July 19, 2024

Is Travel Stressful for Cats?

For many pet owners, bringing their furry companions along on trips and vacations is a no-brainer. Our pets are part of the family, so of course we want them by our side as we explore new places. However, while dogs tend to take travel in stride, for cats, time spent in transit can be extremely stressful. Here’s a look at why travel impacts cats differently than other pets, and tips for reducing travel stress for feline companions.

One of the main reasons travel is difficult for cats is that they are creatures of habit that feel most secure with familiar surroundings. Any change of environment, even just a move to a new home, can be disruptive and unsettling for cats. Vehicles, airports, hotels and new destinations are all unfamiliar settings that make cats feel anxious and insecure. Their senses are on high alert, vigilant to strange sounds, smells, people and animals. Even the most social and outgoing cat will feel on edge when traveling.

Vehicle rides are especially challenging for cats. motion sickness is common as cats struggle to orient themselves inside a moving car or carrier. They are also sensitive to pressure changes during plane travel. The confined space of a carrier or crate adds to their stress. Most cats will not voluntarily enter these containers, so forced travel by carrier can be traumatic. Transporting multiple cats together can also create stress as cats may become territorial when shared resources are limited.

There are steps cat owners can take to help minimize travel anxiety for their pets. Proper preparation is key. Get your cat comfortable with the carrier or crate at home by leaving it out with the door open. Use treats and positive reinforcement to create positive associations. Familiar scents are soothing, so add bedding or worn clothes that smell like home. Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medications or natural calming aids like pheromone diffusers. Reducing motion sickness may also require medication.

When on the road, give your cat “den-like” spaces in hotel rooms and places to hide. Keep food and litter box close by. Bring along familiar toys. Try to maintain normal mealtimes and routines. Give your cat free access to you rather than confining to a crate when safely possible. Cats feel calmer with trusted humans nearby. Be aware of your own stress, as cats can pick up on human anxiety. Stay calm, keep voices low and gentle, and be patient with your feline companion. Avoid overstimulation and forcing interaction. Let your cat adjust at her own pace.

While it takes effort and planning, cats can adapt to travel when their needs are met and they feel secure. Some cats may never take to the transit lifestyle. But with preparation, patience and TLC from trusted humans, hitting the road with cats can be manageable. The extra effort is worthwhile when it means your feline friend can stay by your side on new adventures.