Are you planning winter travel and wondering if you should leave your cat home or bring it along for the trip? There are several things to keep in mind to help you make that decision. You’ll want to consider the length of your stay, the age and health status of your cat, how far you are traveling from home, and winter weather concerns. Factoring in the impact weather delays and COVID-19 can have on travel, it may just be best to bring kitty with you to your holiday destination.
Deciding if Your Cat Should Stay Home or Travel with You
While most cats are savvy enough to remain at home for a couple of days, there are many factors that can impact winter holiday travel and the decision over whether your cat should join you on the trip or stay home alone:
Length of Holiday Stay. If you are going away just for a long weekend, your cat might be fine to stay alone provided they can safely access food, fresh water, and the kitty litter. For trips longer than 3-4 days, bring your cat with you or make arrangements for boarding or at-home pet care while you are away from home. Tying into how long you are away from home is the distance from home that you are traveling. If you're not too far away and can make it home in an emergency situation (see below), then your cat may do just fine by themselves more than a few days (thought it is best to arrange for someone to check-in on the cat). If you are going cross-country, you have to consider if your cat can handle making that trip with you, needs boarding or a pet sitter. This decision is impacted by many of the items listed below.
The Cat’s Health Status. If your cat has medical needs or is anxious when left alone, then it may be best to take the cat on the trip with you. Have a visit with your pet’s veterinarian before you leave. The vet may suggest prescription or over the counter supplements to support your pet’s comfort while traveling. Be sure to pack all medications and supplies that your cat may need while in transport and at your destination.
The Cat’s Age. A very young kitten should not be left alone without periodic visits at the home while you are away on holiday. Young cats and kittens are simply too likely to get themselves into mischievous trouble. Similarly, a cat that is much older may not do well home alone OR on the road.
When it comes to your cat’s health status, age, and length of your travel plans, check with your veterinarian as to what is best: Will your cat be healthy and safe on the road with you, at home with a pet sitter, or in pet boarding?
Weather Concerns. If you live in an area that is prone to winter storms that could result in loss of power, then don’t leave your pet cat home alone when you are on vacation. If the power goes out for long enough and you don’t have a reliable back-up generator, (or a neighbor who can get into your home) your cat's life could be at risk in such a situation. Likewise, if weather delays cause you to get stuck on the road or at an airport, then your cat may run out of food and water before you return home. If you decide to leave your cat home, have a plan in place for this type of emergency.
COVID-19 Travel Considerations. Though we are all working at being more careful with our health and the health of community, it is still possible to contract COVID-19 while traveling. If you become ill while traveling (with COVID-19 or any other illness/emergency), you may be away from home a lot longer than planned. If your cat is not traveling with you, make sure you put a plan in place for the health and safety of your cat.
Winter Travel Tips for Your Cat’s Comfort
Once you’ve made the decision to travel with your cat---by plane, train, or automobile--remember the following tips to help your cat feel comfy on the road and to acclimate at your new destination.
Pet Identification. Be sure your pet is tagged/collared. Carry copies of vaccinations and health records with you, not in checked-baggage.
Warmth and Safety. Your pet should travel in an appropriate size carrier with access to quiet toys and blankets. If traveling by car, keep the carrier in the back seat or trunk, not the front seat. (If a front seat airbag deploys, your cat could die). For long road trips in the car, be sure to give your cat frequent breaks out of the carrier. On planes and trains, the cat carrier needs to fit securely on the floor. Check with the airline or rail company for specifications on pet travel. Check on your cat frequently in flight or on the rail.
Snacks and Food. Be sure to carry small amounts of kibble, treats, and a portable water dispenser/dish for your pet to access between stops.
Tips for Your Cat’s Comfort & Safety while on Holiday with You
Staying at a Hotel. Before you let the cat out of the carrier, inspect the room carefully for debris, wires, and anything that your cat might cause your cat to choke or otherwise get into harm’s way. Set up the kitty litter and food/water area. Show your cat where these things are. Let them explore the room while you are present. When you are not in the room, you need to figure out what is best for your cat to stay out of trouble and still have access to its food, water, and kitty litter: Free reign of the room, sequestered to the bathroom, or the vanity area outside the bathroom (if it can be gated off in some way), etc. You know your cat best-- the type of accommodations and your cat’s tendencies will guide you as to how to keep your cat safe.
Staying with Family/Friends. It’s great if family/friends say your cat can travel with you to their home! If you are staying with people who do not have pets in the home, have a conversation with your family/friends before you leave town: Explain your pets needs and ask where the pet can stay, where their food/water/litter can be situated. Don’t give your cat free reign of someone else’s home--that’s likely to create problems for the cat and you.
If there are other pets...cats or dogs at your destination, be sure to do a meet and great outside the home. Pay attention to the body language of all the pets that will be staying under one roof. Even if things look good from the start, it’s a safe practice to separate any pets that are not familiar with living together.
The rule of thumb: Confine your cat to one room, preferably the room you are staying in for the duration of your holiday visit.
Finally, no matter where you go...remember to keep these pet holiday safety tips in mind so that everyone can enjoy a holiday season that is merry and bright!
Cat Sitting Services Ideal for Your Winter Holiday Travel Plans
We hope these tips for safe travel and acclimating your cat once at your holiday destination help you prepare for and enjoy a most wonderful winter holiday, no matter where you go or how you get there. These tips skim the surface of some of the special considerations you might have to make if you own more than one cat (or types of pets) or have a cat with special needs. Always start your travel preparation with a visit to your pet’s veterinarian. If leaving your cat home for the holidays is truly the best options for them, contact Kitten Sittin’ of Delaware for compassionate, friendly, and reliable pet sitting services.
Traveling with Your Cat: posted by All Feline Hospital
Winter Weather Safety Tips for Cats: posted by PetCoach.co