How to Travel with a Cat
My mother's cat, Suzie Q, has been in the family over ten years after my mom died (May He have mercy on her). We refuse to let Suzie go so she has bounced between my siblings and has been with me for the past several years. This can get difficult, though, because I travel a lot. The only solution has been to take Suzie on board with me--even across the world.
The good news is, it's not too difficult to travel with a pet if you follow a few simple steps and remain organized. My three main steps are below:
Step 1: Do the Paperwork & Call the Airlines
I plan on writing another post (God-willing) to discuss details on traveling to Saudi Arabia with a cat, because the paperwork for this is just a nightmare. However, in general the first thing that you should do when traveling domestically is to simply call the airlines and let them know you are planning to bring a pet on board. Airlines have limits to how many pets are allowed to travel in cabin at a time as well as specifications for the traveler cases used. Ask for the pricing, specifications, and procedure so that you'll be prepared when you arrive at the airport, and if you can pay on the phone--do so! It's much easier than standing in line with a whining cat trying to find your credit card.
For international flights, you should also call both the agricultural and imports authority in the country you will be visiting, as well as the US Department of Agriculture (assuming you're departing from the States) or the relevant authority in your departing country. You will need to check on the requirements to take your pet with you (rabies shots, micro-chipping, etc.) as well as the requirements for your pet upon return (quarantine, etc.). I don't plan on ever taking a pet if quarantine is required, so these are some important questions that you should plan on asking.
Whatever you do, make sure you have absolutely all the paperwork and records that you need in an organized and water-proof folder with your purse when you travel (I even keep a log of the dated phone calls I make and individuals I spoke to receive information). You could be asked for anything at any time!
Step 2: Purchase or Replenish the Supply Kit
I drove up to Gainesville, FL and personally visited the United States Department of Agriculture before bringing Suzie with me to Saudi Arabia. While your vet will probably insist you purchase some type of calming drug for your pet, the representative of the US Dept. of Agriculture advised me against this. He said that Suzie's supply kit should, instead, consist of some of the following items:
- Her carry-on tote (I chose a soft one because Suzie is a Norwegian Forest Cat and needs extra space)
- A leash and harness (yes--even for cats!)
- Baby wipes, a doggie-poo pick-up bag dispenser, and scented spritz (let's face it: she will puke; she will poo).
- Portable food, water containers, and dry cat food
- A glass jug to fill with hot water (after passing security) at the airport
- A used towel or article of clothing with your scent on it (I chose my prayer outfit, pictured below)
- Plastic bags to cover the inside of the carry-on with in case of accidents
- Cat-nip, toys, anything from home
Step 3: Let Your Pet Know You're Traveling in Advance
It's always a smart idea to get your pet used to the idea of traveling. At least a few days in advanced, I pull out Suzie's travel kit and place it conspicuously in the middle of the floor with some catnip inside. Suzie loves my scent, so she immediately inspects, gets drunk on the catnip, and cuddles furiously with my prayer outfit. It's important that your pet know that a change is coming so that they don't give you such a hard time when you finally stuff 'em into the carry-on and tote them away.
Before I traveled with Suzie for the first time, I made sure to get her used to sleeping with her leash and harness as well. I also make sure to, upon finishing security at the airport, immediately head for a local café and purchase a tea. I ask that they give me the teabag and instead pour the hot water into my glass jar. The jar keeps Suzie's entire carry-on warm (airplane cabins can get disgustingly cold), and she is snuggled inside with my scent around her to keep her comfortable. I have never needed to use any sort of drugs other than catnip in order to travel successfully with Suzie.
And last, but not least, enjoy the flight! Traveling with pets can be an exciting experience. Expect paparazzi (not for you, silly--for Fluffy!).