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car or plane - feral cat

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Hello. I'm seeking some advice about the gentlest way to transport our feral cat across several states. Currently, we live in California. In the near future, we'll be moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Our cat has a very hard time with any sort of transport. In the past, his travel experience has been limited to trips to the vet - which were very traumatic for him.

So, we were thinking that taking him by plane (while sedated) would probably be best.

Here are a few pieces of advice that we've received so far:

1. Southwest Airlines doesn't allow for pets to kept with their owners/passengers - they're kept in the cargo section. This seems like a bad thing. What do you think? If it's bad, we'll gladly find a trip on another airline.

2. We've been told that there are sedative medications, prescribed by vets, that can be administered orally that are essential to making such a trip. We've been advised to ask the vet for a an oral sedative that can be administered in his food - as our cat will not allow us to hold him.

Along these same lines, we've been advised to do a "trial-run" with the medicine prior to actually giving him it on the day of the trip. What I mean by this is we'd give him a dose of the medicine to make sure he reacts well to it instead of just counting on it to work as planned on the day of the trip.

Are there any other tips that we should know about? We're really worried about not traumatizing this sweet cat and would appreciate any words of wisdom.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

post #2 of 3
Most people resort to sedatives as a last resort. There are airlines that will allow you to take kitty under the seat when you fly - but if he's miserable and howling, it will be a terrible trip for everyone.

If you decide to use a sedative, it is definitely best to give it a trial run. But I would do it pretty far in advance of traveling so crating kitty when you need to isn't a problem. To fly, he will have to have a health certificate and proof that he's current on all required vaccines - and I think this all has to be dated within a week of the trip. Best to check on that too.

Traveling cargo isn't ideal. The cargo cabin isn't pressurized to the same elevation that the passenger cabin is, and it isn't heated or cooled the same - so if you're traveling in summer it can be too hot, or if you're traveling in Winter it can be too cold. On the other hand the flight from S. Cal to Sante Fe shouldn't be more than a few hours, and cats are amazingly hardy creatures, so the hardship on kitty isn't the same as crossing the continent - and if sedated, even less stress during the trip. I would worry about the potential heat far more than potential cold.

If you decide not to sedate kitty, you can spray the crate with Feliway (a synthetic hormone that mimics the "friendly" hormones in cats' cheeks), tie some pipe cleaners around the front door wires (so he's got something to bat at to allay anxiety) - crumple some newspapers and put them near the front of the cage (to help block out view - but not completely) - to help him feel safer in the crate. You can also put a catnip toy in there with him. This should also help him stay calmer.

You can also purchase flower essences: http://www.catfaeries.com/ - Calm and Serene would be a good one. You sprinkle a few drops on your hands, and rub the cats ears - especially behind the ears - and the fur a bit with it. They work best along with the Feliway. (And you may want to consider using the Feliway in the boarding room kitty will be in as well).

BTW - even if you do decide to sedate kitty, all of the above are options that can be used as well.

The problem we have with one of our cats is that the minute we put him in a crate and the car starts moving, he evacuates everything from every available hole. So we put down those doggie "wee-wee" pads. Once he's vomited, peed and pooped, we pull over (making sure all doors and windows are completely closed!), clean him up, and put new wee-wee pads down.

If the trip is by flight - and because of the duration of the trip, even traveling cargo is probably better than having him with you on a drive - and it's less than five or six hours - I'd forgo giving him water or food during the flight. It's not ideal, but having kitty miserable in a mess he's made out of fear is much worse.

Just wait until he gets to where he's going before giving him anything. He'll be hungry and thirsty, but it's safer to not open the crate at any point along the way. !!!!!!!!!!!

BTW - the Feliway and Flower Essences are something that can continue to be used when Kitty has arrived at his new destination. They may help him adjust to his new confined home in a boarding facility more easily.

post #3 of 3
A couple things to think about:

* When you go through security, you have to take the cat out of the carrier and carry them through the metal detector. And if you're in a terminal that has the fancy detectors, you'll have to hold the cat as puffs of air shoot out at you...My cat was not happy about the metal detector, and he's very domesticated. Terminals are very scary for a cat.

* Be careful what terminals you are in. Avoid Las Vegas. My cat literally went nuts on that transfer. Too many loud noises. There were several other animals having similar problems in Vegas.

* Definitely do a trial run on the sedatives. We had to double the dosage.

* Oral sedatives are VERY difficult to administer in the middle of an airplane terminal. IF your cat won't eat the pill with food, you'll have to force it down. NOT fun. Consider a liquid sedative. Make sure you bring the prescription with you!

* Our cat howled, even with the sedative. However, the engine was louder.
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