How to travel with your cat or dog

TRAVEL BASICS

Travelling with your pet should take place in complete safety, for both you and your pet! Your pet cannot be left to wander around the car - that would be dangerous.

Don’t forget to bring food and water, any medications if your pet is on treatment, a litter tray and litter bags for when your pet needs to do its business and, of course, its identification card or passport.


Harnesses which attach to the safety belt are available for dogs, and if you prefer your dog to travel in the trunk, fit a dog guard at the rear of your car, to make sure your pet stays in the trunk.


You can use a cage, carrier or travel bag for cats, but when travelling long distances cages are the safest option, especially those fitted with safety belt connectors. Your cat will be happier if the cage is kept stable and immobile, rather than moving in all directions.

MANAGING TRAVEL STRESS

Travelling can be a source of intense stress for pets which have never travelled before, and even for those used to travelling. A number of calming products containing plants or pheromones are available, to help your pet cope with travelling. Pets can also become travel sick, so it is best to take some cleaning materials with you to clean up vomit or faeces due to stress, and to eliminate unpleasant odours from your car. Do not allow your pet to eat just before you leave, as this can cause vomiting. Cats are often afraid to go into their cages, and can even react violently.

Our advice: allow your cat constant access to the cage, or at least for a few weeks prior to your departure. This way, it will become part of your pet's day-to-day life, helping it to become less fearful of the cage.

HEAT, THE WORST ENEMY OF LONG JOURNEYS

Never leave your pet alone in a locked car in the sun. In very hot weather, it is best to travel in the cool of the day. Heat stroke can be fatal! If you think your pet looks like it is overheating, try to cool it down immediately and seek veterinary advice.
Cages and travel bags can absorb heat when exposed to direct sunlight, even with the air-conditioning on. Be vigilant: if your cat starts panting like a dog, this means it is overheating and absolutely needs cooling down.  

There are several options for cooling your pet down: 

  • Place your pet in the shady part of the car, or use a sun visor
  • Regularly give your pet fresh water to drink (avoiding chilled or iced water, to prevent digestive upset)
  • Gently dampen your pet’s coat, using a wet cloth
  • Use cooling pads which have a cooling action when your pet lies down on them
  • Place ice packs on top of the cage to cool the ambient air

PLAN AHEAD FOR ADMINISTRATIVE OBLIGATIONS

Always take your pet’s identification card and health record with you on all trips.

If you are travelling in the European Union, you will need to get a passport, and your pet will need to be up to date with its rabies vaccine. If your pet has not yet been vaccinated, do not wait until the last minute: as is the case for your COVID vaccine, there is an interval between having the injection and vaccination becoming valid.

Outside Europe, pet travel conditions vary, and your pet may also require antiparasitic treatments as well as the rabies vaccine. The vaccine should still be valid on the date you return to France and, in some cases, your pet will also need to have an antibody test, to make sure it is sufficiently protected.
Find out more here
If you are travelling by air or by sea, contact the travel company as there are often specific recommendations for travel cages, and also to find out about the health measures to be followed before and after your journey.


Advice written by Dr Padiolleau, HOPI Veterinary Surgeon.