Travelling With Cats – Car or Plane

Cats are not the easiest pets to travel with as they are creatures of habit and prefer the familiarity and safety of their home. Where possible, it is always better to leave your cat either at home with a sitter or at a boarding cattery but sometimes travelling is necessary, either a family moves home or decides to take an extended trip and would like to bring the cat along.

Whatever the reason for your cat travelling, make sure the cat is microchipped and the details are up to date so that if he or she manages to escape, they can be quickly reunited. Have a second contact, in the event that you can not be reached.

Travelling with a cat always requires a carrier which are available in all shapes and sizes. It is a good idea to get your cat used to being in a cat carrier before actually transporting him. A useful method is to leave the carrier out, with a blanket, some treats or toys and let your cat explore himself. As he becomes familiar with the carrier, shut the door for short periods.

Cats who do not travel well may be lightly sedated before travel. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on this.

Do cats get motion sickness?

Yes, some cats are affected by motion sickness. Typical symptoms include drooling, vomiting, defecating, excessive vocalisation.

Desensitisation can help your cat overcome travel sickness by slowly acclimatising your cat to travel.

  • Start by leaving the cat carrier out in the home with a familiar blanket and one or two cat toys and treats. Allow your cat to explore the carrier, with the door open. He may want to sleep in it or just sit and observe the world.
  • Once your cat is used to and comfortable in the carrier, shut the door, for short periods.
  • Next, introduce small car trips. Just a quick drive around the block but gradually increase the length of time. This can also help if your cat associates car trips with the veterinarian.
  • If the cat learns that not all car trips mean a trip to the vet, they may relax a little.

Other ways to help make the trip less stressful may include spraying the carrier with Feliway before travel. You may also want to place an old t-shirt of yours in the carrier, so your cat has a familiar (and safe) scent. Some cats also travel better if their carrier is covered over.

Sometimes even with the above methods, your cat will continue to suffer from motion sickness. If this occurs, withhold food for 3 hours before your trip, but continue to give your cat access to fresh, drinking water.

Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe your cat anti-anxiety or anti-nausea medication to help.

Short distances

From time to time, you will need to take your cat to the vet.

If your cat does not travel well, you may want to consider choosing a vet who does home visits although home visits are not practical in emergencies.

Long-distance (flying or driving)

If you are travelling a long, long-distance, for example, moving to another state/across the country, you may decide to fly the cat or drive the cat yourself. Flying has the benefit of being faster and can be a better option if you are travelling thousands of kilometres. Airlines have various rules and regulations in regards to flying cats; these may include a minimum age, the cat must not be aggressive and in good health. Most airlines will require that the cat is placed in a special hold, but some will allow the cat to travel as hand luggage (check with your airline first). When flying with cats, planning is important. You must book your cat in ahead of time.

However, you may prefer to drive your cat. Again, a sturdy cat carrier will be a requirement. NEVER have your cat loose in a car, it is a danger to you, your cat and other motorists/pedestrians. The carrier should have a blanket that is easily washable in the event of accidents.

Make sure your cat has access to clean, fresh drinking water and food. Never place a cat in the boot of a car. The carrier should be placed either on a rear seat, or the back of the car in the case of a station wagon. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation around the cat.

NEVER leave a cat unattended in a car, even in the carrier. The temperature can quickly rise (within minutes), leading to heatstroke and possible death.

Overseas travel

If you are travelling abroad, your cat will require a “pet passport”. The cat will be required to have its full vaccinations, including rabies (Australia requires a blood titre test before entering the country), be microchipped and in many cases, treated for worms. Again, there are specialist companies who can assist you with shipping a cat overseas.


Travelling the country in a motor home is becoming more and more popular, and many cat owners take their pet with them. As the cat will be spending a lot of time on the road, a large but collapsible dog cage is a suitable method of keeping your cat confined, but not too cramped. It should be large enough to accommodate a litter tray, food and water bowls and a cat bed. Secure the carrier so that if you need to brake suddenly or take a sharp corner, it won’t tip over or move.

Training your cat to walk on a leash can be helpful so that when you do have stops, your cat can stretch his legs without the risk of him escaping.

Additional tips

  • Have a first aid kit in your car for your cat. This should contain antiseptic, bandages and bandage tape, cotton balls, clean old towels, scissors, thermometer, pet insecticide, flea and worm treatment, sterile gauze.
  • Pack a travel kit with old clean blankets, foo, and water, wipes (to clean up accidents), plastic bags (to put garbage in), cat harness, and spare blankets.
  • If you are staying in a hotel, make sure that they allow cats at the time of booking.
  • Secure cats safely when travelling by car.
  • Make sure your cat is out of direct sunlight when in the car. Use a window visor if necessary.
  • When you arrive at your destination, do not let your cat outside unless he is on a harness. Keep the cat confined with food and water, and a bed or the carrier you transported him in.