It seems as if every other week there’s another horror story about an animal who has died or gone missing during airline travel. The most recent one involves Xiaohwa, a frightened cat who bolted when an employee opened her crate at John F. Kennedy International Airport—she is still lost inside the building.
It’s just not a good idea to entrust our beloved animals to a system that we barely trust with our shampoo and underwear.
Although some airlines do allow a limited number of small animals to ride inside the cabin, many still think that animals should be treated like baggage. The cargo hold of a plane is a loud, terrifying—and often deadly—place. Because it isn’t climate-controlled, it can quickly become sweltering or freezing, putting animals at risk of dying from heatstroke or exposure.
So as the holiday season approaches, many animal guardians are opting to take the scenic route and drive to their destinations. Here are our top tips for traveling with animals to help make the trip smooth sailing:
- Toting no-spill travel bowls makes it easy to keep everyone hydrated en route.
- To keep cats calm in the car, some people may consider tranquilizing them, but tranquilizers can be dangerous and actually upset and disorient cats. Catnip or stress-reducers such as Feliway or Rescue Remedy are gentler ways to calm cats.
- For dogs who are prone to losing their lunch in the car, ginger capsules (found at health-food stores) may help, or veterinarians can prescribe medication.
- Cats can turn into escape artists on the road, so it’s safest to keep them in sturdy, roomy carriers that are lined with a towel and equipped with a small litter tray.
- Carriers made of hard plastic provide much better protection in an accident than soft-sided or disposable cardboard carriers.
- Dogs should never be transported in the bed of a truck—an abrupt stop can eject them from the vehicle.
- Schedule frequent stops. Just like human travelers, dogs appreciate the chance to stretch their legs, have a snack, and hit the bathroom every couple of hours.
- Animals should always be put on a leash or in a carrier whenever a car window or door is going to be opened. Countless dogs and cats have been lost at tollbooths, gas stations, and rest stops when they unexpectedly darted out an open door or window.
Some people find that it’s easier on animals if they’re allowed to stay at home in the care of trusted family members, friends, or sitters. When your animal companions are staying at home, you will want to do the following:
- Put everything that caregivers may need to know in writing, including your temporary contact information, cell phone number, veterinarian’s phone number, and emergency numbers.
- Leave extras of all animal supplies that caregivers may need, just in case your return is delayed.
- Check in regularly to give caregivers a chance to ask any questions that they might not have felt comfortable calling about.
Happy holidays to you and all your family members!