116 degrees in an hour. If the outside temperature is 85 degrees, the temperature in the car can reach 102 degrees within ten minutes, even if you leave the windows cracked open. Such temperatures can cause organ damage or death.

Regardless of the temperature, people who leave their cat in a car unattended also risk having it stolen, especially if the cat belongs to a popular or expensive breed. Some pedigreed cats can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Try and keep your cat cool by cracking the windows in the car or providing some relief with air-conditioning.  Also, bring plenty of water to prevent against dehydration.  Factor in how much you need based upon the length of the car trip.

Cats Who Don’t Like Car Rides

Cats are notorious for not liking car rides. In some cases, the problem turns out to be physical: like humans, cats can get car sick. A cat with motion sickness will display the following symptoms when you travel with your cat:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Seemingly unable to move
  • Constant meowing
  • Urinating or defecating
  • Vomiting

This is yet another reason to take the cat to the vet before going on a trip with her. There are several ways to handle car sickness when you travel with your cat. One way is to desensitize Fluffy by taking her on short car rides.

Car sickness can be linked to stress, and getting the cat acclimated to car rides may calm her down enough to reduce her symptoms.

Preparing your cat for stress free travel is a great way to ensure smoother travel.

Ginger is a holistic treatment for nausea, and it can take the form of pills or cookies. Giving it to the cat 30 minutes before the car trip may soothe her stomach. Ask your vet about the appropriate dosage.

Over-the-counter medications like dimenhydrinate and meclizine can also soothe a nervous stomach and reduce nausea and vomiting. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine have a sedative effect, and they also reduce drooling. In severe cases, the veterinarian may prescribe stronger sedatives like acepromazine.

Always consult a veterinarian before giving your cat any kind of medication. They can tell you if the dosage is correct, and they can also warn you if a given medication might have unpleasant side effects.

In other cases, the problem is purely psychological. Many cats hate cat carriers and car rides because they typically experience them during only one situation: a trip to the vet. No self-respecting feline enjoys going to a stranger who manhandles them, gives them shots, and takes their temperature with a rectal thermometer.

In this case, you have to educate Fluffy and teach her that cat carriers and car rides do not always equal “trip to the vet.” The only way to do that is to take her on car rides with some other, more pleasurable destination and get her acclimated before you travel with your cat.

Spraying the interior of the carrier with a pheromone-based product like Feliway® can also help the cat relax while you travel with your cat.

Cats and Car Rentals

Most rental car companies do allow domestic pets in the car. Their main stipulation is that that the car be returned clean with no cat hair. A renter who fails to comply will probably have to pay an extra cleaning fee. To locate car rental agencies that accept cats, go here:

Just for Fun…

Apparently, there are now pockets or hammocks that can be attached to car windows, so the cat can sleep and watch the world go by.

How to find Cat Friendly Hotels?

A growing number of hotels, bed & breakfasts, and other accommodations are accepting cats and other domestic pets. Accommodations range from basic to luxurious. The prudent traveler will do research ahead of time, for there are still places that won’t accept animals at all, while some will accept only dogs. Similarly, some hotels only allow pets to stay on the premises, while others have extra amenities for them.

Hotel Policies

While more and more hotels are forgoing the extra fee for a pet, others still charge, and the price can vary widely. Moreover, different hotels within the same chain can have different pet policies and fees, so call ahead to make certain that a hotel has policies and fees you can accept when you travel with your cat.

Where to Stay

La Quinta Inns. Many La Quinta Inns in the US and Canada accept pets, and the pets can stay for free. No more than two cats are allowed per room, and you have to supply the litter box. Cats are only allowed outside the room if they’re in a carrier or on a leash. Except for authorized service animals, cats are not allowed in the breakfast room, laundry room, fitness center or pool area.    Learn more here.

