What's the best way to move cats cross country?

I recently moved from the Chicago area to the Phoenix area. My fiancé and our two cats are still in Illinois, and will be moving out here sometime in the next two months. She’s most likely going to drive here (with her mom, so she doesn’t have to do it alone). When we moved me last month, it took three full days to get here. Which was rough, though not as bad as we expected.

We’re trying to figure out the best way to get our cats here. One option is for my fiancé to bring them in the car with her. Neither of us are too excited about the cats having to stay locked up in their travel cages in the back of the car for three days. We’ve been told that a vet can give them a tranquilizer to knock them out for 8 hours at a time, but that would require finding a vet in the two cities they’re staying in on the way and getting the cats knocked out three mornings in a row (which isn’t out of the question).

So we started thinking about flying them. She’s actually flying here in a few weeks for a job interview, and we’re thinking about having her bring the cats then so she doesn’t have to worry about them when she drives. We’ve also thought about sending them here on a plane without either of us on the plane, but don’t know anything about that option (other than a family friend says he did it once).

Has anyone ever moved cats across country? How’d you do it? Any tips, advice, help? Can you get some kind of screen to put between the backseat and front seat, so the cats can roam around but not bother the driver? How hard is it to get a flight that allows pets?

I was so hoping that this was going to be a thread taking a serious look at the best way of herding cats.

Ah well…someday.

I’d see if she could bring them with her, I wouldn’t trust anyone else (ESPECIALLY NOT an airline pets die that way more often than not, cite) to get the cats safely to their new home. I’d explain the situation to the cat’s primary vet, he’d probaby give you advice, and maybe enough pills to help keep the cats from being too stressed. There are possibly pet friendly hotels along the way, you should find out if there are any or not, and if so she can bring the litter pan with her and bed down for the night, then start out again in the morning. She’s going to need to bring plenty of water and make stops every so often to give the cats a drink if they are awake but tranquil. Maybe a travel agency or travel site would be able to tell you where the pet friendly hotels are? Good luck.

By “bring them with her” I mean by car when she moves.

Again, clarifying. I went by the supposition that the cat’s carrier wouldn’t fit under the seat, especially since there are two of them.

Uh, your cite doesn’t make any claim even remotely close to “pets die that way more often than not” – in fact, it claims they don’t know.

I have flown pets as cargo before, and while I wouldn’t do it except under exceptional circumstances, none of them died. Certainly there were not more deaths than live deliveries.

If over half the pets put on planes died, I’m pretty sure planes would have stopped transporting them - they don’t like lawsuits, either.

Here’s a thread where we talked about this in 2002. There are a few others out there if you search for them, too.

Did you read about the conditions in most cargo holds?

Yes. Which does not say that animals die more often than not.

I’m not claiming that there isn’t risk. I’m not claiming that the risks aren’t significant. I’m not even claiming that the risks might be unacceptably high.

I am however, claiming that the risk level isn’t stated, and certainly isn’t stated as being more than 50% (“more often than not.”)

Given that planes are willing to transport animals at all, I suspect that the rate is probably much, much lower than that, especially since there are people like dog breeders that ship animals around the country constantly, and would have a serious financial incentive not to kill more than half their animals every time they did so.

It hasn’t been proven how many die yet, because the law that says the airlines have to report the fatalities just got passed. Obviously enough people were complaining to the ASPCA about pet fatalities in the cargo hold to get the law passed though.

There is a misconception in the OP, which is that a vet would be required to administer the sedative. The tranquilizer the vet gives you is called Ace (Acepromazine, I think), and you don’t need to get a new dose at a new vet every 8 hours. The owner can administer it safely as long as they are comfortable giving a cat a pill.

I moved my cats cross country, a 10 hour drive. My vet gave me 5 pills of ace, of which I used 1.5. The larger cat got one pill, the smaller got half. The were both blitzed out of their minds. I offered them a stretch, water, and a litterbox every 4 hours per vet’s recommendation. They did not eat or use the litterbox during the drive, (they were quite disoriented) although right at the end of the drive, one cat peed in his carrier. By the next day they were feeling fine.

As a side note, my cats seemed to enjoy audiobooks during the drive. Whenever I had to change a CD, they would cry. As soon as the narration started up again, they quieted down.

I’ve flown my cat twice across the country, so Chicago to Phoenix shouldn’t be as bad, right? Once was the cat as cargo. The cat was upset but happy to be back with us when we picked her up. Once was on the plane with me. We got a prescription sedative from the vet (which was more than one dose, so if you ask your vet for more than one and explain the multi-dosing situation, she’ll tell you what’s best. Doping up your cat more than once might not be ok). We gave her one an hour before I left and she was pretty calm in her carrier under the seat in front of me. Interestingly enough, this was also a flight for a job interview. Great minds think alike, I suppose.

And you’ll never believe this next part. I make a “pet reservation” with the airline well in advance so that they can make sure not too many pets are on the same plane or something. I end up sitting right next to two people with a tiny dog in the seat in front of them. Can you believe that??

Everything went fine both times. I don’t know if a cat would enjoy a three day car ride. Some tend to meow/cry a lot. Try the plane, I encountered little hassle. Mostly just walking with the cat through the terminals was annoying. Get a soft-sided cat carrier with dimensions (check to make sure!) for under-the-seat cargo, that seems important. The airline should have clear policies on the web page. Or give them a call.

From my experience (which is from the show “Airline”) soft sided is NOT the way to go.

Call the airline.

A friend of mine drove from DC to KC with her cat and some mild tranqs. No problems were had.

I’m not a vet, but I would be very hesitant to give cats tranquilizers under any circumstances.

One thing I am sure any good vet would tell you, do not EVER tranq a cat if they’re going to travel via an airliner’s baggage compartment. Cats that have died traveling as baggage have almost always died because of this.

And I don’t know how old that SPCA quote is, but most airlines say that their cargo holds are both pressurized and temperature controlled.

My advice, skip the pills, get two small, soft-side carriers, and have your wife bring them on the plane with her as carry-on. Check with the airline first but most won’t have any problem with this. Worst thing is she sits next to a cat-hater and they howl the whole way (but that’s their problem). :wink:

As far as the cats are concerned a few hours on a plane will be far less stressful than a few days in a car.

Catapault, of course.

Nah, just open a tin of cat food in the new place.

Two important things you should know about cats+ airlines:

  1. There is charge to have the cat with you, even if they are your “luggage.” I imagine this varies widely, I know on Northwest it is $80 per animal. At the end of the day, it might actually be cheaper to buy your second cat a seat, rather than you+cat fee+wife+cat fee.

  2. As far as I know it is a requirement ( or at least extremely likely to happen) that the cat be removed from the carrier for the security screening. Have a plan for what you are going to do with an unrestrained cat in airport security (thoughts: bundling them up, collar+leash, prayer)

  3. Your cats need a health certificate in order to fly. It’s not a big deal but there is a certain “time window” (I think 1 month) in which it is valid.

  4. Southwest does not allow pets in the cabin. United does. Northwest does.

  5. Many airlines will not accept pets in cargo during the summer months, or to destinations where the ambient temperature is expected to be above 85F. Therefor, if you are planning a move during the summer months, I would expect it to be nigh impossible to ship in cargo.

Sorry, I can’t count :smack: