A recent survey conducted by Hartz showed that 45% of pet owners would now consider taking their pet on the family vacation with them. There are many ways that you can make travelling with an animal easier on yourself and your pets.
Before you leave
The first thing to do before taking a trip with a pet is to decide, rationally, whether the pet is suited to travel in general, and to the specific trip you’re taking. If your pet is ill, ill-tempered, or poorly trained, it may not be right for travel. It should be reliably housetrained, shouldn't chew or scratch and should be quiet on command.
It’s important to take the time to prepare a pet for travel, so that animals are less likely to be traumatized. Expose your pet to several short and increasingly longer trips to acclimatize it. If you’re flying, be sure to purchase the travel crate in advance and make sure your pet is accustomed to spending long times in it.
You should also do some research into the regulations of your destination regarding traveling with pets. If you’re crossing the border to a different country you will likely require specific documentation to leave the country, and to re-enter your own country. You may need some of the following: vaccination records, pet identification information, and a record of medical conditions/medications. You’ll also want to have the name and number of your vet with you, in case of emergency. Give yourself lots of time to research and obtain the documentation you’ll need.
What to bring
Traveling with a pet is like traveling with a small child in some ways. To start with, you will have to pack them a ‘suitcase’. Remember to bring their personal items, including their water and food bowls, bed, collar and leash, toys, and brush if they’re used to regular grooming. This will help your pet feel more comfortable in strange surroundings.
Even if you’ll be close to a pet store and vet during your travels, it’s smart to take along your pet’s food and treats and any medications or remedies (e.g. flea control). You may not be able to get the same brands or flavors during your trip, and switching products can make the animal uncomfortable or even physically sick. If you bring canned food, remember the can opener.
Dress your pet for travel with a collar and up-to-date tags. If your pet has a microchip ensure the identification information is current. For easier identification in case of emergency, bring along some recent photos of your animal.
Finally, bring some cleaning supplies! You’ll need the obvious items like a litter box and litter for your cat or pick up bags for your dog. But you should also bring stain remover and towels in case of an accident. Even the best-trained animal can have an accident in a stressful situation like travel.
Lodging with Lucky
More and more pet owners are interested in traveling with their animals, so more and more hotels are becoming ‘pet friendly’.
Both major and minor hotel chains, inns and B&Bs are starting to accept dogs, and to some extent even cats or smaller, caged animals. Customers are encouraged to call ahead to confirm that hotels will take their pet, and also what kind of ‘services’ the hotel offers their four-legged guests.
For example, in Toronto, Ontario the Holiday Inn on King offers the following services to make a pet feel welcome. They offer designated ‘pet-friendly’ rooms close to elevators, pet treats upon check-in, waste bags for walks, a list of vets and pet services in the area, a map to a nearby park and food/water bowls upon request. For a fee they also offer walking and grooming services and pet food.
Before choosing your accommodation, take some time to think about what is suitable for your pet. If it barks at strangers then you don’t want to be in a busy hotel – a private lodge may be a better choice. Some hotels require you to place your pet in a carrier or crate when you leave it in the room. Confirm this information in advance so that you have the appropriate supplies with you.
Always clean up after your pet. Bring pick-up bags for walks and supplies to clean up any messes or hair in the room.
Keep your pet under control at all times. Don’t let it run around in the room or jump on other guests, staff, or pets in residence. Your pet’s behavior, and even your behavior, will help to shape the hotel’s pet policy in the future. If hotels begin to receive complaints about loud animals, dirty rooms or boisterous behavior, the pet-friendly atmosphere will be reversed in a hurry.
On the Road with Rex
Many dogs love to travel by car, and many cats dislike it. Luckily there are ways to make any road trip with pets safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Dogs and cats should always be kept safely inside the car. Pets who are allowed to stick their heads out the window can be injured by particles of debris or become ill from having cold air forced into their lungs. Never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck.
Because most cats are not as comfortable traveling in cars, for their own safety as well as yours, it is best to keep them in a carrier. Dogs that enjoy car travel don’t always need a carrier but should be restrained in a harness attached to a seatbelt for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that in the event of an accident, loose items in the car will fly around with a force many times their weight. If the dog (or the cat carrier) is not secured, it will become a projectile. The only thing worse than being knocked unconscious or severely injured by your own pet, is your beloved pet flying out a window and being killed. This information applies whether you are driving to the Grand Canyon or to the local PET VALU store – invest in a harness or travel crate to ensure safety.
