Travelling with a pet can be stressful on both of you, especially if you happen to have a particularly nervous dog or cat. While it might be possible to avoid long-distance travelling with a pet for most of the year, there are times when you simply don’t have another option. If you need to travel to visit family or friends for Christmas, taking your furry friend with you can seem like a real challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Take a look at these top tips for travelling with an anxious pet and make your Christmas a truly happy one for everyone.
One of the most important parts of travelling with a pet is to make sure that the place you are travelling to is a suitable environment for them. If you’re staying at a hotel, double check that they allow pets and that the room you have booked is pet friendly. If you are staying with friends or family then check that their home is a safe place for your pet to stay and that no one there has allergies. If they also have pets, you may need to take special steps to introduce your pet, as cats in particular can find it very stressful to be in close proximity to other animals. Consider your pet’s happiness above the convenience of your arrangements and make sure that they will be comfortable wherever you are staying.
Introducing a Carrier
If this is the first time your pet has travelled in a carrier, it’s important to introduce them to the carrier slowly so that they feel comfortable in it. A good way of doing this is to put the carrier out in a living area and place one of their blankets and a toy inside, which will make the carrier smell familiar to them. Starting a few weeks before you travel, place their food next to the carrier at least several times a week, so that they begin to associate it with food. Allow them to walk in and out of the carrier as they like; they may even take naps in it if they get really comfortable.
If your journey will be longer than a couple of hours, you should place a small, portable litter tray in the carrier for your pet to use. For less than two hours, a towel should suffice. If you’re travelling by plane, you need to take extra care when choosing your carrier. Some dog airline carriers are specially designed for flying, Pet Carrier Verdict give a good run down of your options, which can increase comfort and reduce anxiety. When taking your pet on a flight, you need to have their medical papers and vaccination certificates visible and make sure they’re wearing a collar with your phone number on, just in case they get lost.
The Night Before
Animals are incredibly perceptive and can often sense when you’re planning a trip. This can result in them deciding to hide on the day of the trip, which can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and time-wasting. To avoid this, place them in a room with minimal hiding places the night before you plan to leave, making sure they have a litter box, water and a little food. Place the carrier in the room so they can get used to it – this should also make it easier to put them in the carrier in the morning. Feed your pet around five hours before you leave, giving them plenty of opportunity to use their litter tray. If you have a dog, take them on a walk an hour before you leave to give them the chance to stretch their legs and relieve any anxiety.
During your journey, it’s important to keep your pet inside their carrier, even if they are crying. Some pets will be noisy for just a few minutes after putting them inside the carrier, while others might go on like this for hours. Taking them out of the carrier during your journey will not help because you’re going to have to put them back in at some point, and they will most likely become even more anxious at this point. Instead, you could try placing a dark but breathable fabric over the carrier, possibly leaving the door uncovered, and playing some relaxing music. Many different animals respond well to calming music, so it’s worth trying if you’re travelling by car. Be on the look-out for signs of dehydration, as cats in particular can become dehydrated when stressed. Keep water, treats and your vet’s phone number handy at all times, and check-in on your pets regularly to reassure them and monitor their mood.
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