Loews Hotels. Many Loews Hotels accept pets and allow up to two cats per room. Pet fees, which start at $25 per stay, vary between hotels. Cats cannot be left unattended and should be in a carrier or on a leash when outside the room. Pet-friendly hotels have a “Loews Loves Pets Program” and offer such amenities like a bowl and treats. They provide pet-sitting and pet-walking services and keep a list of nearby pet-friendly businesses. They will also lend scratching posts, litter boxes and cat beds.  Learn more here.

Motel 6. Motel 6 describes itself as “America’s original pet friendly hotel chain.” All cats can stay for free, but no more than two cats are allowed in a room. There are no breed or weight restrictions. Owners need to declare all pets and service animals when they check in. Motel 6 does have a rule that you can’t leave your cat alone in the room.  Learn more here.

Red Roof. All 350+ locations accept pets, but only one “well-behaved family pet” is allowed per room. Cats can stay for free, but you are responsible for any damage it causes. You are also not allowed to leave the cat alone. You also need to inform the front desk when you check in.  Learn more here.

General Hotel and Safety Tips

Even the most placid and easy-going cats will be on edge during a stay in a hotel. It is unfamiliar to them and therefore threatening. Thus, many problems will be caused by a cat’s desire to hide.

Never open the cat carrier outside the hotel room. You may want to do nothing more than give Fluffy a few reassuring chin scratches—but she may decide to bolt.

Once you’re in the hotel room, “cat-proof” it before letting Fluffy out. Block all entrances to unreachable places like under the king-sized hotel bed. Also check for wires and other potentially dangerous items.

The best place for a cat to spend the night is often the bathroom. Leave the carriers in the bathroom, so the cats have the option of staying in a familiar place. Put the litterbox in the tub, so it will be separated from the carriers and food dishes. Don’t worry about being “mean”; Fluffy will probably feel safer and more secure in the smaller space.

The bathroom also has the advantages of not containing anything a cat is likely to destroy, and it is much easier to clean in the bathtub than on a carpet.

Get your cats microchipped, and make sure the information on the microchips is up to date. It doesn’t do anybody any good if the information includes an old phone number you haven’t used in two years.

Deal with any damage your cat causes immediately; don’t wait until checkout.

Where to Find Cat-Friendly Hotels

There are many websites that can help a cat-owner look for the perfect hotel for themselves and Fluffy to stay at while they travel with your cat.

HotelGuides.com has a page devoted to pet-friendly hotels and motels in the US. It also provides a free pet check service in which they will check a hotel’s pet policy for you to make sure you have the most up-to-the-minute policy. They also provide an online reservation form, and advise describing your cat in the “Special Requests” section.  Learn more here

PetsWelcome.com lists bed & breakfasts, cabins, inns, motels and cottages as well as hotels. They also enable you to create a “Passport Account” detailing your needs and preferences and allowing you to save directions and routes. Information about a given hotel is divided by state.  Learn more here.

TripWithPets.com lists 30,000 pet-friendly rental accommodations including hotels, vacation rentals and bed & breakfasts in the United States and Canada. Learn more here.

Alternatives: Shelters, Sitters & Cat Hotels

Temporary Shelters

If you know that Fluffy cat absolutely hates travel, freaks out at strangers and would otherwise be miserable during a trip, your only option is to leave her home. That means making arrangements to have someone look after her.

Many veterinarians offer pet boarding services, and these can range from basic to luxurious. Ask your vet what their boarding services and/or what they recommend. Your friends may also have recommendations. Visit the boarding service beforehand to get a feel for how well it takes care of its charges.

The pet store PetSmart has a PetsHotel program that enables pet owners to track down accommodations for Fluffy or Fido. It also includes a list of requirements like needed shots and list of medications.

Cat Sitters

Cat sitters are another option, and they are usually cheaper than boarding the cat. In many cases, you can have a friend, neighbor or relative look after Fluffy. If they aren’t willing or available, professional sitters might be able to help.

One example of such a service is Fetch! Pet Care that looks after cats and dogs. Clients can choose the type of service they want ranging from 30-minute-long visits to overnight stays. The sitter will feed and water the cat, clean their litter box, and play with them. Fetch! Pet Care operates in 24 states and Washington, DC.

