Chris Kouwenhoven

Travelling with kitty

By car

Most cats adapt well to riding in the car if they are already comfortable with their cat carrier. The carrier should be sturdy and roomy enough to allow the cat to stand up and turn around. Long before your departure date put the carrier in one of Kitty's favorite sleeping spots. (The doors on most pet taxis can be removed for use in the home.) Line the bottom with a something he has already slept on or use a piece of your clothing that has been worn, but not washed. From time to time place a food treat in the carrier. If this doesn't entice Kitty to enter, you will have to resort to feeding him his regular food in it for awhile

For the safety of your cat and you, don't ever consider letting him roam freely in the car while you drive. He could be thrown against the inside of the car in the event of a quick stop or he could distract the driver and cause a serious traffic accident. Kitty might feel more secure and consequently, ride more quietly, if you cover his crate with a towel while the car is in motion. You might have to experiment to see what works the best.

Before you leave home encourage Kitty to use the litterbox by pouring fresh litter into his box. Some cats that are not used to riding in the car eliminate in their carriers 10-20 minutes into the trip. If you think this is a possibility, buy some "puppy pads", absorbent, disposable pads (similar to disposable diapers) and line the bottom of the crate with them. In case of an "accident", the clean up will be easy.

Your cat can go as long as you can without stretching his legs. After you stop, put on his leash for safety before you let him out into the car and offer him water and a litter break. Many cats have been lost at rest areas when the owners stopped for a break, by scooting out the door or through a crack in the window. His collar should be equipped with an identification tag containing the telephone number of someone who could be reached while you are on the road. It is also a good idea to carry an up-to-date photo of your cat for the purpose of making "lost cat" flyers in case the unthinkable happens.

Cats for Dummies by Gina Spadafori and Paul Pion, DVM has many useful tips for traveling, among them are the following:

Never leave your cat unattended in a car--if the heat doesn't get him, a thief may. If you're traveling with your cat, your meals are mostly going to be of the drive-through variety. If you absolutely must leave your cat in the car--for your bathroom break, for example--park in the shade, roll the windows down a little, and be quick--and we mean five minutes. Even better, take your cat and his carrier in the stall with you. He has seen you there before; he's not going to be shocked. If you want to kick around for a while, shopping and sightseeing, and still make sure your cat is safe, look up a local veterinarian in the phone book and see whether you can make arrangements for a few hour's boarding...Most veterinarians are very amenable to helping out usually at a very reasonable cost. You can also leave your pet in your motel room--but always in a crate for safety.

Staying in motels

When packing your bags for your trip, remember to pack one for Kitty. It is important for him to have his food and water dishes, as well as litterbox and filler--the same ones he uses at home. The familiar will help him orient himself in an unfamiliar place. These items also carry his own signature scent--very reassuring for a kitty away from home. He will also need his regular food rations and a bottle of water. (The water from other areas can taste very different.) Don't forget a few special food treats and toys, including a fishing pole cat toy. When traveling with a pet, it is always a good idea to pack some paper towels and a general-purpose cleaner. For litterbox clean-up remember to bring sealable plastic bags and a scoop.

Once you arrive at your lodging for the night and have brought in your luggage as well as Kitty in his carrier, don't let him out until you have set up his litterbox. (He may feel the need to use it soon after exiting his crate.) Next, set out his food and water and include something particularly delicious to help him feel good about his temporary "home away from home". He may not eat until later in the night or even the next morning, but his sense of well-being will be reinforced just by having it available.

Be considerate of the housekeeping services in the motel. Your cat's stay there may determine how welcome or unwelcome other companion pets will be at this establishment in the future. If your cat sleeps with you, take along a used sheet or a favorite blanket for him from home. This will help to settle him as well as to keep his fur off the motel's bedding. Place a towel or mat under the food and water bowls and pour the used litter into a plastic bag and seal it. Remember that the management is able to access all the unoccupied rooms, so if you leave your room, put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign. It might also be wise to put Kitty in the carrier while you are gone-- just in case. Before you check out the next morning, don't forget to leave a generous tip for the maids. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and it will help to compensate them for any extra clean-up.

The most challenging part of the motel stay will undoubtedly be "lights out"time. You may be exhausted after a day's journey, but your cat has spent many boring hours almost motionless in his carrier. He may be ready to party! This is where the fishing pole toy comes in handy. While you are resting in a comfortable chair or on your bed, you can give Kitty some aerobic exercise. In fact, you will want to keep him moving until he is ready to "drop". If you are successful, you will all get a good night's sleep. If you are not, you will have to resort to locking your rambunctious kitty in the bathroom for the night. Don't feel guilty. After all, he can sleep the next day but you have to drive.

