Traveling With Your Pet Over the Holidays: Be Prepared When Transporting Your Dog, Cat, or Bird

When you hit the road with your animal companion this holiday season, be prepared. Make sure your pet has had all necessary inoculations, and carry paperwork proving it. When traveling with your pet on the airlines, certification of compliance with all vaccinations is a requirement, so getting that out of the way early is a good idea. If your pet has been vaccinated, your vet can provide written verification. Just give him a call.

If you are trying to travel using other methods of public transportation, check the regulations for the specific carrier ahead of time. Amtrak does not allow pet passengers other than service animals, and the rules for different bus lines vary.

Stock Up on Supplies Before You Travel With Your Pet

Once you pet is legal to travel, there are some other things you should consider. Your pet has needs too, and a stop at the local quick mart might not be enough to satisfy him. Food, water, bedding material, litter or wood shaving, and insulation if temperature is an issue, are all things you need to evaluate beforehand. Prepare a care package with the necessary items, and keep it nearby. Getting the things you need together, and then putting them in the trunk of the car is not be the best way to go. Have a small bag with you that contains: water, paper towels, treats, medication, a leash (where applicable), and any paperwork or instructions that may be required.

Provide Identification in Case Your Pet Gets Lost

Make sure that your pet is wearing identification. Tattoos, identification chips, and collar mounted GPS trackers are cutting edge choices that have advantages and disadvantages, but a collar tag with an address and phone number is an absolute essential.

Overnight Stays With Your Pet

Don’t just rely on brochures or website descriptions. Check with any hotels before traveling to verify that they welcome pets. Don’t be surprised by a change in policy that forbids keeping a pet in your room. The more things you can do before your trip to smooth the way, the better. Traveling with your pet is less stressful when there are fewer surprises.

Calm Everybody Down

Animals are often fearful in unfamiliar surroundings, and a car trip can be stressful, particularly if the only time you take your pet for a ride is when he goes to the vet. There are aromatherapy products available that can help relax many pets. Dogs, cats, and other popular pets have a highly developed sense of smell that can benefit from aromatherapy products designed specifically for them. Use caution, however; cats can have adverse reactions to aromatherapy concentrations designed for humans, so stick with products sold specifically for them.

Always keep something with your scent on it in your pet’s carrier. A piece of clothing that carries your scent can be a reassuring reminder of home. Your pet can sense your mood. If you are stressed, he’ll know it. Speak to him in a low reassuring tone periodically throughout the journey, and keep your movements slow and regular. If you think that traveling will be particularly stressful for your pet, talk to your veterinarian. For young, healthy dogs, sometimes a mild sedative is a possibility.

Consider the Environment

If you are traveling from one climate extreme to another, take the weather into consideration when selecting and positioning your pet’s carrier. Don’t forget that the temperature inside a car can heat to the danger level quickly, so never leave your pet unattended. A sudden chill can be serious for birds and monkeys, so be sure to cover cages or carriers with warm insulation when entering or leaving vehicles, and be careful of drafts from open windows.

Acting Up

A usually well-behaved pet can behave badly when stressed, so don’t expect an unfamiliar experience to be a breeze because your pet is normally well behaved. Barking, biting, crying, vomiting, and urinating are not out of the question, so understand what you might be in for.

When traveling with your pet, adequate preparation means the difference between a positive experience and a nightmare . . .for both of you. Remember, pets don’t understand what’s going on. This makes them unpredictable. In order to give them the best travel experience, anticipate their needs and make safety a top priority. That way this holiday will be a fond memory for everyone.