What's the best way to transport pet cats across the country?

All you cat haters, save your jokes. We want the cats to start out and end up alive.

We’re moving from the west coast to the east coast soon. We have plenty of time to travel back and forth several times if we need to. We need to move two pet cats. They are young and one is rambunctious and the other is kind of chickenhearted.

My first choice is to send them by air; my husband putting them on a plane and me picking them up back east. Unfortunately, they’ll probably have to change planes on the way, which I feel is really about the only place anything can go wrong. The whole ordeal will be over for them within, say, a total of ten hours.

I believe some airlines will let you take pets as carry-on baggage if your pet carrier fits under the seat, but I think these two are both too big to fit comfortably into one of those carriers for that long.

My husband wants to drive them across country in his Canyonero (giant SUV). He figures he’ll get one of those cage thingies that just separates the driver’s compartment from the rest of the vehicle, let them loose in there with a covered litter box, and take frequent rests. Then he’d put them in a cat carrier to transport them into the hotel room every night. We both see a few logistical problems here. What if one cat makes a break for it while you have the door open, trying to get the other cat in the box?

We also thought about renting a motor home so they can hang out in there all day and never have to be moved into a hotel room, as my husband will sleep in the motor home.

So, who’s done it and what do you recommend?

I can only imagine cats using a litter box in a moving car! lol-that idea doesn’t sound too good. If you are going to drive, which I perfer over flying them, always keep them in individual crates and only let them out in a completely secure area. To me the moter home sounds the best, but you would still want to keep them in crates and let them out on breaks and at night, and only when you are in and the door won’t be opened-you know how cats are, they will be out in a shot! The crates give them a sense of security when the car is moving. But be warned, they’ll probably yowl a lot!:smiley:

On Horseback.
Oh come on people, use your imaginations! :wink:


I once made an 8 hour drive with a cat. She was quiet at times and at other times she howled. You might consider getting a sedative from your vet, just to have it on hand in case they really wig. As for opening the door…I would not open a door unless they were crated. Cats will bolt and they can be soooo unreasonable. Good luck.

I flew my sweet babies, but I only had to send them from Dallas to Seattle. I was really worried about it, but they were fine.

Did you know that you can actually bring cats with you into the passenger compartment if the carrier is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you? I really debated this option, but finally decided no because both my cats are howlers and since I’m not ready for kids yet, I’m not ready to be like those poor parents with screaming kids on planes.

There are several excellent sites on the web which talk about flying cats, one of the ones I read suggested not sedating them since it can depress their breathing.

Mine always ride to the vet around my neck, claws on all 4 feet sunken into my flesh, howling like banshees.

I strongly recommend a sedative.

Perhaps something for the cat, too.

Been there, etc.

Damn it!
I had a good one too.

I have transported cats by car across country more than once, and I have flown with a cat.

DO NOT do not do not under any circumstances send your cats on an airplane via the baggage compartment. Deaths are frequent. The compartments are not heated or cooled while the plane is on the ground, and a long runway delay can kill your pets, in either hot or cold weather.

The under-the-seat cat carrier works all right if your cats would be semi-comfortable in one; you mentioned they wouldn’t. The cat I transported that way was small - otherwise it wouldn’t have worked at all. The cages that fit under the seat are very, very tiny. I sedated her, and she still yelled much of the time - but she was a yelly-type cat anyway, and the airplane engines drowned her out sufficiently. One thing to note is some airlines will allow only 1 animal per plane, so you need to reserve your spot in advance. They also charge you $50 or so.

The car was fine, really, and I have a Honda Civic. I used disposable aluminum baking pans for litter boxes, and just tossed the whole thing out daily. I carried lots of garbage bags for this purpose. The cats never used it once in the car, but it was available to them, as were the untouched food and water. For the most part they didn’t fuss much - often preferring to sleep in the open cat carrier.

Obviously, put them in their carriers while still in the SUV with the doors closed. Transfer to hotel room, shut room door, put cats in bathroom, shut bathroom door*, put down food and water and put a fresh “box” in the bathtub (the clay litter they’ll spill rinses down and doesn’t clog the drain), let cats out of carrier, exit bathroom leaving cats inside, shut bathroom door firmly, then unload luggage from SUV. Most cats will not bolt in a strange place, unless they’re really spooked; they’d rather be with their owner. But take all precautions; losing a pet on the road is a nightmare of course.

*Before you let them out of the carrier, also check the bathroom to make sure there are no holes in the walls. Look under the sink. It’s wise to check for holes throughout the hotel room too, open windows, etc. etc. etc. This probably sounds neurotic but you do not want to be trying to coax a cat out of the hotel’s ventilation system.

So did I. Heck, it was probably the same one.:smiley:

I like cats though (they’re delicious).
[sup]My cat’s going to be mad if he reads this[/sup]

Seriously, cats tend to hate travel. I’ll go with the sedative idea.

It will depend on the cat and, of course, you are the best one to evaluate that.

