January 2nd marks National Pet Travel Safety Day, a time to make a resolution to keep your dog or cat safe every time you get in the car. Do you have a winter vacation coming up? We put together some of our top tips for traveling safely with your pets.
Find the right carrier
Whether you’re traveling by car or air, your pet needs to be safely secured in a carrier – you wouldn’t drive without a seatbelt, so your pet shouldn’t be loose inside your car! When choosing a carrier, you want to find one that is large enough for them to comfortably stand, sit, lie down, and turn around. It’s also a good idea to choose a carrier that allows you to attach a water bowl or bottle to the door, especially if your pet will be spending extended periods in it.
If you’re flying, be sure to review the airline requirements for
carriers. They often have guidelines around the size, shape, and materials,
depending on whether they’re going in the cabin or the hold.
Prepare the essentials
Once your bags are packed, it’s time to get one ready for your
pet. Inside this bag should be anything they may need during your travels,
- Their favorite toy and blanket, which can
eventually be used in their carrier so they’re comforted by the smell of home
- Necessary bathroom items, like poop bags or a
disposable litter tray and extra litter
- Copies of their up-to-date vaccination and
- Your contact information and the details of
your final destination
- A well-stocked first-aid kit with a book on
basic pet first aid, in case of emergency
This is also a great time to double-check that your pet’s microchip information is up-to-date. If your pet does escape from your house, a microchip is their best chance of finding their way home. Studies have found that the return-to-owner rate was 20 times higher for cats and 2.5 times higher for dogs with a microchip – you can learn all about microchips and their benefits in this blog.
Check the requirements
for pets during travel and at your destination
Before your trip, take the time to review the requirements for
pets both during your travel and at your destination. If you’re flying, in
particular, you’ll want to review the rules for your specific airline – each
can have different rules around weight limits, carrier sizes, among others.
Your pet may also require specific vaccinations, such as Rabies or Distemper,
and could require a period of quarantine when arriving at your destination.
It’s also helpful to look into pet-related bylaws in the place
you’re staying so there are no surprises. Look into rules around leash
requirements and whether dogs can be off-leash in public spaces, like parks or
Give your pet time to
become comfortable in the car
If your pet has limited experience with cars, give them plenty
of time to become familiar with them before you hit the road. The best way to
do this is in stages:
- Stage 1: Get them used to the car itself by giving them plenty of opportunities to sniff around the inside and outside of the car. Bring a special snack, such as their favorite Freshpet treat, that you can give them while they interact with the car to help them develop a positive association.
- Stage 2: Once they’re happy to be in the car while it’s turned off, bring them into the car and turn it on. If that goes well, spend a few minutes in the car with them, rewarding their good behavior.
- Stage 3: The final step is to go for a series of short drives. Start with a loop of your neighborhood and increase the distance each drive – maybe even driving to places they enjoy, like the dog park.
While this can be a lengthy process, taking the time to make
them truly comfortable in the car will make vacations with your pet more
enjoyable for everyone involved.
Help your pet prepare
for a plane ride
If this is your pet’s first extended trip in their carrier, take
the time to get them used to it well before the flight. Don’t wait until the
day of the flight to introduce them to the carrier – instead, put them inside
it regularly, increasing the amount of time they spend in it. Once they’re
comfortable being inside it, you can take them for car rides so they become
accustomed to some of the feelings of movement they’ll experience.
If you’re worried about your pet becoming anxious during the
flight, consider purchasing a ThunderShirt. This lightweight, machine-washable,
and breathable vest serves a similar function as swaddling a baby by applying
gentle pressure to calm anxiety during the journey. This makes a great
alternative to sedatives, which are known to cause respiratory distress in pets
when used at high altitudes.
Know what to do if you
and your pet become separated
Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can guarantee that you
and your pet won’t become separated while on holiday. However, what you can do
is have a plan you can fall back on in the unlikely event that this does
happen. Being prepared in advance will also help you stay calm and mobilize
quickly, which can help you reunite with your pet more quickly. There are three
key things you can do before your trip:
- Pre-make some missing pet flyers: There are numerous templates available online or you can create one from scratch. You can choose whether to print a few copies or simply have it saved on your phone or email for easy access.
- Have a list of shelters and rescues: Put together a list of shelters, rescues, and animal control organizations in your destination(s). This way, if your pet escapes you have a list of places to contact for help.
- Contact your pet’s microchip company: In addition to ensuring their details are up-to-date, check and see if you’re able to report your pet missing so it will be flagged if someone searches the microchip.
As pet parents, we know that you want your pet to join you
wherever you go, vacations included! We hope that these tips will help you
prepare for your upcoming trip and ensure that you make nothing but positive