The holiday season often means traveling out of town to visit friends and family. Including your pets in these holiday adventures can be fun for everybody, but it is important to plan ahead and take some basic precautions to keep your furry family safe and healthy.
Before you decide to travel with your pets, make sure they are comfortable with travel. Cats are extremely attached to their own territory, so think twice before including them in your travel plans. Unlike dogs, who often view car rides as a grand adventure with their beloved family, most cats see travel as an entirely negative prospect. Cats not only fear leaving their familiar environment, those not used to being in a crate are additionally stressed by their fear of being enclosed. The strange sounds and motions of a car or plane can make them even more frightened.
If you must travel with your cat, introduce your cat to a carrier that has no precious negative experiences associated with it. Keep the carrier out in an area where your cat likes to play and sleep so that it is available for your cat to explore. Line the carrier with a soft blanket and put treats, food, or toys in it. Once your cat becomes comfortable with the carrier, you can start closing the door, then going on short trips. A synthetic feline facial pheromone product, called Feliway, can be sprayed in the carrier 30 minutes prior to travel. This product decreases signs of anxiety in cats and can help them relax during their journeys.
Many dogs are already used to going for car rides with their family, but some dogs do not travel well. They may whine, bark, pace, drool, or even vomint or defecate. Just like cats, the stress these dogs experience can be eased by advanced training to become comfortable in a crate. The same crate can then be used as a safe “home” for your dog in the car. Be sure to place familiar and favorite toys in the crate, too. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) spray or collar can also reduce anxiety and fear.
Even dogs that are excellent travelers should be restrained in some way in the car to prevent distraction to the driver and increase safety for the pet. There are car seats, hanesses, and seat belts especially designed for dogs of all sizes. Always use a leash when getting your dog in and out of the car to prevent escape or injury.
Now that everyone is ready to go, don’t forget to pack for your pets when you are packing for yourself. All pets should wear an identification tag with your name and cell phone number. Having your pet also implanted with a microchip increases your chance of recovery should it become lost. The microchip data can even be updated with contact information for the hotel, friend or family member where you are staying on your trip.
Bring along your veterinarian’s contact information and a list of veterinary phone numbers and emergency clinics located along the way and at your final destination. A copy of your pet’s records, or at least a summary of medical conditions and vaccine records, including rabies certificate, should be with you.
If you are traveling by airplane, a health certificate issued no longer that 10 days prior to the flight will be required. This health certificate is only available from a licensed veterinarian after an examination has been performed. Individual airlines may have additional restrictions or requirements, so check with your airline.
A leash, collar or harness, bed or blankets, toys, bowls, food and water should be brought for your pet. A supply of your pet’s medications for the entire duration of your trip, plus a few extra days should also be packed. If your pet experiences motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian about medication options. Many pets do better on an empty or near empty stomach when traveling.
As pets are increasingly considered family members, it is natural to want to include them in your holiday travel plans. With some preparation and an honest evaluation of your pet’s travel tolerance, a safe and pleasant trip can be had by all.