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Traveling with Kittens: All you need to know [2021]

Cats tend to be creatures that appreciate home comforts and routine. Unlike dogs, it isn’t often that cats travel outside of the house, usually only for vet appointments. Because they aren’t used to it, this of course makes traveling a little scary for some cats. If you have an upcoming trip and know that your cat tends to get stressed and anxious when traveling, you may be considering using cat sedatives for travel. 

You can spare yourself a lot of trauma by getting your kitten comfortable with traveling at a young age. This doesn’t mean she’ll never hide from you when you pull out the carrier, but it does mean you both will be much less stressed and anxious on your way to your next destination.

In this article, Traveling with Kittens: All you need to know [2021], we will cover the following:

  • Traveling with kittens: top tips
  • Traveling with kittens in a car
  • Traveling with kittens on a plane
  • Traveling with mother cat and litter
  • Traveling abroad with kittens: what is required?
  • Cat sedatives: should I use them?
  • Alternatives for cat sedatives

Traveling with kittens: Top Tips!

1. Spend time to train your kitten to stay calm.

As mentioned above, the best way to deal with travel anxiety in cats is to manage their behaviour. Take some time to gradually expose your cats to traveling, providing plenty of positive reinforcement with the use of treats and affection.

Not only will your cat benefit from the time you put into this, staying calm is a requirement if you are planning on taking your cat on a flight. In order for cats to travel in the cabin with their owners, they must stay calm on the flight otherwise they risk being sent into the cargo area of the plane. 


2. Limit access to food and water before travel.

Limit your dog’s access to food. Therefore, it’ll be less likely that they will need to defecate or urinate when traveling. 

Additionally, some cats may experience motion sickness if they eat just before traveling.

This is particularly important if you are taking your cat on a flight. Air Canada suggest feeding your cat four to six hours prior to departure, as a full stomach may cause discomfort during travel. 


3. Get your kitten used to it’s travel carrier.

This is super important if you want to ensure that travel is as stress-free as possible for your cat.

Cats feel much more secure when traveling in a carrier, as it provides them with a safe place. However, it is important to spend time to get your cat get accustomed to it. You want your cat to be completely comfortable spending long periods of time in their carrier.

This will take some time, especially if your cat is not used to being confined in a travel carrier. When first introducing your cat to its carrier, never force them in and immediately close the door. This may lead to a negative association with it which in turn may cause them to fear the carrier. 

Instead, let your cat explore the carrier by itself, with the door open. You can lure your cat into their carrier with plenty of treats, and let him/her play and sleep in there as much as possible.

It’s also helpful to do some practise runs in the carrier. Take your cat to the cafe in the carrier, or out for some car rides. 

For an added sense of security, pop some of your cat’s favourite toys in their travel home, for extra comfort.


4. Familiarise yourself with the airport/train station that you are departing from and arriving to.

This of course only applies if you are traveling by train or plane.

Most airports will have a dedicated area for pets and service animals to rest. It is actually a legal requirement that all U.S. airports have pet-relief areas available for working animals and pets to rest. Take some photos of the airport maps, so you don’t have to wander around on the day trying to find a resting place.


5. Leash train your kitten (recommended if flying).

Although it isn’t usual for cats to wear harnesses and walk on a leash, in order to fly with cats in cabin they may need to be harnessed and leashed. It’s important to take time to leash train your cat before your flight, to minimise stress.

Most of the time your cat will be required to remain in their carrier, at the airport and on the plane. However, when passing through security and customs you may need to take your cat out of the carrier. 

Additionally, most airports have pet relief areas for cats and dogs to stretch their legs and go to the toilet.

Spend some time getting your cat used to walking on a lead at home. We recommend simply letting your cat wear a harness around the house for a while, before getting them to walk on a lead. That way they can get used to the feeling of wearing a harness. 


6. Pack all the essentials. 

Get everything organised the night before your trip. This will make the whole journey much less stressful for you, which will in turn make your cat calmer. An anxious cat is more likely to feel calm if it’s owner is calm. 

If you are crossing borders or getting on a flight, you will need a number of documents. The documents required will vary depending on which airline you are flying with (if flying), and where you are traveling from and to. But generally, you may require any of the following:

  1. Microchip certificate
  2. Rabies vaccination certificate
  3. Animal health certificate 
  4. Additional vaccination certificates
  5. Rabies titer test results
  6. Parasite treatment certificate
  7. Import permit

This is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for your specific airline and destination country. 

