How to Travel Long Distances With Your Cat

How to Travel Long Distances With Your Cat
Our four month road trip packing - doable with mindful packing in a Prius! Litter box positioned well.

Cats are incredibly rewarding, but also make traveling very difficult, if not impossible. How can you enjoy travel while not stressing out about your cat?

There two ways to approach this. 

You can find people to take care of them while you travel, or you can travel WITH your pet.  Neither approach is entirely foolproof, but throughout our years with our senior cat, Squiggles, my wife and I have discovered some really amazing ways to make traveling while owning a pet doable, exciting, and positive.

Squiggles on our road trip in Longmont, Colorado - bundled up 'cause it was COLD!

Travel With Your Cat

The first option is to take your pet with you on trips.

This may be easier for dogs, but even though people think that cats love their homes and that’s it, there are a large number of exceptions to the rule - you just have to find them (or train them from youth!)

For instance, we took Squiggles with us on a road trip during COVID - from NYC down to Florida, then up through Louisiana and Texas to Colorado, then through Utah, Nevada, and California, reaching the Pacific coast, before retuning via New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Carolina.  

How did we do this with a 20 year old cat?  With prep, patience, and an increasingly improved sense of when she needed the litter.

Importantly, I don’t recommend flying with your pet if you can drive - it’ll be so much less stressful on them than a plane.  If you need to fly somewhere, I’d probably recommend the Trusted Housesitter route.  

Comfy and cozy in Austin, Texas

However, if you have a car or can rent a car, traveling with a cat in a car long distance is totally doable!

City dwellers, many credit cards like the Amex Platinum offer status with rental cars, allowing you to bypass counters and use the executive aisles, get cheaper rates, and even offer rental insurance. Feel free to reach out with any Qs!

think about where you can fit a litter box; disposables ones are easy, but you can’t put anything on top of them like you might with a regular littler box that has a top; this can be helpful in the car when space is at a premium and you can position the litter box where your cat can easily access it while driving, so there are no accidents in the car!  We put our litter box in the back of our Toyota Prius, so it was reachable for Squiggles, but also far enough where we wouldn’t have to necessarily smell it.  We also tried to stop whenever she started heading back there, helping to (A) making things easy without the movement of driving, and (B) giving us the ability to catch any potential stinkfeet before they got onto the luggage.

We’ve also found that a nice heated pad, connected to the cigarette lighter if you have one (via a power inverter, such as this one), is a really amazing, calming way to travel for cats.  We would plug it in, and then Squiggles would lay on the warm pad in our lap, sleeping and chilling.  Definitely really useful for road trips, especially if there is any colder weather!  And SIDE NOTE: these kind of heated pads are just as amazing at home - cats absolutely adore them, as they naturally run at a higher temperature than humans.  I highly, highly recommend them to everyone.

A few other things to bring along:

  • Cat wipes
  • Treats
  • Catnip - dry and a toy are both good, but in this case, dry works better, in our experience
Squiggles got to meet her mom for the first time since she was a kitten, in Florida

You've Reached Your Destination - Now What?

Of course, getting there is only part of the battle.  The next issue is finding a place that will accept your cat.  Only certain places are pet-friendly, and when they say pet-friendly, this often involves paying you a pet fee every day or per stay on top of your regular rate, and you can often only find information for dogs.  Don’t let this get you down.  When people say no pets, they often mean no dogs, because so rarely do people travel with their cats.  

The first thing to do here, then, is to call the hotel or message the Airbnb that you want to stay at.  Don’t filter by pet-friendly to start, but rather, look for what you really want.  If you talk to them and ask to bring a cat, more times than not (in our experience, way more - like 90/10 times out of 100), they will  let you bring a cat.  So your problem is solved.  On the rare occasions where you can’t find a place that will accept your cat, you may have to consider filtering for pet friendly places.  We’ve found that the more extended stay options like Hyatt House or Homewood Suites are generally more likely to be open to cats, and pets in general.  So I’d start with those first.

You likely want to keep Do Not Disturb on for most of your time, and minimize housekeeping; if you want to have them in, consider taking your cat with you for a few hours, to be safe!

It’s wise to bring a litter mat with you too, as this minimizes litter on the floors, which in turn, makes things more palatable to hotels and housekeeping.

In her favorite part of our big cross-country road trip, Santa Fe

Back up plan: Trusted Housesitters

The simplest way to find someone to take care of your pet is NOT Rover. 

Rover can be expensive, adding up over days/weeks, and most people on Rover are local, so getting someone to stay at your house with your pet can be really difficult.  It is not the answer at all.  What is, though, is this smaller site that we discovered while looking for Rover alternatives - Trusted Housesitters (full disclosure, this is a referral link, but I would recommend it even without, for sure).  This site connects people who need pet sitters with those who like to travel and love pets.  You get a housesitter and petsitter (and possibly a new friend?!) in one, and all for one yearly fee of around $200.  This could be 4-5 days of Rover.  

You put up your listing, then get a bunch of inquiries from those who would like to sit for you. From there, you can interview them, and decide on the right fit - we’ve had amazing experiences with Trusted Housesitters, including some people that we would welcome back just to stay at the house with us.  It really is a different kind of person than on Rover.

We are some of Trusted Housesitter’s biggest cheerleaders, having experienced it for ourselves as hosts.  Now, it’s time for us to experience it as sitters - we’re so excited.

And There You Have It

It’s not a common thing to travel with your cat, but it is really rewarding - Squiggles saw the entire country, and had some really amazing times.  She absolutely LOVED Sante Fe, New Mexico, something we never would have discovered if we hadn’t gone on our road trip with her.  So I highly recommend thinking outside the litter box and consider taking a road trip with your cat.

Of course, there’s always the great Trusted Housesitters for those not quite ready to make that leap, or going farther afield. Give a shout with any questions!