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Need to take your cat on a trip by car, taxi, or train? Or perhaps just need some advice on how to travel long distance with a cat? Read our guide on making travelling as easy and stress-free as possible for you and your cat.

Travelling with cats

We know that most cats find travelling stressful. They feel safe in a familiar environment and are not used to the different smells, noises and sensations of travelling in a vehicle. Even the sight of the pet carrier being taken out can stress some cats because they associate it with a sign of an upcoming trip.

It is best to only take your cat on trips if absolutely necessary, but some journeys, like going to the vet or moving to a new place, may be unavoidable.

If your cat gets very stressed when travelling, speak to your vet as they can discuss further options.

Find out more about spotting signs of cat stress.

Choosing the right cat carrier when travelling

One of the first things to prepare before travelling is to have a cat carrier that is safe and comfortable.

It should be well-ventilated and made of sturdy material such as plastic or metal wire that is also easy to clean in case of any accidents.

While some cats prefer being in small spaces when frightened, it’s important to choose a carrier that’s the right size for your cat, so they can stand up and move around if needed.

Learn more about how to choose and use a cat carrier.

How to get your cat used to a carrier for travel

To help your cat feel more comfortable, get them used to the carrier at least a few days before the trip. Place the carrier in a room where they like to relax and leave it open so they can explore and get to know it better in their own time. You can also put in their familiar blanket and add some treats.

For more nervous cats, a pheromone spray like FELIWAY® can be used inside the carrier around 15 minutes before going on a trip.

What to bring when travelling with your cat

When going on a short trip with your cat such as to the vet, apart from having them in the carrier you can also bring their favourite toy or blanket.

For longer road trips, you should take the following to ensure your cat has everything they may need:

  • cat carrier and soft bedding
  • food and bottled water
  • pet bowls
  • litter box, familiar litter and waste bags
  • puppy pads (to line the carrier or place under a blanket)
  • pet-safe cleaning wipes and disinfectant  
  • cat toys 

How to get your cat used to travelling in a car

If your cat hasn’t travelled in a car before, introduce them to travel gradually. Start with a short trip and go on a slightly longer journey the next time.

Your cat may be loud and meowing excessively. This is a sign of stress, but they should settle down eventually. You can show them attention and help them calm down a little by talking to them gently and reward them with treats when the journey is over.

Can I drive with my cat loose in the car?

To keep everyone safe, your cat should be kept in their carrier at all times when driving. Leaving your cat loose in the car can be a distraction and put you at risk of an accident. To secure the carrier, it’s best to put it on a backseat and fasten it with a seat belt.

Tips for travelling long distance in a car with your cat

  • Book a routine vet check to make sure your cat is healthy for travel
  • Unless you’ve been told otherwise by your vet, try to limit food for at least a few hours before the journey to avoid vomiting and reduce motion sickness
  • Plan your journey route and breaks in advance. Don’t leave your cat unattended in the car, especially in hot weather. If travelling alone, limit to only essential short breaks and make sure inside the car is well-ventilated and the temperature is comfortable for your cat
  • If possible, avoid travelling with your cat for more than four hours in a day and let them out in a room where they will spend the night. For longer journeys, aim to take regular breaks every two to four hours to give you a chance to check up on your cat

Travelling with your cat by taxi

There may be situations when you need to go to the vet urgently or take your cat somewhere quickly, and if you don’t have a car, a taxi can be a good option.

As for taxis, whether or not you can travel with your pet depends on the taxi company or driver. Some companies may charge extra to bring a pet. Depending on your location, there may be a pet-specific taxi service in the area.

Before booking, make sure the taxi driver will accept travelling with pets. You will also need to keep your cat inside the carrier for the duration of the trip.

Travelling with your cat by train or bus

If you’re wondering whether you can take your cat on a train, you should know that in the UK each passenger is allowed to travel with up to two pets, free of charge.

If you want to take your cat on a bus, the bus driver may decide at their discretion whether you are allowed on with a pet, depending on how busy the bus is and whether there are other animals on board.

Other things to be aware of when travelling on a train or bus are the many different smells, unfamiliar faces, and other animals, all of which can scare your cat. You can try booking a ticket outside of peak hours and, if possible, find a quiet place during the journey. Do not leave your cat unattended, and keep the carrier close to you. Throwing a light blanket over the carrier can help prevent overstimulation but ensure there is adequate airflow. 

When travelling by public transport, you should keep your cat in a carrier throughout the trip.

How long can cats travel without going to the bathroom?

On average, cats with no underlying health issues urinate two to four times daily and poop about once a day.

However, being in an unfamiliar environment such as in a car is stressful for your cat so they might hold in their urge to go to the bathroom. But sometimes they are not able to hold it and will need to use the litter box right away. 

If you notice that your cat suddenly becomes extremely loud and shows signs of distress or wanting to get out, it might be the time you will need to let them use the litter box. It’s advisable to avoid letting your cat in and out of the carrier frequently but, if needed, have the litter box ready next to them and let them use it once you stop for a break.

What is motion sickness in cats?

Motion sickness is a common occurrence in many cats. There can be several causes, but the most common cause of motion sickness in cats is anxiety and stress associated with travel. If your cat experiences this, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • fast breathing or panting
  • excessive lip licking and drooling
  • increased vocalisation and meowing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • lethargy or inactivity

If you see any of these signs, you should let your vet know so they can do a physical exam to rule out any health issues or advise you on ways to manage your cat’s anxiety when travelling.

Although desensitising cats to travel can take some work and patience, over time your cat should become more comfortable when going on a trip.

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