The second reason pets should be restrained is illustrated by my old dog Candy. Many, many years ago on a trip from Toronto to Wasaga Beach in Ontario, traffic slowed down and eventually stopped on Hwy 400. Candy took the opportunity to jump out the car window in the middle of 6 lanes of traffic, and had she not been tethered to the car interior, she may have been lost or worse. If your dog is better trained or less of a ‘runner’ than Candy, then this is less likely to happen to you but always remember that animals are unpredictable.
It’s important to stop frequently for ‘pee breaks’ and leg stretching for both humans and animals. You should also have water and a portable bowl for your pet to enjoy a drink whenever you stop. You may also want to bring along a portable litter box for the cat, so it stays ‘trained’ to the box. Problems can start quickly with cats avoiding their litter box, so don’t take chances with letting your cat go elsewhere during a trip. Your pet should always have a collar, leash and I.D. tags whenever it leaves the car.
Never leave your pet in a parked car by itself. You certainly don’t want to lose your pet to dognappers, but more importantly a care temperature can rise to dangerous temperatures in a matter of minutes. Even with the windows open it is simply too dangerous to risk.
If your dog is old enough to be losing mobility, it may be a pain getting it into the car or van, or even into the boat or cottage at your destination. If that’s the case, invest in a non-slip pet ramp to make your dog’s trip more enjoyable.
Taking Flight with Fido or Fifi
If you’re going on an extended trip or even moving across country, you might need to take your pet on an airplane. This is much more complicated than a road trip with pets, but it can be done.
Try to research the policies of the airlines before purchasing your tickets. Some airlines may allow small dogs or cats to travel in the cabin with you. Some may restrict all animals to cargo or require specific medical certifications or carriers.
To maximize your pet’s comfort and safety while traveling in cargo, try some of these tips:
- Choose direct flights during mild weather – not extreme summer or winter temperatures.
- Travel on the same flight as your pet.
- Travel during non-peak periods so that baggage handlers aren’t too busy. Your pet may receive gentler handling at these times.
- Ensure your pet has a collar and I.D. tags with both your destination and your permanent address. Label the pet carrier too.
- Stop feeding your pet for a few hours (3-6) before the flight. Small amounts of water are fine.
- Walk your pet before and after the trip, but keep the leash with you rather than leaving it in the carrier.
Remember to inspect your pet closely after the flight for signs of illness or stress. If necessary, visit a vet to confirm your pet’s continued health.
Avoid giving your pet tranquilizers for a flight. This can make the pet groggy and ‘out of it’ upon landing, which could lead to misunderstandings about its health and possible quarantine.
Boating with Benji or Bowser
Taking your animals on an extended boat trip means taking a few extra precautions.
Animals should wear personal floatation devices, just as all people should. Pets and people can be knocked unconscious before hitting the water during an accident, and without a floatation device the results could be devastating.
It’s important to keep your pet well hydrated, with access to cool water at all times. They will also need a place in the shade, preferably with a cool breeze, to stay cool.
After all the water, boaters will have to go ashore regularly (every 2-3 hours) to give dogs a chance to pee. Cats can continue to use their litter box – just ensure it is placed in a quiet place with no chance of falling objects during rough moments on the water. As with on land, it’s very easy for a cat to be turned off its litter box on a boat.
It has been said that dogs can also be litter trained for things like long boat trips, but that is up to individual owners (and their dogs!).
As with car and plane trips, try out a few shorter trips with the animal on the boat to see how it adjusts. Some animals are fine on boats, and some need to be tied securely to avoid walking off the edge.
The Non-Travel Option
If you decide that leaving your pet at home is the best option, and you don’t have friends or family available for pet-sitting, a kennel or house sitter will do the job. With regular exercise and playtime with other animals, many dogs consider a trip to a kennel a vacation in itself. Your local PET VALU store may be able to recommend a few nearby reputable kennels.
Remember that during travel and when in unfamiliar situations, some pets may exhibit behavior you wouldn't normally see at home. Be prepared for everything when traveling with your animals.
For more information on travel with pets, try these websites.
Websites with more information
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