Cats are generally happier and more content in their own homes. However, some situations might force us to take our furry companions along with us when we travel. And, for good reason, many cat owners dread this stressful moment, especially if it is a long-distance trip.
So, how long can you keep your cat inside his carrier? The answer may vary. Your cat’s tolerance of being in a restricted space will depend on his age, health status, and personality.
If you are planning to take your furry friend on a long journey, there are plenty of things you need to consider beforehand. The details are explained below.
Things to consider before traveling with your cat
Not all cats are ideal travel buddies. Some can be aggressive or hyperactive, and keeping them in a carrier for hours might completely stress them out. Other felines are docile or well-behaved and would not mind being in a restricted space for a longer time.
Nevertheless, inevitable events like moving to a new city might force you to travel with your furball. If that is the case, you need to make preparations ahead of time to make the trip as pleasant and enjoyable as possible.
Here are some of the few things you should consider before taking your cat on a long-distance road trip:
1. Size of the carrier
A carrier should have enough space for your cat to stand, sit comfortably, or lay down. If your carrier is too small, your cat will be forced to crouch and his movements will be limited. This is very uncomfortable for a cat, especially when traveling on the road for hours. Eventually, the restrained cat will become agitated and restless, making the whole travel experience a nightmare for both of you. No fur parent wants to see their four-legged companion suffer like this.
2. Your cat’s health
Your cat’s health should be reviewed by a professional veterinarian to ascertain whether or not he is fit to travel. Cats with certain illnesses can become aggressive and vocal, particularly if they are in pain. They also cannot hold their poop and pee for longer periods, which could make your trip a little messy and inconvenient. Keeping a sick cat inside a carrier for a long time can also make him irritable and uncomfortable.
3. Your cat’s temperament
As mentioned, your cat’s temperament plays an important role in how long he can stay in his carrier. Docile cats are easier to train on their leash and in their carrier, while the more aggressive ones can be problematic. Some cats also associate being in a carrier with traumatic experiences such as going to the vet or other unfamiliar places they dislike.
In such cases, it is important to spend enough time teaching your cat to like his carrier. Getting him accustomed to traveling by starting with shorter walks or trips will be very helpful for your future long-distance trips. Do this gradually until he starts to feel more comfortable, and remember to give him tasty rewards and lots of cuddles for each successful trip.
If all else fails or you do not have enough time to train your cat, then sedatives could be your last option. This medication will induce your cat to sleep to reduce his anxiety when kept in his carrier for extended periods. However, sedatives have known side effects for cats, so be sure to check with your vet before giving them to your pet.
How long can you travel with a cat in a carrier?
There is no clear answer as to how many hours you can keep your cat inside his carrier. That is why, for long-distance trips, it is very important to have short breaks along the way. Let your cat drink, eat, use the litter box, or simply have a breather until he is ready for the next part of the ride.
Your cat’s health will also determine how long he can stay in the carrier. Old and sick cats are more easily irritated and start to become vocal after being in a carrier for extended periods. Be sure to check with your vet before taking your old or ailing cat on long journeys.
For a healthy adult cat, you should only keep him in his carrier for a maximum of six hours. Again, some road trips or flights might take longer than six hours, so let your furry friend have a breather in between to prevent stress and discomfort. Some trips might prevent you from taking your cat out for a while, in which case, make sure to check in with him regularly. As much as possible, use a larger crate or cage for longer journeys to give your cat enough space to stretch and move around.
Do cats like being inside their carriers?
Most cats dislike being in a carrier. If your cat is new to traveling, putting him in a restricted space without proper training can cause his anxiety to skyrocket.
The good news is that you can train your cat to love his carrier. Since cats are more comfortable with familiar places and smells, you can start by leaving his carrier open in his play areas. Put some of his favorite toys inside or use a pheromone spray to help him feel comfortable. Eventually, he will learn to go inside on his own without being forced.
Is it okay to leave a cat in a carrier overnight?
Leaving your cat inside his carrier overnight can be cruel. Even if you provide him with a comfortable bed inside, the carrier can make him feel very restricted. Carriers should only ever be used to transport your cat, with small breaks in between for longer trips, and should not be used as an alternative cat home.
If you need to keep your cat inside his carrier overnight for safety reasons, then consider using a larger cage or crate instead. This option allows enough space for your cat to move around without feeling restricted. You can also put all the essentials inside, such as food and water bowls, bed, litter box, and toys to keep him entertained. However, this should only be done in desperate situations when you have no other option.
How long can cats hold their poop and pee?
The most common concern for cat owners when taking their pets on long-distance trips is when they will need to relieve themselves. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for our feline friends to use the litter box when they are stressed, as doing so puts them in a vulnerable position. Most cats prefer to hold their poop and pee until they feel safe and comfortable again.
