How to Travel With a Cat: A Stress-Free Guide

Cat in carrier in car

There are many reasons pet parents may need to know how to travel with a cat. Most cats settle down after the journey is underway. Pet parents need to research and prepare to travel many months in advance of the trip, as the airplane cabin may be more stressful than a road trip.

How to Travel With a Cat

The rule of thumb for pet parents is to create a stress-free travel plan for your cat. Cat lovers need to visit the vet and review all the rules before a road trip or plane ride. Some cats love to travel in the car, and other cats may put the brakes on as soon as the carrier appears.

Rules for the Journey

Check with airlines, cruise ships, and Amtrak on the guidelines so you can compile a list of initial questions.

  • When is it acceptable to remove your cat from the pet carrier?
  • What if your cat meows or makes noise during travel?
  • What happens if someone with a seat near you is allergic to cats?
  • If your cat has a health issue and needs medication, can you administer medicine in your seat?

Cat's Age and Health

You need to talk to your vet if you live with a senior cat or a feline with motion sickness. A cat's age and overall health may impact the length of your trip.

Valid Health Certification and Rabies Vaccination

You need a record of any vaccinations and proof of a recent annual checkup if you travel with your cat. It is imperative to keep a copy of your cat's rabies vaccination, as many vets require this to see a new patient from out of state. Most airlines require a health certification, so visit the vet a few months before your trip.

Cat in a carrier at airport

Traveling With Cats

The best way to travel with a cat is by car. If your cat rides in the car to the vet once or twice a year, this transportation mode is familiar to your feline buddy. An airplane, train, or boat may cause motion sickness and a lot of stress. If you need to travel and a car trip is not an option, always check guidelines and rules months in advance. For example, pet lovers need reservations on some trains, and many only allow a select number of pets on board. Each airline requires pets to travel with health certifications, and there is a fee.

Car Ride

A car trip is the best way to travel with your cat. If a pet parent is available to hold the carrier in the backseat, your cat may experience less motion sickness. Cat parents need to place the soft crate in a secure spot in the car, but never on the floor where there is intense vibration and noise.


Fly with your cat in the cabin. The safest place for your feline buddy in the cabin is under the seat in front of you. There are many factors cat lovers need to consider when they choose to fly with their cat. For example, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, pets must be in their carrier throughout the flight. Pet parents need to ensure their cat is calm! With this in mind, check out the airline's website and call to discuss how to best travel with your cat in the cabin.

  • A Persian cat or any feline considered a brachycephalic cat breed is a risk as they are predisposed to respiratory issues.
  • Your cat must be outside the carrier when you pass through security.
  • Travel on a direct flight with your cat to decrease the general stress of the trip.

Amtrak Train

Small cats up to 20 pounds may ride the Amtrak train on trips up to seven hours, but a reservation is necessary. Always call well in advance to check on the rules as there are select trains and routes you can book seats on, but some may not allow pets.

Cruise Ship and Charter Boat

The majority of cruise lines do not allow pets. A few transatlantic cruises do allow cats, so pet parents need to do their research and make reservations in advance. Charter boats typically allow cats, but there is a hefty fee.

Preparing to Travel

Traveling with cats is tricky. As you prepare for travel, there are special rules for the type of pet carrier you need to purchase. Contact each airline and ask about seat dimensions. Also, pet parents need to talk with a vet about medication if they live with an anxious cat.

Cat in open pet carrier
  • Select pet carriers on airlines and trains are part of the guidelines.
  • Medication for motion sickness may be necessary for cats with anxiety.
  • Cats may overheat, so pet parents must pay attention to the temperature if it is warm out.
  • A trip to the vet in advance of any trip is essential, and airlines require a health certification.

Airlines Ban Emotional Support Animals

The above rules for airlines apply to all cats as there are new rules for emotional service animals (ESA). Cats trained as an ESA are not service animals. Airlines now ban all emotional service animals, and pet parents need to follow the rules on each airline's website. The current federal rule defines a service animal as a dog trained to perform tasks to benefit a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Best Way to Travel With Cats

The best way to travel with cats is a road trip. Airlines require specific pet carriers, and your cat must travel inside the crate during the trip. On trains and cruise ships, the rules may be more flexible, but pet parents need to make a reservation well in advance. Good luck!

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How to Travel With a Cat: A Stress-Free Guide