Pets may not be as hard to travel with as children, but you still need to consider a lot – their food and water supplies, their elimination habits, how they will react to traveling by car or plane, how they’ll respond to strangers, and their general physical and mental comfort. Here’s what you need to know before you and your pet take off for faraway adventures.
1. Can your pet travel? Some cats and dogs are just not made for traveling because of illness, age or temperament, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). In these cases, ask your veterinarian for ways to keep your pet at home (pet sitters or boarding).
2. Make sure your pet is welcome. Just because you think your pet is adorable doesn’t mean everyone else will. If you’re staying in a hotel, motel or campground, make sure it’s pet friendly. If you’re staying with friends or relatives, really make sure they want your pet around, and that they have adequate facilities for your dog or cat. When flying, you must call your airline beforehand and make a reservation for your pet, and be prepared to pay an extra fee.
3. Visit your veterinarian. If you’re taking a lengthy trip, make sure your pet is in good health or has a sufficient supply of medicine if he takes any. Check that all required vaccinations are up-to-date (especially rabies) and request a certificate of veterinary inspection within 10 days prior to travel by air, according to the AVMA. If you plan to travel internationally, find out way in advance (often six or more months prior to traveling) what information, exams, tests and documentation your nation of destination requires for your pet to enter the country. Your veterinarian usually has to sign several certificates attesting to your cat or dog’s health status.
4. Don’t leave home without your pet’s ID information. Make sure your pet is wearing a pet ID card (with your current cell phone number). It’s also crucial to have your veterinarian embed an ID microchip in your pet’s skin, and to test to see that it works. Ask your veterinarian how to register the microchip with national pet-finding organizations. Take along a printed and digital photo of your pet in case he gets lost.
5. Make sure your pet doesn’t get motion sickness. If you’re going to be taking your pet on a long car trip, try out some shorter trips beforehand to see how your pet takes to traveling. A carsick cat or dog is no fun.
6. Get the right pet carrier. This is probably the most important preparation you can make. Your cat or dog will be spending a lot of time in the carrier. If you haven’t changed carriers since your pet grew to adulthood, now is the time to get another one. You need a carrier that is large enough for your pet to be able to stand up in, turn around, lie down completely and sit in. But don’t get a carrier so big that your pet slides around in it too much during travel. Airlines have new regulations regarding pet carriers, so check with your airline before buying a carrier. There are virtually hundreds of carriers on the market, so take some time before your trip to check them out in pet shops.
7. Pack a harness and leash for a cat. This is especially true if you’re flying. When you pass through airport security, you’ll have to take your cat out of the carrier and carry her through the metal detector with you. If your cat is not in a harness and leash, she could easily escape from your arms and into the airport. Enough said.
8. Bring enough of your pet’s food with you. Unless you absolutely know there will be enough of your pet’s regular food at your destination, bring a sufficient amount with you.
9. Bring along a portable litter box for your cat. Many cats “shut down” during travel and can go for long periods of time without having to eliminate. However, if you have time between flights, a portable litter box will be invaluable to allow your cat to relieve himself, and will come in handy if you’ll be moving from one hotel to another during your travel.
10. Get the name of a local veterinarian. The stress of a trip can affect your pet’s physical or mental health. Watch out for eating or elimination problems, or unusual discharge from your pet’s eyes or nose. Having a name of a veterinarian on hand at your destination will save you a lot of time and worry should you need medical advice for your pet.