Traveling with Fluffy and Fido

by Paul Konrardy

Planning on taking your four-legged companions along on your vacation trip? If so, we’ve got some useful tips whether you’re traveling by plane, train or car.

WHN TIP – Where to Stay: Will you need lodgings along the way or at your destination? Then read our Finding Pet-Friendly Hotels post for tips. If you need a pet-welcoming vacation rental, has a searchable list of locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Let’s start by covering pet preferences. While dogs are willing (and sometimes even happy) to accompany their owners to unfamiliar territory, generally speaking, most cats prefer to stay on their home ground. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take Kitty along with you, but that you need to do a little advance prep to make it less stressful for both of you.

The first step is getting the cat used to being in the carrier, starting at a few weeks ahead of time. Make the interior appealing to your cat by placing comfortable bedding inside and giving the cat a treat once it’s in the carrier, says International Cat Care in Travelling with Your Cat. Leave the door open so your cat can enter and exit whenever it wants to. By departure time, your car might view the carrier as its private pet palace!

WHN Expert TIP — A Crate for Each: If you’re traveling with more than one cat, put them in separate crates, says International Cat Care. This will improve the air circulation and keep even best buddies from becoming agitated and irritable.

(Need tips on buying and using a pet carrier? Read our Choosing and Preparing a Pet Crate post. Also, for longer trips, get a carrier big enough to hold food and water bowls, advises Sian Jones of

For both cats and dogs, have them get a once-over from the vet, and inquire about sedatives or other medications to deal with travel-related discomfort. Also, let the vet know what method of travel you and your pet are taking and how long the travel time will be (from into the carrier to arrival at final destination and out of the crate), and ask about food and water restrictions.

Update your pet’s identification tag, including your cell phone as a contact number, and pack several leashes and collars. Note: Pet MD recommends harnesses for cats since felines are notorious for slipping free of their collars. Then prepare the pet emergency kit and pet travel kit so you’re ready for whatever might happen.

By Air

Want to bring your pet into the cabin with you? First, confirm with the airlines regarding their policy on pet transport and verify that your life isn’t a no-pet one. Then check the dimensions to make sure the carrier will fit under the seat and that the style carrier is approved by that airline.

On the VCA Hospitals website, Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM recommends keeping your cat in the airplane cabin and avoid transporting it in the cargo/luggage hold section at all costs. For other pets, while most of them transported in the cargo area of airplanes make the trip with no problem, the Humane Society notes that excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame for animal injuries or death.

Since most U.S. airlines have to report all companion animal incidents that occur in the cargo hold, the Humane Society suggests studying the performance record of any airline before choosing to fly your pet in a cargo hold. The Humane Society post has more tips for transporting pets in the cargo hold.

Since carriers have to go through security screening without their inhabitants, make sure your pet is wearing a collar or harness along with a leash, and then carry it through the human screening device. Send the carrier through the screening device before you and your pet get screened. That way, the carrier is ready and waiting once you both get the okay.

Line the carrier with some pet potty pads, with several layers of openwork material on top, so if your pet has an accident, it isn’t sitting on a wet pad for several hours. Bring along large resealable plastic bags, paper towels, and disposable plastic gloves for any needed clean-up.

For more information, read our Traveling by Air with Pets post.

By Car

Heading out on the highway with your pet? Resist the urge to let your pet roam around the car while you’re driving. Not only can it be a dangerous distraction, your pet can be injured if you’re involved in an accident.

The Humane Society recommends keeping your pet in the back seat (away from airbags) inside a pet crate that’s anchored to the seat. While dog restraints or seat belts might keep Fido from roaming, neither method has been reliably shown to protect dogs during a crash, notes the Humane Society. Never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck. And nix the “dog hanging head out the window” routine since they can be injured by particles of debris.

Make frequent stops so your dog can exercise and have a potty break in a designated pet area (always on a leash). While cats can generally “hold it” for several hours, you might still want to let it out of the carrier to run around inside the car, have some water and use the disposable litter box if needed. Just make sure Fluffy is wearing a harness with a leash attached. All it takes is a door opening unexpectedly or a window rolled down too far and your cat will be up, up and away!