If you are in Pennsylvania make sure you check out the Pet Nanny for pet sitting needs.

PawPals is a great sitter in the Northern Virginia Area

If you are in the Long Island, New York area check out our friends at Love & Care Pet Professionals

Cat Spa/Hotel

If you want the absolute best for your feline friend, consider a cat hotel or cat spa. As might be guessed, a cat hotel is designed to a resemble a high-end boutique hotel or spa resort. The pampered kitties enjoy such amenities as gourmet food, heated floors, “bespoke” climbing trees, flat-screen TVs depicting fish or birds, exercise wheels, and an attentive human staff willing and eager to cater to their feline guests.
Here’s one in the UK: The Ings Luxury Cat Hotel

 Cat Cafés 

cat café, as the name suggests, provides both coffee and an opportunity to cuddle with the resident felines. They appeal to human visitors who are unfortunate enough to live in apartments that don’t permit pets.

Unfortunately, cat cafés usually do not babysit cats. Many of them get their cats from nearby animal shelters and are trying to get them adopted out. Cat cafés choose their cats for their good health and friendliness.

There may be exceptions, though. Many cat cafés post their policies on their website and/or within their building. Look for those policies before asking about letting your cat stay at the café.

Adventures for You and Your Cat

Cat Hikes

A growing trend is the “adventure cat.” Increasing numbers of people take their cats on hikes or on boat rides – and then post the results on Youtube or Instagram. After thinking long and hard about whether your cat has the “right stuff” in terms of temperament to be an “adventure cat,” you need to make the appropriate preparations. The website AdventureCats.org includes some helpful advice on how to train your cat to walk on a leash, how to clicker train them, and how to safely take them on walks in urban areas.

AdventureCats strongly stresses that a hiking cat needs to have a properly fitting harness and leash. She should also have a collar with ID. Ideally, Fluffy should also be microchipped. The website also advises people to start small and take things slowly: Let Fluffy get used to wearing the harness, then the leash, then walk her around a bit while still indoors, and then take her outside for a brief stroll.

After properly training Fluffy to walk on a leash, you now need a place to take her. If you need to drive her to a park or something, she should be kept in a carrier or specially designed backpack. You also need a place to take her. PetFriendlyTravel.com keeps lists of national, state, county and city parks that welcome pets.

Each park has its own pet policy, so you should check that policy first, for some parks may allow only dogs. Many parks regulate leash length; they typically say that the leash can’t be any longer than six feet. Many parks will also have rules about where pets can and can’t go. For example, pets are usually not allowed in many of the buildings.

PetFriendlyTravel also lists beaches, campgrounds and shopping malls that accept pets. Pets like adventure too just check out this adventure in Europewith great tips

Around the World

There are many places to travel in the world, check out some of the local information regarding bringing your pet across borders. For information on exploring Indonesia or moving to Thailand with your cat or other parts of the world let us know so we can share.

More information

Here are few more things to keep in mind to make sure both you and Fluffy have a safe and enjoyable vacation.

Keep a Routine

Cats are creatures of habit and therefore do not always do well with changes. Traveling can make sticking to a routine difficult, but you should still try to provide your cat with regular meal times.

Sticking as close as possible to meal times back home will help keep Fluffy happy. Similarly, try to get her the same sort of food she gets back home. If you do have to make changes, introduce them gradually.


Look up vet clinics and other emergency services before you go on your trip. That way, if something does happen, you will at least know where to take Fluffy for help.

Be Responsible

If you’re taking your “adventure cat” to the great outdoors, follow this guide for doing so in a way that minimizes your environmental impact.

Have Fun!

Many people view cats as part of their family and therefore want to include them in all aspects of their lives. That includes taking them on their vacations. It can take more preparation and work, but there are definitely ways to take a cat along on a vacation and make certain everybody has a good time.

Finally, if you are thinking of taking an ocean voyage with your furry buddy check this out!