Holiday Travels with Your Cat, Part 1

2012-11-13_09-42-30_HDRAs an early Christmas gift, a good friend of mine bought a tent for me and the boys (Max and Salem) … ok, maybe she bought it for the girls, too, but we didn’t invite them on our first camping trip (and they have to bring some pretty good bribes if they want to come on the next trip, like some cat grass or nip). Today, my good friend wanted details about that first camping trip, but I wanted to wait on giving said details because that was just a trial run. The boys and I are planning to go again, but next time we’re bringing supplies. I’m supposed to bring the 12-pack of milk, Max is supposed to bring the tuna we’re going to bar-b-que, and Salem’s going to bring the Greenies we’re going to roast over the fire (like you humans do marshmallows). That’s the camping trip I’m going to post about. And I plan on taking lots of pictures.

But my friend’s inquiry about that first camping trip got me thinking … the Holidays are coming up and lots of you humans go travelling during this time. Sometimes you bring us, your cats (or pets), sometimes you don’t. So I thought I’d post a 3-part series about travelling with, or without, your pets from a cat’s point of view. Today’s topic will be on cat-carriers, the next part will be on airlines (and other types of travel, like cars, trains and buses, but mostly on airlines), and the 3rd part will be on leaving your pets behind while you travel.

So, today, to start, I just want to talk about carriers. Carriers range from horrible to the one that works the best for you and your kitty (not all cats travel the same, so not all cats will be comfortable in the same type of carrier). To find the one that works best for your kitty, it’s a good idea to buy the one you like well ahead of time, then take your kitty on short trial runs in the car with their new carrier. You know your kitty best and will be able to determine if that particular carrier is sturdy enough for longer trips. If it’s not, return it and get a different carrier (hint: put some sort of protection, like a puppy pee pad, on the bottom of the carrier so that if your kitty has an accident, it won’t absorb into whatever material the carrier is made out of; puppy pee pads can also come in handy for us kitties while we’re in our carriers because some of us get scared poopless when we travel, like my sister, Penny – also, check with the store you buy the carrier from ahead of time to see what their return policy is).

IMG195Horrible cat carriers are the cardboard ones, like the ones they give you at an animal shelter or rescue for temporary use to get your new kitty home. Just because we like to play and sleep in cardboard boxes doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for us to travel in one. I mean, heck, the couch is no match for us, why do you silly humans expect a cardboard box to withstand our destructive efforts of getting out of the darned things and killing everyone involved in making us travel in the first place? Now, on that note, I must say that some cats actually do like to travel (most of us don’t). For instance, I love going on short car rides (after an hour, 2 hours max, I’ve had enough). Car rides, to me, mean long stroller rides at the end of it or returning home from a stroller ride to go zipping around the house like a mad man. I’ve gone on fun outings often enough that I don’t associate my carrier with travelling any great distance or the vet. In any case, forget the cardboard carriers. Just don’t use them!

airlineapprovedmeshcarrierOther kinds of carrier have mesh windows (like the ones pictured). Some might think us kitties could easily break out of these. That might be true for some kitties in some mesh carriers. However, the mesh is generally tough enough that we can’t get out of them. Some of these types of carriers can be airline-approved. And while they have semi-rigid shells, they tend to be somewhat flexible to squish under an airline seat (and you bet that this squishing will probably make most of us a bit nervous). You can find these type of carriers at places like Pet Food Express, Wal-Mart, on Amazon.com, wayfair.com or wag.com.

Then there are the rigid, plastic types of carriers, some of which are also airline-approved. While the carriers with mesh windows typically come with some sort of soft bedding inside, these hard, plastic carriers don’t. So, to make them more comfortable for us, you’ll want to put some secure bedding on the bottom (which helps us feel more secure because we’re not sliding around as much – we can actually gain some traction around corners or over bumps, which makes travel a bit less stressful). These types of carriers are pretty safe to take us traveling in, although if we’re determined enough, we can break out of these, as well. Yes indeed, it has happened before. You know those little latches on the door? A smart cat can figure out how to work those! Don’t put anything past a highly motived, determined cat. These types of carriers you can find almost anywhere. Sometimes you can even find them at your local shelters – they occasionally sell them when they have too many (granted, that doesn’t happen a lot, but sometimes they get more of them donated than they know what to do with). And shelters typically sell them for less than you can find them at any store. Other places you can go are Pet Food Express, Target, Wal-Mart, or online.

sleepypod-outsidersRecently, I saw a video for a type of carrier called the Sleepypod. I’ve never tried one out before, but it’s an ingenious idea. It’s basically a really comfy bed you can turn into a carrier. And, in case you weren’t aware, the more we use our carrier as a bed or sleeping spot, the more we play around it, the more fun it is for us, the more likely we are to be less stressed out on trips. So, for any carrier you get or have, leave it out somewhere for your kitty to sleep in. We don’t normally associat one of our favorite sleeping spots or play spots with a trip to the vet or moving or travelling for the Holidays, so when you go somewhere with us in our bed, we’ll be more comfortable overall (that still doesn’t mean we won’t freak out).So if you decide to get something like a Sleepypod, be sure to leave it out as a bed for us to sleep in with the top of it right next to it or nearby. That way, we won’t associate the top coming out of storage with a trip in the car.

Here’s a video of the Sleepypod. I am in no way advertising for them or suggesting that this is the carrier for you, and I do apologize for the cheesy advertising aspect of the video, but I thought you might like to see how it works.

Until tomorrow when we talk about airlines. Yikes!

(P.S. There’s a cooler and, to me, more informative video about the Sleepypod here).

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