FIDO: Hey, Fluff, your mom’s had her head buried in her computer for hours. What’s she so busy with?
FLUFFY: Hi, Fido! Mom’s planning our perfect vacation. I’m so excited!
FIDO: Why are you excited? You’re not going, are you?
FLUFFY: I sure am. A lot of cats don’t like to travel, but I do. Mom’s checking out pet friendly hotels. She’s also finding out about flying with me. She didn’t realize how much you need to know when you’re traveling with animals.
FIDO: Ah ha! Are you thinking…
FLUFFY: …what you’re thinking? I am! Let’s go find Meryl.
…And so they did. Travel with animals can be tricky, but if you follow a few simple rules, your babies will be very happy. And we all know, when our babies are happy, we’re happy!
First, and most important, Santé D’Or never recommends
sending an animal cargo. It is so hard on our babies, and there’s just way too much that can go wrong – and has, for too many grieving pet moms and dads. So please investigate every possible option, and only send cargo if you have absolutely, positively, really and truly no other choice.
Now, on to that perfect vacation. Tip number one – know your animal. Most dogs are fine with travel, but cats are true creatures of habit and often don’t like to leave home. If you want to travel, but your pet doesn’t, there are lots of options to keep her safe and happy while you’re gone. Friends or neighbors may be able to assist. You can bring in a pet sitter; many of them offer overnight pet sitting as well as walking, feeding and litter clean up during the day. Pet hotels offer a fun alternative to kennels or veterinary boarding. There’s even a website that matches pet lovers with house sitting gigs. Pet lovers stay in your home for free in return for giving the resident animals plenty of TLC. Check out
If you’re going to stay in a pet-friendly hotel, don’t forget to check the rules before you commit. Most hotels will give you an agreement to sign; read it through, and ask about anything you don’t understand. Specific things to ask about: how many pets are allowed? Is the fee per pet or are all included? Is the fee refundable at the end of the stay? Are there breed restrictions? If you leave the animal in the room while you’re out sightseeing, is someone responsible for him in case of a fire or other catastrophic event? Are there any conditions under which you might be asked to leave? (Some hotels will ask you to leave if your dog barks too much.)
Once you’ve decided to hit the road, it’s time to get prepared for the trip. If you’re flying, you’ll have to make arrangements in advance. Most airlines limit the number of animals they’ll accept in the cabin, so the earlier you plan your trip, the better. You’ll find that Fluffy or a Fluffy-sized Fido can usually travel with you on the plane, but larger Fidos should be left at home, and cared for as discussed at the start of this article.
Airlines all have their own rules and restrictions for both cats and dogs, so check their websites and review the information carefully. Write down any questions you have and get them answered well in advance of flight day. Sometimes it’s worth a trip to the airport to speak with someone in person. Once you know what you need to do, make sure to do it. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re going on vacation and then having Fluffy or Fido turned away at check in. And please remember, flying is hard on animals. Plan on at least a week’s ground time between flights, and non-stop flights are highly recommended.
You’ll need a health certificate before your flight, so while you’re at the vet getting that, talk with her about ways to keep Fluffy or Fido calm. There are anti-anxiety vests that make the animal feel secure; calming scents, such as lavender, to spray on his blanket or pillow; “heartbeat” pillows to place in the crate; and desensitization techniques. (This last requires training, and results are best when you work with a professional trainer.) There are also natural “tranquilizers”, but you have to be careful with these, and they are not recommended when the animal is flying in cargo.
Driving is less complicated, and safety is the primary consideration. Do you have the right sized crate for the car? Food and water dishes that you can secure to the inside so they won’t tip over? We know that Fido loves to stick his head out the window and howl at the wind, but that’s not a good idea. Many pets have been injured by flying debris when their heads are out the window. So keep Fido’s head inside, and for safety’s sake, crate him in the back seat, and fasten the seatbelt around the crate. Ditto for Fluffy. A cat should never, ever roam free in a car. The last thing you need is your cat under your feet, preventing you from braking.
Whether you’re flying or driving, carry collapsible food and water dishes, disposable litter boxes, litter, puppy pads, and of course food, water and snacks. If you’re flying, have these with you on the plane. You’ll want to have enough to cover the trip and to set up shop as soon as you reach your destination. If you’ve checked baggage, your first destination may be baggage claim, which is why you want to have the necessities with you. Many animals will hold their urine for the entire trip and then let it flow freely as soon as they get off the plane or into the hotel room. Having litter and puppy pads ready will ensure that you don’t spend the first hour of your vacation cleaning up pet pee.
We’re not trying to rush the holiday season, but we know that advance planning is key to any successful vacation. For much more information on traveling with animals, whether by plane, boat, rail or automobile, click here: Humane Society. Whether you take Fluffy and Fido with you, or leave them to enjoy themselves at home, your vacation will be happy and relaxed if you follow the old Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared!
We hope you enjoyed these tips, and that you learned something, too!  This month, we want to send a special thank you to one of our valued readers. In response to last month’s article, she shared her favorite brand of non-toxic pest control products. You can find them at   We’d love to hear from you, too, so please send your ideas to
Meryl Schwarz, M.A., M.Ed., is an animal lover and Certified Professional Coach specializing in grief support for people grieving their beloved animals. Whether you’re grieving a terminal diagnosis, the normal aging process, a disappearance or a death, Meryl offers compassionate and caring support with the wisdom of experience. Visit her website at to schedule an appointment by Skype or phone.