“Where are we going? Is it the last train to Barksville? Are we flying to Meow-mi? I do hope we are going to Paw Springs”, said Liz Claybone, the beautiful Cocker Spaniel, as she and Catrina, the elegant Russian blue cat, were chatting about their summer vacations with their families. They were very excited that their families are planning to take them along on their trips – they used to always be left home but now, they travel much more. “Why was it that in the old days, we never got to go anywhere?”, asked Liz. “Times have changed”, purred Catrina. “So many more humans want to take their pets with them now – and it is a lot easier than it used to be. There are a few important things to know though, to help make the trip better for the humans and for us,” she continued. “I like everything to be purrrrr-fect”.
Here are some of her tips:
Where are you going? – “Lots of hotels, beaches and parks like us – and we can go there any time and we might even be allowed to run around without a leash.” Liz Claybone added that she had been to a few places where leashes were required – and even some where pets were not allowed at all! Seriously! She was quite miffed about that but said that she was so glad that her humans checked first so there were no surprises – it would have been awful to go to a park and then not be allowed in! That is when some humans forget about what happens when pets are left in cars… it can get much too hot. That’s another whole story…
Catrina, who has travelled across Russia and to many other countries, said that it is also important for humans to check on customs or immigration rules. That means knowing about the rules when you cross a border into another country. Not every country has the same rules about pets as Canada and so humans need to know these rules. Catrina was stuck in quarantine once because her humans didn’t have all the paperwork they needed – “Quarantine means you have to stay with the government people for awhile until they are sure you are not sick – it was just awful… I missed my family – it was worse than being stuck in Siberia” she said! Fortunately, her humans learned about checking with the consulates of other countries she has visited. They knew about the vaccines she needed – and had all the paperwork ready. They also learned about parasites, those awful little bugs, which are different in other countries. Liz said that on one of her family’s drives to Paw Springs in California, her dog food was taken at the border because her humans didn’t have the label from the bag to show the ingredients and country of origin. Very important! “They forgot that paperwork but they did have my rabies certificate”, she said. “Fortunately, they remembered to take me to the vet to get that before we left or who knows what might have happened!?”
Bring your ID – Always keep an identification tag with up to date contact information on your pet’s collar and consider microchipping them in case they lose their collar. Liz and Catrina said they both have microchips – “I was surprised”, said Liz – “it didn’t hurt a bit! I saw the veterinarian coming with that needle and was worried but it was fine. And my owner’s information is on a computer database and so if I get lost anywhere, a veterinarian can wave a magic wand over me and find out everything. It is great!” If you’re heading far from home, it’s a good idea to also attach a temporary tag with your cell phone number and address of your destination. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a photo handy.
Secure them for the ride – Airlines, trains and ships have rules about shipping crates for cargo or “in cabin” carriers. Liz said that it is so important to check their policies and make reservations early. Once, she said, we got the airport, and my crate was not suitable. We had to get a new one right away. Another time, the airline said that only one animal could be in the compartment at a time – “fortunately,” said Liz, “it was me!”
Catrina said that she heard about a dog who was hurt in a car accident from flying through the air from the back seat – he hit the dash and he hurt a human too! “How awful”, said Liz. “I have a sparkly harness that has a slot for the seatbelt to go through,” she said. “And in some vehicles, I take my carrier and nap in there – totally safe for me and my humans.”
Keep them comfortable –Try to arrange as direct and short a journey as possible. The danger of flying is mostly the time spent on the ground while we wait to be loaded or unexpected delays. It can get really hot or really cold during these times. Most airlines will post recommendations for food and water. Liz said that her owners always freeze some water in her dish overnight so it won’t spill during loading and it melts when she needs it.
Stress and anxiety; to medicate or not to medicate? – Liz said she does not like to have any medication before flying – it makes her groggy and a bit uncoordinated and she hates that. It also made it hard for her to breathe properly. She says that it is always best to avoid sedating your pet for travel.
Catrina said that her owners have discovered Feliway and she loves it! It is a calming pheromone (that is, a smell that she notices) and she loves having it sprayed in her carrier before she travels – even in the car to go to the vet. She also has a Thundershirt for anxiety. She told Liz that these tight shirts make you feel like you are being gently hugged and it feels so good! She said her humans got one for her at PetFocus and they have them for dogs too!
Consider leaving us behind – Even though pets love to be with their humans, sometimes it may be best for your pet to be left with a trusted friend, relative or boarding kennel. “Oh, so true,” said Catrina. “Sometimes I’d rather just stay in one place and look out the window. The cat condos at PetFocus are so great… I love staying there,” she said.