Supplies are key to a stress-free trip. Here’s what we suggest bringing:

  • Your cat’s food
  • Favourite treats
  • Collapsible food and water bowls
  • A leash (highly recommended if flying)
  • Plastic bags and hand cleaners in case of accidents
  • A toy
  • Cat’s favourite blanket

Traveling with kittens in a car

1. If you’re staying at hotels or motels, make sure they accept pets.

2. Keep your kitten in her carrier at all times. If you’re traveling long distances, consider getting a large crate so you can put a small litter box in the corner.

3. Put a harness on her for the duration of the car trip. Make sure the harness has an ID tag with your current contact information attached. When you take her out of the carrier, put the leash on her. (When you get to your hotel or other destination, you can remove the harness and replace it with her collar, which should also have an ID tag on it.)

4. Bring disposable litter boxes with you. These are easier to clean up for one-night stops at hotels. If you’ve got room in your car and are going to be at your vacation destination for a while, bring a full-size litter box. Bring your kitten’s usual brand of litter with you.

5. Pack your kitten’s usual food and a supply of water from your home. Sudden changes in chlorine levels and pH, and possible bacterial contamination, can lead to constipation or diarrhea. Bring her bowls and any medications she might be taking.

6. Make sure to pack at least one interactive cat toy so you can help your kitten relax in your hotel room or at your destination.

7. Bring a photo of your kitten just in case she happens to get lost.

8. Do not leave your kitten unattended in the car! Even if you’re just stopping for a few minutes to use the restroom, your car can get fatally hot very quickly. She may even be stolen out of your vehicle while you’re not there.


Traveling with kittens on a plane

1. If you must fly your kitten, get approval to carry her in the cabin. With the current regulations about carry-on luggage, you won’t be able to bring more than one personal item (purse, messenger bag) and one cat, so keep that in mind.

2. Airlines have very strict rules about pet travel, so call well in advance, make your reservation for your kitten, and pay any extra fees for this privilege. Get a copy of the airline’s pet policy, and your and your kitten’s reservations, in writing. Bring these with you when you check in for your flight.

3. Make sure you have all required documentation (this might include proof of vaccinations and health records).

4. Your kitten will need to be in an airline-approved carrier. At minimum, that means the carrier needs to fit under the seat in front of you. Check with the airline for specifics about approved carriers.

5. Put a LIVE ANIMAL label on your kitten’s carrier. Even though she’ll be with you, if something happens and you and your kitten are separated, this is important.

6. Check before you leave to make sure your carrier is in good repair.


Traveling with Cat Mum and Litter

 

Taking a Kitten Abroad: What is Required?

If you are planning on taking a kitten abroad, it is likely you will need the following:

  1. Microchip
  2. Rabies vaccination
  3. Animal health certificate
  4. Additional vaccinations
  5. Parasite treatments

1. Microchip

Your cat can get microchipped at your local vet or a charity, such as RSPCA.

Having a microchip is an essential in the process of getting a pet passport.

However, it is also in your best interest, in case your cat was to go missing whilst abroad. Your cat’s microchip will have a number unique to him/her, so if found, you can be reunited.

Get your cat’s microchip BEFORE getting his/her rabies vaccinations. If done after, the vaccine will not be valid.

2. Rabies Vaccination

If you want to fly with your cat, it is crucial that he/she is vaccinated against rabies.

Most countries require cats to be vaccinated between 21 days and 1 year before travel.

However, this differs depending on where you will be flying to and from.

For example – if you are visiting the UK from a EU country or listed country, your cat must be vaccinated against rabies within 1 year, but longer than 21 days ago. If entering the UK from a unlisted country, then your cat must also have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination.

Before your visit to the vet, check the requirements for the country or territory will be visiting. That way you can be sure that your cat is getting its vaccinations in the required time frame.

Additionally, please note that some countries require cats to have a rabies blood test before entry. Quite often, after the blood test is completed, your cat must wait 3 months before being granted entry.

3. Animal Health Certificate

Most airlines will require an official animal health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian in order to export and import dogs.

In most cases, your health certificate will also need to be endorsed by the country’s authority responsible for the import and export of animals. For example, if you are traveling from the US, you will need your documents endorsed by the USDA. If you are traveling from Canada, you will need to have your documents endorsed by CFIA.

