If you consider your dog or cat to be part of the family, then you probably don’t want to be separated when you take a vacation. But before you’re packing the car and traveling with a dog or heading to the train station or airport and flying with a cat, it’s important to be prepared for traveling with pets. “It’s totally fine to travel with your pet if your destination allows it,” says Stephanie Liff, DVM, medical director of Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City. Just be ready in advance, which includes looking up the requirements for the place you plan to visit (as stipulated by the United States Department of Agriculture) so you and your vet can get your pet examined and vaccinated, if necessary, in time, she adds.
Once your paperwork is in order, it’s time to hit the road! Here are six tips for making traveling with pets easier—and less stressful—for you both.
Introduce the carrier: No pet wants to be stuffed into an unfamiliar box and then loaded into a rumbling vehicle. Stave off anxiety and fear by getting yours used to the pet carrier ahead of time. “It’s important to make sure your dog or cat is comfortable when she travels, so if you can show her the carrier before the scheduled trip, she’ll have a chance to become familiar with it,” says Liff. You might consider the Sherpa Delta Deluxe Pet Carrier, which is designed to meet most airlines’ requirements, when flying with a cat or dog as not all airlines will allow your four-legged family members in the cabin. “There are also numerous seat belts on the market that will prevent your pet from slipping or feeling unsafe while in the carrier,” she reports.
Break for snacks: Just like a person on a trip, your cat or dog needs some exercise, a bathroom break—and a treat or two. Liff recommends that her patients have a small meal prior to travel and that owners check ahead to locate pet-friendly spots for bathroom breaks during the trip. Two treats to take along for the ride when traveling with a dog or cat: VetriScience Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Sized Dog Chews and VetriScience Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Sized Cat Chews. Eating before the trip can also help prevent a case of car sickness.
Treat her tummy: Despite your best efforts to offer snacks and stop for fresh air, your pet still might end up with a bout of motion sickness. For car rides, Liff often prescribes Cerenia, a prescription medication that’s quite effective at combatting the vomiting that can accompany a rumbling stomach. Also, frequent stops for bathroom and water breaks can be helpful. Don’t forget to pack the MidWest Stainless Steel Snap’y Fit Water & Feed Bowl, a handy no-spill device that’s ideal for road trips.
Calm her down: Many pets will turn in circles, find a comfy spot in the carrier and then snooze for the duration of the trip. But if yours is a bundle of nerves, consider an herbal agent, says Liff. There are pheromone sprays for cats and dogs that can be applied to the carrier ahead of time to help your pet feel calm and relaxed, she notes. “You can also ask your vet about calming herbs that are made of amino acids,” she says.
Read the fine print: Before you buy your tickets and planning on flying with a cat or traveling with a dog, become familiar with each company’s rules. Amtrak is very pet friendly, but bus lines can vary (always ask the carrier). “Airlines generally allow cats and dogs under 22 pounds, but there can be restrictions based on weather conditions and capacity—there are usually limits to the number of pets allowed per flight,” explains Liff. Finally, fees are often charged for traveling with pets, so be aware of the regulations before you go.
Pack some fun: Distraction is (sometimes) the name of the game when it comes to traveling with pets. Liff likes bully sticks , Kong toys and other chewy playthings for entertainment and to ease stress (always monitor your pet for choking, especially in the case of car travel). Also, if your pet will use pee pads, carry some extras to help prevent accidents.