Family pet travel: How to transport a dog or cat for vacations or moving

How to transport a dog or cat

You’re finally taking that well-needed family vacation, and you intend to take everyone, including the dog or cat. To do so can be fun, but it takes careful planning to assure there will be no mishaps and everyone will return home safely, whether they have two legs or four.

How to transport a dog or cat for vacations or moving

If your pet has traveled with you before, you know how he adjusts to riding and can plan accordingly. If the dog gets car sick, you can give him Dramamine just before the trip, or your vet can provide you with enough acepramozine, a mild tranquilizer, to keep him calm until you reach your destination. If your cat gets sick, you might want to reconsider taking him. Most cats hate riding, and as they have to be confined for most of the trip, he might be happier being boarded or having a bonded pet sitter come to the house to feed him and change the litter box. If you are traveling to a new home, however, of course he’ll need to go. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, has flea and tick preventative for high infestation areas, and his records are easily available to show when needed.

Take along your own tap water in gallon jugs – enough for the length of the trip. If you’re going to a hotter-than-usual area, take extra water. Just like humans, if animals’ systems are subjected to foreign drinking water, upset stomachs could occur. The same is true for food. Just because your grocery store sells Little Doggie Woggie Bits and Pieces, it doesn’t mean a store hundreds of miles away will sell the same brand. Why spend part of your vacation mopping up messes that could have been avoided if you’d brought your pets their regular chow?

Carriers are a must for all travel. If you are flying, your animal must have a carrier approved by the airline that’s taking you. Call them a month or so ahead and ask about their approved brands. Also, you will need to show a recent health certificate signed by the veterinarian the day you fly with your animal. When you are asking about the carrier, ask about the certificate. Some airlines insist the animal see the doctor within days of the flight, some allow up to a week. If you don’t have the certificate, Fido or Puss can’t go.

Small dogs may be taken in the plane’s cabin in a special Sherpa carrier that fits under the seat. However, you will need to tell the airline when you make the reservations that you will have a dog accompanying you. Some only allow two dogs per flight in the cabin. It’s better to carry the dog on with you, if possible, to avoid the pitfall of the family landing in Chicago while the dog is flying on to Dallas.

When traveling by car, cats must be contained in carriers to avoid the possibility of them jumping out when the vehicle stops for gas, or squeezing through a half-open window when no one is looking. Even the best-mannered cat gets anxious on a trip. If there is room, purchase a large cat carrier so your feline isn’t squeezed into one of those tiny ones you use for taking him to the vet. The carrier should hold a water receptacle at one end and a small litter box at the other. Disposable litter boxes are easy and can be thrown away when soiled. The cat may be let out in the hotel/motel room, but owners must be extremely careful not to open the door, or the cat could rush through the doorway and never be seen again. Even if the hotel has interior corridors, the cat could run down the hallway, then down a stairway and out into the unknown.

Dogs are easier, especially if they love riding, but it is still a good idea to have them in a carrier. It is more secure, especially if there is an auto accident and the door flies open, or if the driver has to stop fast and the dog is hurled across one seat into another, maybe even crashing through the windshield. At rest stops they can get out and stretch their legs (and probably lift them as well), but be sure to grab onto the leash before letting them out of the car or carrier. If the owner insists on no carrier, the dog should be leashed inside the car, but not so short as to strangle, and secured in a safe pet seat, which is similar to a child seat with safety straps and padding. Make sure you have the dog’s leash in your hand when you open the door at busy rest stops along the highway. You don’t want your dog jumping out of the car, seeing a rabbit or other enticing object, and go running into traffic trying to catch it. And if you keep the dog inside the car on a leash, even for a minute, if the window is down and he leaps out, he could hang himself over the side of the door. It’s happened, and it’s heartbreaking for the family, as well as upsetting for children seeing the horror at the rest stop.

Once you have arrived at your destination, cats will still need to be kept confined inside of the rental housing, whether it be a two-story house, a hotel or motel. As in overnight visits, they will need to be watched whenever a door opens or closes to make sure they don’t dart out. Some cats will allow themselves to be leashed and taken outside. If so, a harness is safer than a collar in seeing they can’t escape.

Dogs are much better travelers than their feline friends. Once at their destination, they can be treated as if they are home, being allowed to run if the property is enclosed by a fence, or being tethered on a long leash. However, never go sightseeing and leave the dog outside at the rental property while you are on vacation. He could be stolen, he could break the leash and disappear, or a stranger could injure him. Remember, you are foreign to the area, as are your pets. Although it’s fun being with them, strict precautions need to be taken.

Some resort areas, such as Disney World, allow pets on the premises but not in the rooms. The resorts provide kennels for the animals during the length of the owners’ stay, but they require the owner to stop by and periodically exercise and visit with the pet.

Finally, before you leave home find a list of certified veterinarians along the route you will be taking. Your veterinarian can provide you with names and addresses, or you could check them out on-line. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has a list of approved vets that meet strict standards. If your dog begins to have seizures, or your cat suddenly develops a urinary blockage, you will need emergency care to save them. Half the battle is knowing a doctor is available, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, as they say.

A vacation can be filled with wonderful memories for you and your pet, or it can become a nightmare. Being prepared in advance can make the trip go smoothly and comfortably.

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