How To Move Cats Across The Country

Moving cross-country is tough enough for humans, but more so for the cat guardian. So, here is a nifty guide for you. Know your options and find out what it takes to move with peace of mind.

First Things First

Once you finalize your moving date, schedule a visit to a federally accredited veterinarian.

You will need a health certificate for your cat when crossing state lines, regardless of the mode of transportation you choose.

Keep in mind that the health certificate will be good for only about 30 days. You should have your own copy and another copy sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Your cat should also be up-to-date on all necessary vaccines for Rabies and such. The feline must be free of fleas and worms.

Some Travel Restrictions with Cats

The question of “is it better to fly or drive with cats” depends on your cat’s age, breed, and health condition.

Your vet may recommend the best way to move your cat cross-country. Flying may not be the best for kittens whose lungs are not yet fully developed. Some airlines may accept kittens ages 8 weeks (cross-country) to15 weeks minimum (international).

Some breeds of cats cannot be flown by plane. These include brachycephalic cats with pushed-in faces and short nasal passages such as Persian, Burmese, and Himalayan cats.

Further, know that some airlines will not carry sedated cats, especially in cargo.

Getting Your Cat Travel-Ready with Safety Precautions

To minimize your feline’s stress on the day/s of the move, give it ample time to get used to a carrier.

Avoid buying the carrier last-minute. You will need all the time you can get to introduce your cat to the carrier as well as locomotion.

Have your cat use the carrier, litter box, harness, and leash that you plan to use for the moving day.

It is wise to consider microchip for your cat. If not, a collar and updated ID tag with your contact information are musts no matter how you choose to travel. Include your contact information at your destination.

What are Your Options?

There is no single best option to transport cats. The way you transport your feline buddy is unique to you. Some cats have no qualms about flying while others resist less when they are close to their human companion.

Know that even if you hear success stories from friends who have tried and attest to a single option—that does not mean you and your cat won’t encounter problems.

Do not feel bad that your cat is yowling on a plane or 10 hours in a car. But there are ways you can reduce the chances of your cat resisting travels.

By Air (Cabin)

For cats that are deemed fit travel by plane can get through the stressful move in a jiffy.

  • Be aware of your cat’s temperament and have calming techniques at hand. Calming sprays and chewables may help your cat in-flight when sedation is not possible or allowed.
  • Check with the airlines ahead of time as some only allow a maximum number of pets per flight.
  • Be familiar with the carrier size limitations. Opt for a soft carrier like a Sherpa carrier that fits under the airline seat without compromising on your cat’s comfort.
  • Outfit your cat with a body harness and leash before you place it inside the carrier. You will need to lift your cat out of the carrier through the TSA security check as the carrier will pass through the X-ray.
  • You will pay an additional fee to fly your cat with you in the cabin. 

By Air (Cargo)

For some cat owners, the only option to transport their pets is through the cargo hold of airplanes. It is not always the first choice for most cat owners. For instance, even if you call ahead, you may be shocked when your cat gets “bounced” right before your flight.

There are horrific stories of cats that get lost, are injured, or get killed on commercial flights due to mishandling and poor temperature control. And while all cases are mandated by law to be reported, you would not want to be the cat owner who suffers this. So here are a few tips:

  • Always opt for direct flights to avoid unnecessary delays and losing your cat due to airline transfers. If possible, ride in the cabin on the same flight as your cat and ask to watch your pet loaded and unloaded into the cargo.
  • The best time to travel with a cat is early morning or late evening in summer and afternoon in winter. Avoid traveling during holidays and busy seasons.
  • Clip your cat’s nails before the flight and make sure to get the feline acclimated with the carrier at least a month ahead. Leave your cat some ice cubes to stay hydrated but take away food and water 4 to 6 hours ahead of the trip.

By Car

The real debate among cat owners is whether it is better to drive or fly with cats? There is the concern of stressing out your cat over a long stretch of time vs. risking bringing a cat up at a high altitude that may have health risks with cardiovascular and respiratory.

Many choose to travel with cats in the car to be as close to them as possible to comfort them. You may stop when necessary and reach in to pet and talk to your cat often.

Unlike public transport, you also need not to worry about other passengers with you.

Just remember to:

  • Keep cats inside carriers at all times when driving. At any point your cat can get shocked and jump to the driver’s seat, distracting the driver leading to an accident.
  • Never leave your cat alone in the car even for quick pit stops. Cats can suffocate and suffer heat stroke or get stolen. Order drive-thru if you can’t dine in with your cat and choose pet-friendly hotels to stay at night.

Read more about traveling with cats in a car thoroughly in a separate post.

By Ship

This is not the safest or most popular way to transport a feline buddy. For one, if your cat tries to run away, it can fall and drown. 

But if you must, know that not all cruise lines allow cats to be transported. There are also varying rules on whether cats are allowed inside private cabins or must be confined to pet kennels on the ship.

Contact cruise lines to find out about their policies. If you must board your cat in the ship’s kennel, be sure to check on your cat frequently. You may also follow the same precautions as placing the cat in the cargo hold.

Final Thoughts

Be prepared to know what will happen at your destination. Your cat may be held in quarantine especially when you cross international borders.

Take the necessary precautions to keep your cat secure such as IDs, travel tags, and microchips. Cats may run away from their beloved human companions when placed under the stress of traveling.

If you give your cat enough time to warm up to the carrier, harness, leash, and the mode of transportation, you may ease through the actual travel day.

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