5 Travelers Share How They Pack Their Bags and Travel with Their Cats

Traveling with cats requires extra planning and comfort and safety are top priorities. Also, you need to know exactly what to pack and how to avoid weighing yourself down with too much stuff.

To improve how we pack our bags, we have talked with 5 experienced travelers with cats and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all the travelers have lots of experience traveling with cats, so they really know what they are talking about!).

Two cats in a suitcase

The 5 Experts

Laura Moss
I’m the editor and co-founder of AdventureCats.org, and I live in Atlanta.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travelers with a cat bring?

If you can, bring the food, litter and even the water your cat is accustomed to.

If your cat gets stressed, consider bringing along calming items, such as a familiar toy or blanket, calming treats like Composure, or calming pheromone spray like Feliway.

While some cats may be comfortable riding along in the car or hitching a ride on your shoulder, always bring a carrier or pet backpack so your cat has a safe place to retreat and you have a safe place to put them if need be.

How do you bring things with you?

Pet backpacks, such as those designed by Outward Hound are popular, as are the U-Pet carriers and the GoImprints Backpack Pet Carrier.

What are your top tips for other travelers with cats?

Even if your cat is leash trained, don’t let him or her walk out the door. Always carry your cat outside. You don’t want your cat to get accustomed to walking outside while he or she is leashed because then he or she might dash out the door when not leashed.

Research your location and determine what paperwork or vaccinations your cat may need in order to travel safely and legally.

While some cats may be comfortable traveling, others may never enjoy it due to age, health or personality. Don’t force your cat to do something he or she isn’t comfortable with as it could be harmful to your pet, as well as to your relationship with your pet.

If you’re interested in speaking with a cat owner who frequently travels with her pet, get in touch with Karen Nguyen and her cat, Waffles. They’re always flying, hiking and traveling.

Visit Laura Moss’ website

Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley
We are from Victoria, BC. Danielle and I found Bolt and Keel as small abandoned kittens while hiking in a local park. The shelter was closed by the time we got there and we already had planned to leave on a multi-day backpacking and canoeing expedition, so we had no choice but to take them with us!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travelers with a cat bring?

We don’t typically have anything too special other than we chose to bring little packs of wet food, as it is easier to bring while backpacking and a small litter box while canoeing or while in the car. One thing we have found helpful is to bring a little syringe so we can give them water while on the trail or while traveling.

How do you bring things with you?

We don’t use anything special, but do find that top loading backpacks work the best for when the kitties need a break. When on day hikes, we choose to put a large sweater or even a sleeping back at the bottom of the bag so the cats can perch and look out of the backpack. On overnight trips, we don’t have enough room in the bags, so have trained Bolt to drape around our necks, supported by the backpack. We don’t bring anything special for them other than their food, so don’t have any issues.

What are your top tips for other travelers with cats?

Our biggest tip is to just get out there! People always ask us how we trained them to go on adventures with us, reality is that we didn’t train them, rather just take them wherever we go! That being said, starting out in a quiet area without cars and dogs will help, Bolt and Keel do best in the wilderness.

Visit Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley’s website

Karen Turner
I’m from New York City, however I live in the Netherlands. I never intended to start traveling with cats, however when I moved abroad with my husband, I knew that my cat had to come with. Since moving abroad, we’ve had to travel to a few countries in between visas between our moves to/from France and the Netherlands. Our cat has lived in Belgium, Romania, the Netherlands, France, and the United States.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travelers with a cat bring?

  • Calming spray is a must. My cat is a nervous wreck when it comes to traveling–and I’ve found that a calming spray works wonders in terms of helping her stay calm on planes and trains.
  • Cat leash. When you’re going through the airport or on a train with your cat, you might need to take your cat out of its case…and chaos can ensure. Be sure to have your cat on a leash as a backup in case they get scared and try to run. You don’t want to worry about losing your cat!
  • Litter and a mini litterbox. This is one for shorter distances, however I try to carry a litterbox when I’m traveling with my cat as you don’t always arrive at a good hour–and your cat will need to use the toilet. As some pet stores don’t have the best hours, it’s best to have a mini one to help until you can replace yours.

You don’t need a fancy case as a good case with a secure zipper and a leash inside (to prevent them from breaking out) is good enough. Some people spend so much on cat related things, but you don’t need much.

How do you bring things with you?

I use an ARGO cat carrier. I got it as it was airline approved, included a leash inside, and was soft enough that it could easily fit underneath the airplane seat. My cat is small, so she has plenty of space. Most importantly, I believe that it’s important to have a carrier that allows your cat some quiet and darkness as travel is stressful–and I like having people not realize that I have a cat inside. They usually assume that it’s a carry-on bag.

What are your top tips for other travelers with cats?

Go slowly as travel is harder on your cat than it is on you. It will be harder to find cat-friendly accommodations, but it is possible if you ask ahead and look for dog-friendly accommodations. The hardest part of traveling with a cat internationally is the paperwork and figuring out which modes of transport that your cat can remain with you on. Be sure to do it early as you might be surprised how involved the paperwork for bringing your cat–and it took me a while to find train/plane routes that allowed her on with me. I had to pay a premium in some cases, but it was worth it.

