Travelling With Your Pet
Many people need their pets to travel – whether it’s a trip to the vet, into town or even on holiday. So, here are some tips to make travelling with your pet easier.
Pet travel tips
Ask yourself: will my cat or dog be comfortable and happy on this trip? Some animals simply prefer to stay at home and a ‘homesick’, possibly motion-sick pet, will ruin everyone’s trip – and car upholstery. In such a case it’s probably wiser to leave your pet with a friend, relative or hire a pet-sitter. If that is not possible, you might consider boarding them at a clean, well-run kennel or cattery.
Picking a kennel or cattery
If you’re worried by the concept of kennels or a cattery then be sure to visit a few before deciding on which one to use. If they won’t let you visit, strike that one off the list. Of those you do visit: trust your instincts. You’ll be leaving a loved friend in their care, and even the most spotless establishment may just not feel like the right fit. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. You’ll only spend a week on a sun lounger fretting!
Finally, good kennels and catteries get fully booked up many months in advance. So as soon as you’re sure of your dates, book the cat or dog a place too. Never assume you’ll be able to get a last-minute place!
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‘If you are planning to travel abroad with your pet you will need a pet passport, ideally issued at least a month before travel. Your pet must have an identichip and a rabies vaccination before your vet can issue a passport. Find out if the countries where you are travelling accept the pet passport (EU or listed non-EU countries). Travel requirements for pets travelling to and from unlisted non-EU countries are usually more complicated so you need to check in advance. Find out more information on the government Pet Travel website
If you do decide to take your pet along, you must take as much care with the preparation of your pet’s travel as your own. If you plan to travel by plane, bus, train or boat, find out if your pet will be welcome and what kind of reservations and transport arrangements must be made.
If you’ll be staying at hotels or campgrounds, you must check if animals are allowed or if kennel facilities are available. Even if you’re staying with friends or family, make sure your pet is also invited. There’s a surprising number of people that would rather you didn’t bring the dog along. So it is always polite to ask and even if the dog is invited, check their house ‘rules’ which may be different to yours.
Plane travel with pets
- Contact the airline that you wish to fly with well in advance – each has its own regulations and reservations for its passengers pet travel arrangements.
- Be sure to ask about the airline’s rules for pet crates or carriers.
- Try to book a direct flight or one with a minimum of stops.
- The airline may allow your pet in the passenger cabin if your crate or carrier can fit under the seat in front of you. If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, be at the airport early, place them in a travel crate yourself and pick them up promptly when you land.
- Allow plenty of extra time at both airports as there will be more paperwork and the pet drop-off/pick-up point may not be that close to the departures/arrivals hall.
Cats and dogs can cross the Atlantic in style - by travelling on the Queen Mary 2. Although their ticket can cost in the region of £1,200. And you'll need a berth too...
Travelling in cars with pets
- If your pet is not used to being in a car, take them for a few short rides before your trip.
- Your cat will certainly be safer and more comfortable in a carrier.
- Pets should NEVER be allowed to put their heads outside the window when riding in a car. Dirt particles can cause injury or infections and cold air taken into the lungs can lead to illness.
- If you’re taking a long drive, think ahead and organise ‘snacks’, exercise and rest stops about every two hours.
- Give the main meal at the end of the day. Dry food is more convenient but if your pet needs canned food, dispose of any unused portions if they cannot be refrigerated.
- Never leave your dog or cat in a parked car. At all. Ever.
- Any pet travelling in the back of an estate car (with its large glass window) can get very hot as the air conditioning may not be as effective back there. Bear this in mind especially if you’re stuck in traffic, there’s direct sun on the boot and no air flowing because you’re at a standstill.
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Pet travel by bus or train
Not all bus/rail companies allow you to travel with your pet, so phone ahead for information. For trips by train, check just before you travel to see if there are any rail replacement buses being used. These are intolerable for humans and make pet’s travel even worse. These buses may even have different rules about carrying pets.
Dog and cat cruise travel
Some cruise ships do welcome pets, but these are either specific routes or one-off specials. Check with your cruise line or ask your travel agent to see if anything is available. It may not be fun for your cat or dog, who may have to stay in the kennel areas and be walked and fed by stewards.
Wherever you go
- It is a legal requirement for all dogs to be identichipped.
- Ensure your pet ALWAYS wears a collar with identification.
- Pack their favourite food, toys, dishes, cool water and a lead.
- Have your pet examined and vaccinated, if necessary, by your veterinary surgeon before a long trip.
- If your pet must travel in a crate or carrier, make sure it is strong, large enough for them to stand up and turn around, has a place for food and water, is well ventilated, has a leak-proof bottom and closes securely.
- If you are planning a trip abroad with your pet, contact the vet practice and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for advice, as the health and vaccination regulations of different destinations vary greatly.
- Remember you need a pet passport for foreign travel.
This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!