Pet Travel: keep pets safe all year long

Cats should get used to the pet carrier before going on vacation.
Cats should get used to the pet carrier before going on vacation.
Cats should get used to the pet carrier before going on vacation.
Cats should get used to the pet carrier before going on vacation.

Traveling safely with our pets is essential to a great vacation, no matter what time of year. And even though Jan. 2 was National Pet Travel Day, we should take heed of the safety of our traveling four foot companions all year long.

By far, dogs are the most common pets people travel and vacation with. According to the US Travel Association,

78 percent of people travel with their dogs.

And 22 percent travel with cats, rabbits, turtles, and iguanas.

Many people don’t want to leave their beloved pet(s) behind, and they take the pet(s) along for vacation. The idea of their pet being left home with a pet sitter or kenneling them is not acceptable.

Here, Paws for Reflection shares some safety trips that will ensure a trip with Fluffy or Fido doesn’t run into some unexpected issues.

AAA and the ASPCA are just a few of the places where you can find tips on how to safely travel with your pet.

Plan to have your pet with you at all times.

• Never, never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle even with the windows cracked.
• Even on a seemingly pleasant summer day, temperatures inside a vehicle can soar to over 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes, leading to heat stroke and death. In

Cat Linus gets used to pet carrier before travelling
Cat Linus gets used to pet carrier before travelling.

very cold weather, the animal is at risk for hypothermia.
• Running an errand – restrain the animal in a kennel; park in the shade, and leave the windows completely open. If someone can stay with the pet outside the vehicle, while the other runs into a store to grab a quick stop, it would be safer.
• Microchip your pet before embarking on any trip. That way if Fido or Fluffy gets lose, a quick chip scan can help you reunited with your pet.
• If you are hiking or camping, bring a small separate tent with bedding, unless they’ll be bunking with you.
• Don’t forget the leash, and for cats, a harness complete with leash. They’ll need plenty of water, treats and toys.
• Bring vaccination records, a first-aid kit, grooming supplies, and flea and tick repellent. It’s better to be prepared, than find yourself scurrying to the corner store to look for essentials.

Additional travel tips offered from the American Automobile Association (AAA):

• Feed your pet a light meal about four hours before departure to prevent your pet from getting car sick.
• Do not give your pet food or water in a moving vehicle.
• Never allow your pet to ride in the bed of a pick-up truck even if on a leash or harness as the pet could jump out and be injured.
• Avoid putting the pet in a camper or trailer because you need to monitor your pet while traveling.
• Don’t let your dog stick his head out the vehicle’s window – no matter how much he enjoys it – because he’s at risk of being hit by road debris and another vehicle.
• Stop every two hours to stretch, give them water and bathroom breaks.
• Travel with lots of extra plastic bags as you will be expected to do bathroom clean-up duty.
• Have the pet restrained on a leash or harness before opening the vehicle’s door. AAA warns that even the most obedient pet can become disoriented and spook easily while traveling. They can run off, leaving them at risk for getting lost, or worse, injured.
• If a pet is not accustomed to traveling especially if it’s a cat, use a harness, not a collar.

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) offers some additional tips:

• Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier, – wire mesh, hard plastic and soft-sided – large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. Get the pet used to the carrier in the comfort of your home before your trip.
Take you pet for a series of short drives, gradually increasing the amount of time spent in the car so he’ll be better prepared for a longer trip.
• Secure the crate so it won’t slide or shift in the event of a quick stop. Each year thousands of animals are injured, die, or become needlessly lost in car accidents. If owners are also part of the accident, they may need the help of an Orlando accident attorney.
Bring travel papers, food, bowl, leash, harness, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and a pet first-aid kit.
• Include toys or a favorite pillow in the travel supplies to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
• In addition to a microchip, make sure the pet has a collar with a tag imprinted with your home address, as well as a temporary travel tag with your cell phone, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat – never choke – collars.
• If you are traveling across state lines, bring along your pet’s rabies vaccination record, as some states requires this proof at certain interstate crossings.
• Bring bottled water or tap water stored in plastic jugs. Drinking water from an open area could result in the pet getting sick.
• If you travel frequently with your pet, you may want to invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers, available at auto product retailers.

Have you taken any long road trips, or vacations with your pets? What precautions did you take? Would you have found any of these suggestions helpful? Please share your thoughts and weigh in on this important discussion.

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    BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.


    1. We have traveled with our pets for almost 30 years now. One thing we do when camping, or hoteling, we create temporary tags and attach them to our pets collars. You can purchase round cardboard tags for keys that have a metal rim on the edge. We print our room or campsite number as well as our cell number, and if a hotel, the hotel name on the temporary tags. That way if they get spooked and run, whoever finds them can easily reach us. Nellie escaped when housekeeping opened the door to our hotel room in Vancouver once (even though we had the do not disturb sign on the knob). A room service waiter found her 2 floors down and had front desk return her to our room before we got back. They were thrilled we had made it easy for them.

    2. These are all great tips! My human travels with me frequently, and she would never, ever leave me in a car. Like, ever! I think she is familiar with every drive through fast food place in southern California, MOL!


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