Cat Travel Checklist: All the Things You Need

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When vacation time rolls around, finding someone to care for your cat isn't always possible, and you unexpectedly may find yourself with a cat travel companion!

Unlike dogs, who will jump at the chance for a car ride, cats aren't really interested in joyrides. Their home is their kingdom, and leaving the castle can be stressful. One way to alleviate the stress (on both of you) is to create cat travel checklist — items that will keep your fur baby comfortable, happy and healthy on the road.

Cat Carrier

The safest way for your kitty to travel, even on short trips, is in a cat carrier. A sturdy carrier not only protects your pet from a possible impact but also deters them from getting tangled up in the driver's feet and the gas and brake pedals. A hard plastic model is a good choice for cat travel, and buckling it in the backseat with a seat belt adds an additional layer of safety. Be sure to face the carrier looking out so your kitty can check out the world around them. If your cat displays anxiety, place a towel or blanket over the gated door to block their view. Your carrier should be big enough that your cat can sit and stand comfortably, as well as turn around in, but not so big that there is room to roam. A carrier that is too big could result in an injury if your vehicle is involved in an accident or sudden braking.

Long-haired gray cat in an open vintage green suitcase on hardwood floor against retro wallpaper.

Food and Water

Pack your feline friend's favorite cat food in easy-to-access containers. Instead of lugging around a giant bag of dry food, transport the kibble in a clear plastic container. Because your kitty can't drink out of water fountains, bring along bottled water and a bowl so they have a fresh supply at all times. It's best to start offering food slowly to make sure your cat won't get sick in the car before offering the normal daily amount. Save the rest for when you reach your destination. Don't forget to bring their favorite cat treats to reward them for being good, and console them when they feel cooped up.

Litter Box

Most cats aren't trained to relieve themselves at a rest stop. Therefore, must-have (but not the most pleasant) items include a cat litter box, fresh litter, and a scoop. Traveling with your cat isn't the time to introduce them to a new type of litter, so use your regular brand in a travel-friendly jug with an easy-to-pour spout. Petfinder suggests stopping every two to three hours for bathroom and water breaks.

Cat Bed

If you don't want to haul an extra item in your already-cramped car, your hard plastic cat carrier can be turned into a bed! Bring along your kitty's favorite pillows and blankets to line the carrier bottom so they can snuggle up inside. The familiar smell of the  regular bedding will help them relax. Another option is to remove the top of the carrier, if possible, to give your cat more space when you're not cruising in the vehicle.


You don't need to bring your entire arsenal of toys when traveling with a cat. Instead, stock up on a few old favorites and add a few new playthings to keep their interest. Because you'll be in such close proximity, avoid noisy, jingling toys. The commotion could drive you a bit crazy. Remember, the key to successful cat travel is happy and stress-free for you, too! It's also a good idea to take some time to play with your cat when you're stopped so they can get some exercise. Spending all day sedentary in a cat carrier could cause them to act out once you reach your destination. By allowing your cat to exhaust some of that pent-up energy, it keeps their body healthy and could save you from having to deal with a diva kitty.

Scratch Post

It might seem a bit excessive to bring along something for your cat to sharpen their claws on while you're on vacation, but if they are  used to getting their scratch on, you would rather it be on a scratch post than on some expensive furniture at the hotel or house you're staying at.

ID and Photos

Before leaving home, confirm that your cat's collar and ID tag are secure. In the event your cat escapes, have recent photos on hand to share with locals as well as on social media. If you make a pit stop somewhere to let your cat out of their carrier and relieve themselves , make sure that the windows are not down for them to escape.

Veterinarian Contact Information

In today's world with smart phones, this may be something that you can access on the go, but if you reach an area on your trip without a great signal, you will want to be able to contact the veterinarian in case something happens to your cat. It is a good idea to keep your normal veterinarian's contact information with you to call to let them know, but you should also do some research ahead of time to find a vet at your vacation destination. This will make life much less stressful than trying to find a vet after something has happened to your cat.

Multiple Cats

If you have multiple cats that you are planning on bringing with you it is best to have separate carriers for them to ride in, even if they are used to spending time together. This, again, will help keep them safe in case of an accident. It can also prevent them from getting tired of one another having to constantly climb over one another to get comfortable.

Using a cat travel checklist to prepare for your trip will ensure you don't forget anything to keep your cat happy and healthy.

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.

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