And never leave your pet alone in the car. According to the Humane Society, when the outside temperature is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of your car can reach 116 degrees within an hour. On an 85-degree day, the interior of your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes, even with the windows slightly opened. (Download the Humane Society’s free Hot Car flyer pdf.)

For more tips on cat car travel, read All Feline Hospital’s Traveling with Your Cat article and our Traveling By Car With Pets and Pet Safety And Your Car posts.

By Train

Just like taking your pet on a plane, your first order of business is to find out if the train permits pets (even those in carriers) to be “passengers” and if so, what is the fee and what regulations apply. has a list of international and domestic trains, including commuter railroads and public transport in the U.S.

On its pets section, Amtrak lists its rules and regulations, as well as which routes prohibit pets. Dogs and cats can’t weigh more than 20 pounds (including the weight of the carrier) and are limited to one pet per customer. And just like plane travel, your pet carrier counts as one piece of carry-on baggage.

Pets are only permitted in Coach Class, and Amtrak has a maximum of five pets per train (service animals don’t apply to this limit) so make your pet reservations as early as possible. The fee is $26 (or 800 Amtrak Guest Rewards points) for each travel segment. And don’t plan on taking your pet on a long train trip, since the time limit for pet travel is seven hours total, including transfer time between trains on multiple-segment trips. Check the site for more requirements and stipulations.

Overseas Travels

Taking your pet overseas? International Cat Care says to check regulations first for any preventive health requirements such as vaccinations. Summer Street Cat Clinic notes that all countries require an international health certificate within a specific timeframe, and some countries may also require a time of quarantine when entering the country.

For more information about interstate and overseas travel with pets, visit the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service APHIS Pet Travel section. also has a State-By-State Guide to Moving with Pets.

WHN TIP – Oh, No! Where’d He Go? If despite your best efforts, your pet got away, act quickly and alert the officials where it happened: the train station, airport terminal or hotel, for example. Make sure to have photocopies and details of ID tags, tattoos, microchips and licenses as well as a recent photo and description of your pet. More advice in Create a Pet Travel Kit and Help! My Pet’s Missing!

Time for a Pet-Sitter?

If despite your best efforts, taking Fluffy or Fido on the journey looks like it would be a bad experience for all involved, then you may need to hire a pet-sitter. The ASPCA has some great advice on hiring a sitter in Pet Sitter Safety: What to Know Before You Go. Boarding your dog or cat is another option, although Fido might like it a lot better than Fluffy!

For More Information

All Feline Hospital
All Feline Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska is a full service feline veterinary hospital.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. Its mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

Humane Society
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s most effective animal protection organization.

International Cat Care
International Cat Care (formerly the Feline Advisory Bureau) works with veterinary and welfare organizations all over the world, with a panel of feline veterinary medicine experts, with a feline expert behavior team and with a welfare advisory panel. Its veterinary division – the International Society of Feline Medicine – works with the veterinary profession across the world to provide cutting edge information for the veterinary care of cats and is recognised and respected for the standards it aspires to. has useful cat-oriented resources and articles. has guides to pet friendly vacation rentals, hotels and motels, beaches, campgrounds, restaurants and bars, airports, shopping malls, dog parks and more, as well as information on transporting pets by plane and train.
Summer Street Cat Clinic offers comprehensive veterinary care for cats in Buffalo and Getzville, New York.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is a multi-faceted Agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. These efforts support the overall mission of USDA, which is to protect and promote food, agriculture, natural resources and related issues.

VCA Animal Hospitals
VCA Animal Hospitals, part of the VCA family of companies, operates more than 800 companion animal veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. VCA is a leading provider of pet health care services in the country delivered through more than 850 small animal veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, a preeminent nationwide clinical laboratory system that services all 50 states and Canada (Antech Diagnostics), the leading animal diagnostic imaging company in the market (Sound), and Camp Bow Wow (CBW), the nation’s Premier Doggy Day and Overnight Camp® franchise, an Inc. 5000 company.
Vetstreet educates pet owners about the best ways to keep their pets healthy and happy, with advice from veterinarians, trainers and pet experts who are dedicated to giving you the most trusted, authoritative information available.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Related Posts