They are normally valid for 10 days. 

4. Additional Vaccinations

Depending on where you are flying to, your dog may also require additional vaccinations or treatments.

For example, Turkey requires that all dogs are vaccinated against parainfluenza, leptospirosis, parvovirus, bordetella, hepatitis and distemper before being allowed into the country.  

5. Rabies Titer Test

Some countries require kittens to have a rabies titer test before entering. This is usually the case when you are traveling from a country that is considered high risk for rabies.

If your dog requires a titer test the process is as follows:

  1. Your pet will have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination.
  2. Your vet will then send the blood sample to an approved blood testing laboratory.
  3. Your pet’s blood test results must show a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
  4. You must wait 3 months from the date the blood sample was taken before you travel.
  5. The vet will give you a copy of the test results.

Cat Sedatives: Should I use them?

Sedation essentially puts the brain to sleep. Previously, both owners and pet health professionals thought that the most efficient way to treat anxious cats was to simply “knock them out”. If they’re asleep for the journey they won’t know the difference right? However, it’s not as simple as that. 

Over the years, medical research has taught us that using cat sedatives for travel is actually rather dangerous.

Firstly, cat sedatives for travel can actually cause your cat to panic more. When a cat is sedated or tranquillised, their ability to think and process is hindered. The wooziness can confuse and worry your cat, which could cause them to panic. Additionally, a cat that has been sedated also won’t be able to stand up right and maintain balance. Not only will this add to the confusion and panic, it could of course increase the chances of injury. 

Furthermore, cat sedatives for travel affect more than their brain and balance. Using cat sedatives for travel will reduce their heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. This can cause problems with breathing and maintaining your cat’s body temperature, particularly if your cat is a snub-nose breed. 

Lastly, although it is rare unless the dose of sedation was too high, cat can also become dehydrated.

The intensity of the risks listed above are increased when flying. In fact, airlines generally won’t allow cats to fly under sedation nowadays. This is because the increased altitude pressures can increase the likelihood of respiratory and even cardiovascular problems. 

No loving pet parent wishes any of the above on their cat! That’s why the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends against using tranquilizers and sedatives. 


What are the alternatives to using cat sedatives for travel?

Natural remedies

Like humans and dogs, any cats respond really well to various herbal stress-relievers. However, of course every cat will respond differently, depending on their size, weight, breed and temperament. What works for one cat may not work for yours.

In the same way that chamomile tea has been found to relax us humans, it’s also a good way to help calm cats. Chamomile helps the brain relax without dangerous side effects that cat sedatives for travel can have. In fact, there have been studies to show that it has a relaxing affect on many different animal species. 

The scent of lavender oil has also been tested in cats – studies have found that it has a relaxing affect. You don’t want your cat to ingest the oil, so you can just give your cat a little whiff of it before travel, or put a drop of oil on your cat’s travel blanket.

Valerian is another herbal remedy often used by humans to treat insomnia, is also recommended for cats. Rather than affecting the brain directly, Valerian helps to reduce tension and anxiety. 

Over the counter options

Some nutritional supplements have been found to have a relaxing affect on cats. These include L-theanine, melatonin, or s-adenosyl-methionine which can all be bought over the counter. 

As mentioned above, Valarium relaxes both pets and humans. There are a few different over the counter products that contain Valarium, such as Pet Remedy and Calmex

Alternatively, you could consider using products that contain pheromones. These can come in collar or spray forms. The collar, which looks like a flea collar, produces the hormone pheromone that mama cats produce to relax their kittens. Cats also produce pheromones to relax and reassure other cats. The collar is a natural way to help keep your cat calm during travel. Alternatively, you can spray your pet’s carrier with pheromones. There are a few over the counter products that contain pheromones, such as Feliway wipes and sprays

Body wraps have been proven to help some cats feel calmer in stressful situations. The hug-like effect of a wrap, such as a scarf, provides cats with calming reassurance. Some pet owners simply use scarves to wrap around their pets. Alternatively, there are some products that have been specifically designed to reduce anxiety in cats, such as the Thundershirt. 

It’s important to note that you should always seek advice from your vet before giving any remedy to your cat. Nowadays, many veterinarians will prescribe herbal or “alternative” options for pets. Additionally, it’s vital that you always follow dosage instructions. 

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