Visit Karen Turner’s website

Nina Fussing
I’m Danish by birth, but Nomadic by nature. I grew up in Asia and have been lucky enough to live in France, UK, Belgium, USA, and Hong Kong. I’m also a big animal lover and could not imagine my life without paws. My husband and I adopted two Florida street cats over 16 years ago and they immediately became a core part of our family. So, when we were offered jobs in Hong Kong there was no question they would come along. They lived with us happily there for several years, after which we moved back to the USA. Around that time, a rescue dog came into our lives, and she became the final third of our 12 paw-family, meshing in beautifully with the cats who eventually adopted her too.

Then in 2010, we ditched our house and regular jobs, bought a 40-foot RV and took everyone on a grand adventure. For the next eight years, we roamed the country on wheels, traveling over 50,000 miles and across 33 States. It was an amazing experience and the paws loved every minute of it. Earlier this year we sold the RV and decided to move to Europe. That’s where all of us are located now.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travelers with a cat bring?

  • Cat Harness & Leash -> we leash-trained our cats when they were around seven years old, and it was one of the best things we’ve ever done. It took a month or so to get them used to it (they flopped over and looked at us like we were killing them when we first put it on LOL), but they absolutely love it now, and will actively ask to be walked. Most importantly of all, it has given them the freedom to explore the outdoors with us during all of our travels. So for the 8 years we RV’d with them, we walked them everyday, often on hiking trails and with the dog too (she always wants to come along). Plus, we’ve been able to relax with them outside everyday too. It came in handy when we traveled by plane to Europe too, allowing us to let them out of their bags at the airport terminal to stretch their legs. If you want to travel with your cat, leash-training is my #1 recommendation.
  • Natural Calmers -> Not all cats are “natural” travelers, and one of ours in particular (Rand) is a bit of a nervous Nelly. For her, natural calmers like Feliway Spray (sprayed in her carrier or wherever she wants to hide), Bach’s Rescue Remedy (rubbed on the ears) and Lick’s (an edible treat with L-theanine) have really been key. We carry these three things with us wherever we go, and they’ve really been a help for those time the kitties were a little extra nervous.
  • One or Two Flat-Packed Cardboard boxes -> This may seem like an odd thing to travel with, but boxes travel flat (so they are super easy to pack, even in a suitcase) and they are SO incredibly useful. We use them to create hiding spots for the cats (just cut open an entry and put it under the bed covers), we use them to create cozy cat sleeping spots (just put a towel or some T-shirts down inside) and finally we use them as a portable litter-box (just line it with a heavy trash bag and fill it with litter).

For “regular” travel stuff we always bring our sturdy travel cat bags, food and water bowls, some extra cat food & treats, a litter scoop and some extra litter in a bag (just in case we can’t find any when we need it).

As for “useless” things I can’t think of anything off-hand, but I’d say anything that isn’t on this list probably isn’t really needed.

How do you bring things with you?

Our cat carrier bags are, of course, key items. For the first 13 years of our cats lives we traveled with Sherpa Deluxe Travel Bags. They are great, sturdy cat bags and have served us so very well over the years. This spring we traveled with Air France to Europe and needed slightly smaller carriers (due to airline restrictions) so we switched to Smiling Paws 4 Way Expandable Soft Sided Pet Carrier for Cats and we really like them. They’re high quality, compact and the 4 expanders are genius.

As for the rest of our kitty “stuff”. We carry our harnesses and “cat calming” products (#1 & 2 above) in our carry-on bags. They’re compact and super easy to carry around. The bigger items such as food bowls, extra food, litter scoop, extra litter & of course our all-around super-useful flat-packed cardboard boxes (#3 above) we’ll carry in an extra suitcase that we check-in (if we’re traveling by air) or that we keep in the car (if traveling by auto).

What are your top tips for other travelers with cats?

My top tip would leash-train your kitty and then “just do it”! So many people never travel with their cats because they think they might not be able to adapt, or they worry about the fact that their cats will be locked in somewhere when they get to their destination. However I’ve found that pretty much all cats adapt, if you introduce the travel slowly and get them used to it. Our one kitty Rand, is a super nervous Nelly and although it took her some time, she got accustomed to traveling and ended up loving it. Both our cats have been traveling for over 12 years now and they are full-fledged nomadic experts! Plus if you leash-train your cat he/she can explore with you everywhere with you, and that means the world is open to them too. So bring your paws along, and enjoy the ride together!

Visit Nina Fussing’s website

Born and raised in Orange County, CA and currently living in Denver, CO. My cat is an important part of my life and I want to share my experiences with her when I can.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all travelers with a cat bring?

Her bed or blanket to make her feel comfortable, purée snack for food/water when she’s picky and doesn’t want to drink or eat, and her leash because she doesn’t travel in a bag.

How do you bring things with you?

I place it in tote bag – it’s my carry on bag.

What are your top tips for other travelers with cats?

My top tip would be the purée snacks! Waffles gets really weird about drinking water when she’s not home and I found that this is the best way to get some water in her!

Visit Karen’s website

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