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November 15, 2013

Traveling with Your Pet: What to Pack and How to Prepare

Basic supplies and a little preparation will make travel easier and safer for your pet

A few basic supplies and some careful preparations are key to making your trip a safe and happy one for both you and your pet. Here are a few tips to make traveling safe and comfortable for your best pal.

Packing for your pet

Supplies your pet will need

Don't forget your pet's food, food and water dishes, bedding, litter and litter box, leash, collar and tags, grooming supplies, a first-aid kit (for dogs or cats), and any necessary medications. Always have a container of drinking water with you—pets get thirsty!

Also pack a few of your pet's favorite toys so she'll have something familiar to play with and remind her of home.

Identification for your pet

Your pet should wear a sturdy collar with ID tags throughout the trip. The tags should have both your permanent address and telephone number and an address and telephone number where you or a contact can be reached during your travels.

Carry a current photograph of your pet with you. If your pet is lost during a trip, a photograph will make it easier for others (airline employees, the police, shelter workers, and others) to help you find your pet.

Your pet's travel carriers and harnesses

For safety's sake, your pet must stay in a carrier when traveling by car. Carriers and are mandatory when your pet is traveling by air.

Your pet's carrier should be durable and smooth-edged with opaque sides, a grille door, and several ventilation holes on each of the four sides. Choose a carrier with a secure door and door latch.

Because most cats are not as comfortable travelling in cars, for their own safety as well as yours, keep them in a carrier.

Dog restraints or seatbelts are useful for preventing your dog from roaming around the car and being a distraction to the driver, but they haven't been reliably shown to protect dogs during a crash. Read more about car travel and pets »

Because most cats are not as comfortable travelling in cars, for their own safety as well as yours, it is best to keep them in a carrier.

It's important to restrain carriers in the car so that they don't bounce around and cause possible harm to the pet inside. You can do this by securing the seat belt around and over the front of the carrier.

If your pet is traveling by air, the carrier should have food and water dishes. Airline-appropriate pet carriers are available at pet-supply stores, or you can purchase them directly from domestic airlines. Select a carrier that has enough room for your pet to sit and lie down but is not large enough to allow your pet to be tossed about during travel. You can make the carrier more comfortable by lining the interior with shredded newspaper, a towel, or a blanket.

Preparing your pet 

Help your pet get used to the carrier ahead of time

It is wise to acclimate your pet to the carrier in the months or weeks preceding your trip. Let your pet explore the carrier; place her food dish inside the carrier and confine her to the carrier for brief periods. Put her in the carrier and take short drives around the neighborhood. If properly introduced to car travel, most dogs and cats will quickly adjust to and even enjoy car trips. If your cat is afraid to go into her carrier, try our techniques for helping her become comfortable in it »

Help your pet avoid motion sickness

Like humans, pets can experience motion sickness. Take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than large amounts of water. Keep feeding to a minimum during travel, and provide a light meal for your pet two to three hours before you leave (if traveling by car), or four to six hours before departure if traveling by air. Allow small amounts of water periodically in the hours before the trip.

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