Moving cross-country with cats? Ten tips to help the journey go smoothly
By Kim Campbell Thornton
A road trip with a dog is a classic experience, but you don't hear so much about traveling with cats. Felines can be fine traveling companions, though, especially if you prepare them beforehand and take some common-sense precautions to keep them safe and happy. Here's our expert advice on taking cats for a ride -- whether your destination is a day away or on the other side of the country.
-- If you have a few weeks or months before the big move, begin now to accustom your cat to his carrier. Leave it out in the house for him to explore, and make it extra-appealing by placing treats or catnip toys inside for him to find. You may also want to feed meals in it, leaving the door open. If you see your cat napping in the carrier, lavish him with praise, treats or a nice head scratch.
-- Accustom your cat to car rides that don't involve going to the veterinarian. Start with short trips down the street or around the block and right back home. Always make sure the ride is comfortable, with the carriers resting on a level, stable surface. Gradually increase the distance of the trips, with occasional stops for a treat such as a tiny bite of your hamburger at a drive-through or other special treat.
-- Feline pheromone sprays or wipes can enhance a carrier's allure and may help your cat relax when he's in it.
-- Tranquilizers are usually not a good idea, but if you have an anxious cat, talk to your veterinarian about chewable nutritional supplements that can have a calming effect. If your cat shows signs of motion sickness, such as drooling or vomiting, he may benefit from a prescription for Cerenia, an anti-nausea medication.
-- Plot your trip based on the location of pet-friendly hotels. Even if a website says a particular hotel or chain permits pets, call beforehand to confirm that cats are welcome.
-- Stock up on disposable litter boxes. Annette Maxberry-Carrara, who has moved around the world with various cats, recommends buying one for every stop until you reach your destination and using "crystal" litter, individually bagged for each stop. "It's lighter than clay, cuts the stink in the hotel room or car and absorbs liquid quickly," she says. "Toss the whole thing when you leave the hotel."
-- Feed your cat at least an hour before departure every morning so he has a chance to use the litter box before you set out. "Cats generally eat and drink less while traveling," says JaneA Kelley, who moved from Maine to Seattle with her three cats, ages 17, 13 and 1 year. "That gave my cats all the opportunity they needed until we stopped 8 to 10 hours later."
-- On the road, keep your cat in his carrier. It's safer for him and for you.
-- At hotels, take the cat in first -- in his carrier -- place it in the bathroom and close the door. Then you can bring in other items from the car without fear that the cat will bolt. "Try to make a corner of the hotel room as cozy as possible for the cat, with his carrier, familiar food dishes and litter box," says former Cat Fancy editor Debbie Phillips-Donaldson.
-- Plan ahead for your arrival. Terry Albert, who moved her cats from Seattle to San Diego and back again, says, "I'm probably the only person who ever checked luggage with an unwashed litter box in a trash bag so the cats would have something that smelled like home when we got to the new place."
affects dogs, cats
Q: My boyfriend smokes. I know that smoking around pets isn't good for them, but he says that as long as he doesn't smoke near them, there won't be any harmful effect. -- via email
A: You are right to be concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on your pets. There's a direct link between pets living in a smoking environment and a higher risk of health problems. And your boyfriend is wrong to think that stepping outdoors or into another room is enough to offset the risk.
An ongoing study by the University of Glasgow found that while cats whose owners smoked away from them had a reduced amount of smoke taken into their body, the cats were not altogether protected from exposure. The same study found that a gene that acts as a marker of cell damage was higher in dogs living in smoking homes than those in nonsmoking homes.
Professor Clare Knottenbelt, professor of small animal medicine and oncology at the university's Small Animal Hospital, says, "Our findings show that exposure to smoke in the home is having a direct impact on pets. It risks ongoing cell damage, increasing weight gain after castration and has previously been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers."
Cats are especially at risk, possibly because they take in more smoke from grooming themselves. Veterinarian Victoria Smith, who is investigating the links between passive smoking and lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells in cats, says, "Our work so far has shown that cats take in significant amounts of smoke, and even having outdoor access makes very little difference."
For his own health and that of your pets, encourage your boyfriend to stop smoking. If he won't, make a rule that he can't smoke in or around your home. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Dogs at risk may benefit
from canine flu vaccine
-- It's flu season for you, but what about your dog? Does he need a flu vaccination? Canine influenza isn't common, but it's making an appearance in some parts of the country, including a recent outbreak in Austin, Texas. The H3N2 virus is a newer infection, making dogs more susceptible, but a vaccine is available for dogs at risk. If your dog spends a lot of time with large numbers of other dogs -- at dog parks, boarding kennels or dog shows, for instance -- is already sick or has a weak immune system, or will be traveling to areas where there is an outbreak, ask your veterinarian if the vaccine is right for your dog.
-- An online database created to track animals who are taken in by shelters and rescue groups is up and running. Shelter Animals Count, which has on board organizations including the University of Wisconsin and University of Florida Veterinary Schools, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and Maddie's Fund, will help animal welfare organizations large and small accurately count the numbers of animals entering and leaving shelters, share and compare data and improve their efforts to save animals' lives and prevent pet homelessness.
-- Captain Cat? Bailey, a sealpoint Siamese with a yen for adventure, sails the bounding main with his humans, Louise Kennedy and her partner, James. The seafaring feline blogs about his life on their sailboat, Nocturne, and has clawed his way to literary fame with his book, "Bailey Boat Cat: Adventures of a Feline Afloat." The Museum of Maritime Pets even named him an Ambassador at Sea. Like any good sailor, Bailey is skilled at climbing ropes and ladders. He also enjoys watching seagulls and other birds, as well as dolphins, and snacking on the occasional fish that mistakenly lands on board. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Cats may be better long-distance travelers than you think. Many curl up and sleep the whole way. Photo by JaneA Kelley; used by permission. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Sailor cat Bailey enjoys bird watching, sunbathing and fishing. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 3