Traveling with Pets – A Comprehensive Checklist

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The following is a guest post from Milos Pesic at Howy.org

With proper planning on the owner’s part, a four-footed friend can make a good traveling companion. But it’s very important to

make plans well in advance of the trip. First, make sure the pet will be welcome at your destination. If you plan to stay with friends or relatives, prepare them to expect your pet, too. One sure way to ruin a friendship is to show up with a dog or cat your hosts don’t expect and may not like.

When making reservations at a hotel or motel, ask what the policy on pets is. Some places don’t allow pets – period. Some may have kennel facilities on the premises or nearby. But many hotels do permit well-behaved pets to stay in guest rooms or suites.

Here are some guidelines for the traveler bringing a pet to a hotel or motel:

  • Take along food and water dishes and an adequate supply of the animal’s food, to be sure you will have it upon arrival.
  • Keep your pet restrained in public areas, such as the lobby and hallways.
  • When the animal is in the bedroom with you, try to keep it quiet and relaxed. Make sure it sleeps on the floor, not on chairs, bed or bedspread.
  • Walk a dog outside frequently, to avoid accidents and to keep it from getting restless in the room.
  • For a cat, bring along a disposable cardboard litter pan and plastic bags of litter. Many cat owners find it wise to prepare the litter box, food and water dishes before letting the cat out of its carrier. Knowing at once where everything is, the animal adjusts more readily to new surroundings.
  • If an animal is to be left alone in the room, place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and warn the maid and front desk.

Here are some additional tips on traveling with pets:

  • Before a major trip, take your pet to the vet to make sure the animal is healthy enough to travel and that all vaccinations are current.
  • For a trip out of the country or on
    a plane, a cat or dog must have a certificate of health, signed by the vet and covering a specific time period. Many countries require that the certificate also be endorsed by the local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And it may be wise to

    have a certificate of health for interstate travel, too.

  • When traveling by car, delay the pet’s main meal until driving is over for the day. Water and some dry food or other edible treat should be offered to the pet periodically during the trip.
  • Remember to pack the animal’s favorite toy – and a leash, if you’re traveling with a dog. Cats fare better in a carrying cage with a disposable litter pan. The cage should be placed away from drafts.
  • Dogs should not be permitted to ride with their heads out the window, because of drafts and the danger of injury or infection from dirt particles. Stop to walk and exercise a dog every two hours during an automobile journey.
  • No animal should be left unattended for a long period in a parked car. If a short internment is unavoidable, lock the doors and open a widow or two to provide ventilation, but not wide enough for the animal to catch its head or leap from the car. In very warm or humid weather, no pet should be left in a parked car even for a short time.
  • When you are transporting a pet by airplane, federal regulations require that dogs or cats be at least eight weeks old and have been weaned at least five days before flying. Consult your vet for feeding instructions, and check with the airlines for rules on more exotic animals.
  • If your pet is small enough to be comfortable in a cage that fits under a seal, some airlines permit only one pet per cabin (tourist, first class, etc.) per flight, so book in advance.
  • If your pet is to travel in the baggage compartment of
    an airplane, contact the airline to check rules and services, and for reservations. To minimize trauma to the animal, try to book a flight with few or no stops and no plane changes. In warm weather, reduce the risk of

    overheating by booking an early morning or late evening flight. In colder weather, book daytime flights when the cargo area is warmest.

  • An animal must be confined to a cage during flight. The cage must be leakproof, well-ventilated, free from interior protrusions that could be hazardous during a bumpy flight, and large enough to allow the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down. Acceptable cages can be purchased from the airlines or at a good pet shop.
  • Mark the cage clearly with your name, address and phone number, label it “Live Animal” with arrows indicating the upright position, and retrieve it promptly when the flight ends.
  • Once at your destination, observe proper pet owner’s etiquette. At a campground, for instance, don’t let your pet roam to annoy other campers or threaten their food. And keep an eye on your pet at wilderness sites, because snakes, porcupines or skunks could injure an unwary city animal.
  • Whenever you travel with a cat or dog, it is imperative that the animal wear a collar with full identification. That’s the best way to avoid the tragedy of a lost pet.

Additional Resources and Further Reading

For more general information and resources on pets see the Pets and Animals section at Howy.org.

American Airlines’ official pet policy

Delta’s official pet policy

Continental Airlines’ official pet policy

Southwest Airlines’ official pet policy

United Airlines’ official pet policy

TSA’s official pet policy

CDC’s official policy and laws concerning traveling with and importing animals

Check out Pets Welcome to locate pet-friendly lodging and get even more advice on traveling with, moving with, and transporting pets.

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