A healthy cat should be able to hold his poop for up to 24 hours and his pee for around 17 hours. However, this will not be comfortable and you do not want your cat to suffer like this. That is why it is essential to bring a portable litter box along for your road trip. You should also understand that some cats need to acclimatize to the new environment before they can relieve themselves.
Cats with certain health issues might not be able to hold their poop or pee for so long. Some might end up messing inside their carrier before you can take them out, especially if they are very nervous. Talk to your vet beforehand so that you know the best options for your kitty on long-distance trips.
Tips for traveling long distance with cats
To make your journey less chaotic, here are some clever tips you can follow before the big day:
- Plan ahead of time. That includes making a list of all the essentials, as well as documents such as health certificates and vaccination papers for your pet.
- Choose a sturdy, comfortable carrier for your cat.
- Train your cat to love his carrier and leash beforehand.
- Practice by taking your cat on short trips and car rides.
- If you need to stay in a hotel, make sure to book a cat-friendly hotel before your trip.
- Always have a portable litter box and ziplock bags on hand. You can never tell when your pet will need to go, especially when he feels anxious.
- Use pheromone products and catnip to keep your cat relaxed.
Alternatives to cat carriers
Aside from traditional cat carriers, there are other options you can explore to carry your cat from A to B. These alternatives can be used if you are taking your cat on a hike, road-trip, or leisure walking. However, precautions must be taken if you are traveling with your cat on a plane. Airlines are strict on the type of cat carriers allowed on board, so make sure you check these out before flying with your cat.
1. Car window perch
A car window perch is a fun accessory for your cat if you are planning to travel in a car or RV. It comes with suction cups that stick well on glass windows and a soft, comfy bed where your furry friend can chill while traveling with you. Simply attach the perch to the back window of your car so that your cat can enjoy the outside view.
One of the coolest car window perches we recommend is the K&H EZ Mount Window Bed. A lot of cat owners love this window hammock because it is strong and sturdy yet provides plenty of comfort for your cat.
On the other hand, we do not recommend using a window perch if your cat is not used to traveling. Having your feline move around freely while you are driving can be very dangerous for both of you, and some regions might also prohibit this accessory for traveling with cats, so make sure you know your local laws.
Moreover, this option is only ideal for calmer cats. If you have a feline that tends to be anxious and aggressive, it would be more beneficial to use a sturdy cat carrier instead.
2. Cat car seat
Another way to make your furry friend comfortable on the road is using a cat car seat. Unlike a carrier, the cat car seat keeps your pet secured without being enclosed. It also comes with stabilizing attachment points, seat belt loops, and a safety tether to secure your cat in place for an enjoyable and smooth ride. So, if your feline is naturally curious and loves being off the ground, then this carrier alternative may be the best way to go.
If cat car seats are on your radar, you might want to consider the PetSafe Happy Ride Booster Seat. This option comes with a soft liner and adjustable straps to secure to the car seat while your pet comfortably enjoys the ride.
However, if your furry companion is a restless one, it is best to check with your vet about which carrier would be ideal.
3. Pet travel sling bag
Another creative way to bring your cat on one of your road trips is using a travel sling bag. Here, the cat comfortably sits inside while his head pops out of the bag’s small opening. Since the bag is hanging on your shoulder, it gives your cat a sense of security as you hold him in place.
This expandable pet carrier sling bag by Katziel should keep your fur baby safe and comfy as you carry him around. The bag’s drawstring neck closure is fully adjustable so that you and your cat can travel comfortably and happily.
4. Cat backpack
Cat backpacks are the hands-free option for active cat owners who want to share their life adventures with their pets. They come in different shapes and designs to meet your individual needs. One of the most popular is the Bubble Pet Carrier Backpack by Halinfer. This comes with a transparent front shell to give your cat a full view of the outside world while you carry him on your back.
Backpacks also keep your cat cozy and secure. They generally include clips to hold your cat’s collar in place, preventing him from being jolted around as you ride in the car or hike around the park. They are also designed with soft and breathable materials as well as air holes to allow fresh air to flow inside.
Keep in mind that backpacks may not be suitable for all cats. Some cats prefer more privacy and tend to become aggressive when introduced to unfamiliar environments. Before traveling with your fur baby, be sure that he is acclimatized to his backpack carrier and behaves well during your travels.
Wrapping it up
Traveling with cats for extended periods can be worrisome for cat owners. Just like their human counterparts, cats also need to have bathroom breaks, comfort, and a breather during the trip. Moreover, not all cats will enjoy the travel experience, no matter how great their carrier is.
So, before embarking on your long journey, make sure that you have planned properly for you and your cat. Try to find the best cat carrier to make your pet comfortable along the way, and make sure to check on your pet every few hours so you can attend to his needs whenever necessary.
Image: istockphoto.com / absolutimages