Whether vacationing with your dog or moving cross-country with your cat, at some point you’ll need to travel with your pet. When you do, you’ll want to make sure they don’t escape, get hurt, or worse. It sounds simple enough until you’re driving down the highway with a cat climbing up your back!
These are the most common mistakes pet owners make when traveling with cats and dogs and how to avoid them.
1. Not updating your pet’s microchip
If the worst happens and your pet escapes while traveling, you want the best shot at getting him back. But without a microchip, you won’t know if your pet turned up at an animal shelter in a distant state. Microchips increase the odds of finding a lost pet. Microchip pets before traveling and update the registration for pets that are already microchipped.
2. Failing to restrain pets in the car
Pets riding loose in the car could interfere with driving or go flying if you get in an accident. When you’re on a long drive, the smartest thing to do is secure your pet. A crate secured in the back seat or cargo area is safest for both dogs and cats. Safety harnesses and barriers are an option for dogs that don’t tolerate crates, but they aren’t as safe.
Make sure dogs and cats are restrained before opening vehicle doors. The last thing you want is for your pet to escape along a dangerous highway.
3. Letting your pet ride shotgun
If an airbag deploys or you get in a collision, your pet could be seriously injured in the front seat. Just like children, the back of the car is the safest place for pets.
4. Putting your pet in the cargo hold
Flying pets in the cargo hold is risky, especially for brachycephalic breeds like pugs and Persians. While most pets make it out fine, for many owners it’s not worth the risk. Take a road trip instead, or if traveling overseas, fly your cat or small dog in the cabin.
5. Not scheduling bathroom breaks for your cat
Most cats won’t use a litter box in a moving car. Most cat owners don’t want to smell a litter box in the car either! Schedule stops at rest areas and other quiet locations along your route and take your cat out to use the bathroom. You can set up a litter box next to the car or take your cat to a grassy area to do his business. Either way, it’s necessary to leash your cat before leaving the vehicle. Instead of attaching the leash to a collar, which cats easily slip out of, use a cat harness to ensure your cat stays secure.
6. Waiting to find a hotel
Don’t wait until you’re weary from a long day of driving to look for a pet-friendly hotel, because you may not find one. Plan stops ahead of time and research pet-friendly hotels in the area. Some pet-friendly hotels charge extra for four-legged lodgers, but a few offer pet-friendly rooms with no additional fees.
Speaking of pet-friendly places: Some destinations are decidedly more pet-friendly than others. If traveling for pleasure, search for destinations known for their pet-friendliness.
7. Leaving pets in a hot car
Every pet owner knows it’s a bad idea to leave pets in the car on a warm day. However, when you’re in an unfamiliar place and only stepping out for a quick bite or fuel-up, it’s tempting to leave your pet for just a few minutes. Don’t do it! Even on a pleasant 70-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to nearly 100 degrees in 20 minutes. Instead of leaving your pet in the car, appoint someone to hold pets on a leash or carrier outside, get lunch from a drive-thru, or find a pet-friendly place to stop.
If these precautions aren’t possible for your trip, rethink traveling with your pet. As fun as it is to bring pets along for an adventure, it’s far better knowing they’re safe and sound.
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