Traveling with dogs & cats can be fun and rewarding, but it does take a bit of extra planning to do it safely. Always be prepared isn’t merely a good motto; it’s good advice too. 

Whether it’s a drive across town to the local pet store, or it’s a cross-country trek, there are some things to do before you leave that will help ensure both you and your friend arrive at the destination safe and sound.

One thing to keep in mind, these tips are geared more towards long-distance travel with dogs and cats. Even so, some of them are incredibly helpful for daily trips, too.

Cat sitting in the suitcase or bag and waiting for a trip.

Before Traveling with Dogs & Cats

1. Go to the Vet

Depending on the destination, your friend may be required to be up-to-date on all of their vaccinations. Being current on vaccinations is also helpful in cases of veterinary emergencies.

Call ahead to your destination to ask what the requirements are and then talk to your veterinarian. Schedule the shots as needed, as well as a check-up to ensure the animal is healthy enough for travel.

Be sure to carry any required paperwork with you at all times.

2. Get a Tag

Whether you decide to travel by car, by bus, or by train, companions should wear a sturdy collar with an attached tag that contains your cell phone number and home address.

Check the licensing requirements of your city or destination because some states require animals to wear rabies vaccination tags at all times in addition to identification ones.

3. Pack a Bag

You wouldn’t leave home without your necessities, and we shouldn’t leave home without a bag packed, especially for our furry friends. Have a separate bag for all the personal items your dog or cat will need during the trip.

Here are a few good items to have on hand:

  • Blankets or travel bed
  • Towels to keep in the car in cases of rain
  • Cleaning wipes/paper towels for accidents
  • Poop bags + extra poop bags (because nervous animals poop more)
  • Two bowls, for food and water
  • Two separate leashes, just in case one gets broken or lost
  • Treats & Toys
  • Dry or freeze-dried food prepackaged into resealable bags + canned (remember a can opener if needed!)
  • Any necessary medications
  • Bottled Water

4. Pack the Records

It’s hard to remember details in high-stress situations, and having the animal’s health records in cases of emergency means you don’t have to.

Don’t forget to pack the following files when traveling with dogs & cats:

  • Recent vaccination certifications, signed by your veterinarian
  • Your regular vet’s contact information
  • Copies of any records for on-going and current medical conditions

It’s also a good idea to keep a current photo of the animal somewhere where you can easily access it, as in the folder with the medical records.

5. Pack a First Aid Kit

Do you carry an animal first aid kit in your car? You should.

A basic kit has essential items such as:

  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Bandages
  • First Aid Tape
  • Sterile Pads
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Disposable Gloves

Additional items can include hydrogen peroxide, styptic powder, wound disinfectant, and triple antibiotic cream. Add a few clean hand towels for more significant injuries.

Remember to be sure to check the dates on any medications and replace them as needed.

6. Plan for an Emergency

Let’s face it: Dog or cat emergencies can happen at any time, anywhere. Prepare for the unexpected by arming yourself with a list of a few veterinarian offices that are in or near your destination.

Be sure to include a 24-hour vet!

If you’re planning a long drive, search for vets that are along your route. Make a list of the name, address, phone number of each of the vet offices.

Remember to mark down their business hours too.

Dog With Sticking Out Tongue Sitting In A Car Seat with a seat belt on

On the Road

You’ve gone to the vet, bought a brand-new collar and identification tags, packed the bags, packed a first aid kit and the medical records, the only thing left to do is hit the road with your best friend.

Here are a few things to know when caring for an animal while traveling:

  • Heat: Hopefully, by now, you know that vehicles get extremely hot in warm weather. Always provide adequate shade and airflow to prevent overheating or dehydration. Never, ever leave an animal alone in the car. Warm temperatures can be fatal, even with cracked windows.
  • Hydration: Keep pets hydrated by offering bowls of clean drinking water at regular intervals. Store a collapsible travel water bowl and bottle of water in the car for easy access.
  • Potty Breaks: Some animals may need more potty breaks than others, so be sure to take this into account when planning your travel time. Watch out for rest areas and other suitable places to take a break along the way.
  • Exercising on the Road: Like us, dogs need to stretch their legs during long road trips. Be sure to scout rest areas and other locations that have areas set aside expressly for them. It goes without saying that you should only attempt to exercise animals who are comfortable in loud, unfamiliar areas. For nervous animals (or cats), look for quiet spots away from central areas of activity. Make sure harnesses, tags, and leashes are attached securely before opening the doors of the vehicle.

A Few Final Safety Thoughts on Traveling with Dogs & Cats

Here are a few final tips for traveling with dogs & cats:

  • It may seem obvious but, never feed an animal a big meal before travel. A light meal 3-4 hours before the journey is ideal.
  • Make sure dogs are secure in the vehicle using special restraining harnesses that connect a dog to safety belts.
  • While some dogs are fine using restraining harnesses, nervous dogs might feel more secure traveling in a crate. Cats should always travel in a crate. It’s crucial to ensure it’s attached securely to the seat with a safety belt.
  • Never let dogs travel in the back of pick-up trucks.
  • Clear the vehicle of choking hazards and poisons. Some dogs and cats will eat anything, remove any questionable items out-of-reach of your favorite scavenger passenger.

Do you travel with your dog or cat? Do you have any safety tips I haven’t mentioned or a story about going with your fur friend?

Talk to me in the comments.