AAA and Mobil travel guides note where pets are welcome.

By plane

It is possible for your cat to ride safely on an airplane if you plan ahead, follow the rules, and are prepared to be a little pushy on your cat's behalf. In addition to federal regulations, each airline has its own regulations, so check the individual air carrier's rules before booking a flight for you and your cat. It is ideal if the cat can ride in the cabin of the airplane with you where he will never leave your care during the course of the trip. Not all airlines allow animals to travel in the cabin and others allow no more than two cats in the cabin per flight on a "first come, first served" basis, so it is important to make these arrangements far in advance of your departure date. The cat's carrier must be able to fit under the seat and the bottom should be lined with an absorbent material in case of accidents. ("Puppy pads" are made of the same material as disposable diapers and are excellent for this purpose.) Be prepared to present a veterinarian-signed health certificate dated no more than ten days before the scheduled flight. If the cat is riding with you, let the person sitting next to you know that you have a cat, just in case they have allergies or phobias.

If your cat cannot travel in the cabin with you, it will ride in the baggage hold. Although this compartment is pressurized and the extremes of temperature are regulated, it is still a good idea to travel during the coolest part of the day in the summer--the early morning or late evening. Choose a non-stop flight and request that your cat be hand-carried to and from the plane. Make sure your USDA-approved shipping crate is marked with contact persons at both the departure and arrival sites and has sturdy handles that won't come off during handling. Make sure all the bolts ecuring the halves of the carrier are in place and tightened. Your pet should be wearing an identification tag on an elastic collar. If the trip is longer than six hours, you will want to have dry food and ice cubes in untippable dishes in the carrier. Be sure to talk directly to the freight handling personnel at the airport. Make the staff check and report back. (Most pet fatalities occur on the ground, when animals are left in their crates on the hot tarmac or in stifling cargo holds.)

Be aware that there are regulations regarding the range of temperatures when a pet may be shipped. If the temperature on the ground in your departing, connecting, or arriving city falls outside these limits, you may run into unexpected delays or cancellations. It is also wise to avoid peak travel times around holidays when air traffic is heaviest.

It is generally better not to have your cat tranquilized before flying. The combination of high altitude and limited oxygen is a challenge your pet's body is better prepared to meet if he is not sedated.

The Air Transport Association has a free booklet, Air Travel for Your Dog or Cat. It is available by sending a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to: ATA, 1301 Pennsylvania Blvd. N.W., Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20004.

Some Additional Tips on Airline Travel with Kitty

These unique ideas on how to keep your cat safe while flying are published in the book, 277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble. They are recommendations from Bud Brownhill of Anaheim, California, the chairman of DO-IT, a pet travel advisory organization.

* Talk to a supervisor when you get to the airport and tell him you have an extremely valuable pet in terms of dollars--even if it's a mixed breed. "Otherwise, some baggage handlers couldn't care if you were carrying a rock."

* Personalize your cat to the handlers. Put signs on the crate saying, "Hi! I am a Persian kitten. This is my first trip. Please handle my crate carefully."

* When you board a plane, tell the pilot that you have a cat in the hold worth a lot of money--even if it isn't. Also, tell them to make sure to turn on the heat and pressurization in the cargo compartment.

"This is done from the cockpit and someone may have forgotten to give the pilot that information.." Cargo compartments can get as hot as 140 degrees, and intense cold can be just as damaging to your cat.

* Put large strips of red or orange fluorescent material all over the crate "so you can spot it halfway across the airport and your cat won't get mixed up with anything else." Put arrows or the words "Top" and "Live Animal" on top of the crate so your cat doesn't fly upside down.

* Put your home addresses and phone numbers, plus those of where you're going, inside and outside the crate, because many people won't reach into a kennel for fear of being scratched or bitten.

* Watch the ticket clerk attach the destination tags at the airport. "Make sure it says 'Detroit' if you're going there."

* Make certain your pet is loaded last, especially during extreme weather conditions. This may also ensure that he is taken off the plane first.

* Make sure the airline is not carrying dry ice, which can be deadly if your cat is crated near it.

* Avoid flying at the busiest times, so your cat can get more personal attention.

* Ask the airline if you can watch your cat being loaded and unloaded at the cargo hold.

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