How to travel with a cat, according to a veterinarian

Traveling can be a nightmare. The packing, the traffic, the security lines, the cost – it’s pretty amazing what we went through just to get away. But traveling with cats is an entirely different matter, one that I have dealt with personally.

In 2016, I moved from California to upstate New York with my two cats, Daisy and Fredo. There was a long layover between flights, so we had a good eight hours of travel over the course of the day. None of the cats enjoyed the trip; Daisy howled and scrambled around her baby carrier the entire time, while Fredo froze in place, refusing to make eye contact with me.

How to travel with a cat

Dr. M. Kathleen Shaw of the Latham Animal Hospital in Latham, N.Y., says these types of reactions are common in anxiety-prone cats. The trick is to do everything you can in advance to keep your fur baby calm.

Using Feliway, which is available in spray or wipe form, is one way to do this. “It’s a calming pheromone,” she says. “We can’t smell it, but cats can. It’s been shown to reduce stress and seems to help a lot of cats when they travel.” Another option is to put something that smells like you, like a t-shirt, in the carrier.

FELIWAY Classic Cat Calming Pheromone Spray (60 mL)


Feliway Adaptil Cat Comfort Wipes, 12 Count


Gildan T-shirt in white


Before embarking on any road or plane trip, make sure you have the necessary items to keep your cat safe. “Always have a copy of your cat’s medical records with you,” says Dr. Shaw. “And put an ID tag on your cat that has your cell phone number on it.” That way, if your cat runs away while you’re on the trail, they can locate you.

ROAD iD Cat ID Tag


I found that having a few extra items was helpful:

A disposable pad to absorb urine and make the wearer a bit more comfortable.

DryFur Pet Carrier Insert Pads Small Size 19.5in x 12.5in Blue - 2 Pack


Wet wipes, small garbage bags, and disposable gloves to clean up cat poop from the carrier.

Pet care wipes for dogs and cats


Small Glad Trash Bags


SAFESKIN Nitrile Disposable Gloves in POP-N-GO Pack*


Harness and leash, in case we had to open the carrier on a ladder to clean it.

Catit Adjustable Nylon Cat Harness and Leash Set, Large, Black


A small container with dry treats.

Collapsible Travel Dog Bowls 2-Pack


A bowl of water and a bottle of water to offer during our layover.

Prima Pet Collapsible/Expandable Silicone Food & Water Travel Bowl


Should You Give Your Cat Anxiety Medication When Traveling?

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