I had one cat who was a great traveler. She would perch either on my shoulder or in the back window of the car. She would hop out of the car and do her business and dine and maybe stretch her legs a little but always within my sight then come right back and we would be off again with her checking out the sights from my shoulder or the back window. If she saw any dogs in the backs of pickups or in cars she would show her disaproval with a loud quackish meow.

I’ve had a couple of others that weren’t bad but a number of others that were disasters. I think your idea of flying them is probably the best. They probably won’t forgive you too soon, but try to explain the alternative to them.

if you fly them (I have) -

use REAL crates (nor the molded plastic crap)

Print in really BIG letters:

“Live Animals”

Make sure they bo in the heated, pressurized cargo compartment (yes, such things exist)

sedate heavily.

Cats HATE moving except under their own power, so automotive options will make all concerned regret it - if you do it, make sure each and every critter is secured in a carrier BEFORE opening a door (unless you’ve got them doped comatose)

note: older cats may not be eligible for doping - they can be hyper-sensitive to depressants - see vet, have each checked for suitability for sedation.

I’ve gone through this twice. We found professional cat movers. Yes, they exist, or at least they did in our neck of the woods. I don’t know what this company was called, other than they arranged the whole thing for us. They arranged to have the cats transported by air, in the heated, pressurized cargo compartment (like happyheathen said). When we did this (several years ago) it was about $100 per cat. But totally worth it. They picked up the cats, and delivered them to their destination. Door to door. I believe we took the cats to the vet beforehand, had to have some sort of papers on hand, and I think we sedated some of the kitties.

Once we moved 7 (yes, seven) cats this way. Some of our new friends and neighbors were completely appalled that we’d blow that much money on cats, but what are you gonna do? The little precious darlings had to come with us!

Every summer I take my poor little kitty on a 14 hour drive (non-stop, one way), so I have become pretty good transporting the critter around.

Masonite pretty much nails it. For sedatives we mainly use Acevet, which really knocks him out. One pill an hour before you drive and you got a stoned cat for at least 12 hours. Even after the 12 hours he was really mellow (coming down?) and didn’t meow at all.

We also have used (on recommendation from our vet) Children’s Gravol pills. They just calm the cat as opposed to the Acevet “zombie-cat”, and seemed to work well. The only problem was the pills were much smaller (easier for the sneaky thing to hold in his mouth instead of swallowing) and I think they have a flavored shell which made our poor cat drool :(. We only did that once and switched back to Acevet for the trip home.

It definitely depends on the cat. Our first cat is a smooth operator, very self-possessed and in control. When we moved from Arizona to Florida, we just put him in the cab of the U-Haul with us. He was nervous at first, hiding behind the seat, but by the time we got to New Orleans he was stretched out on the dash, checking out the scenery.
Now, the new cat, he’s a big baby. We moved from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale, about a four hour drive. Knowing that he would probably freak out, we put him in the cat carrier, and set him on the seat next to me. About 3 minutes into the drive the most God-Awful smell you could possibly imagine filled the cab. He must have evacuated his entire digestive system onto the bottom of the carrier. Luckily we had already planned to stop at a friend’s house a few miles down the road, so we could clean him off. After that he calmed down a little, with just a pathetic little mewl every 30 seconds or so. I wish I’d had a sedative for him.

To add to masonite’s warning about checking the room for holes – look at the bed with respect to hiding places. I once had to pay an extra day’s motel charges because the room had a water bed and there was a way for the cat to get in under the mattress but no way for us to get her out, so we just had to wait. Grrrr. However, I still vote for driving. Have done WI to GA and GA to CA with a very persnickety cat (redundancy!) and it wasn’t bad except for the above-mentioned water bed problem. She did begin to use the box while moving before the end of the trip. Very graceful, cats.

dammit! we, there goes my post!:smiley:

I’ve been able to take my cat (15lbs) on the plane under the seat in front of me. I found a soft-sided carrier–it’s about the size of a small duffel-bag–that fits quite well and gives him lots of room. They only allow 1 per flight, though, so you’d have to make a couple trips. I’d advise against sending them in the cargo compartment of the plane, for there are just too many things that could go wrong (they could get put in the wrong baggage compartment, the other stuff could shift and fall on them, they could get put on the wrong plane…).

i was on a plane from seattle to philly. i had no clue there was a cat on board until the landing. then there were a few howls. the kitty was much better behaved than some of the passengers.

last year i thought i would have to take a kitten on vacation with me. us air at that time charged $75.00 to take the kitty on board, and only 2 animals were allowed on the flight. so we could be bumped if 2 other passengers took pets along.

if money is no object, chartering a plane would be worth looking into. i figure if the girls and i need to move rather far away, i would try making a deal with a friend who is a pilot.

Thanks for all the info and advice so far. I tried to post that yesterday, but my post got eaten.
I found some useful sites on the internet about sending pets by air…I’m still leaning that way while my husband still wants to drive them. Guess we’ll buy a couple of airline-approved containers and drive the cats around in them to see how they take to it.