|(looking on to the streets of Montmartre)|
|(Hanging out in the safe – it is where we keep our valuables after all)|
Now I bet a lot of you (like a lot of people) can’t believe we travel with a cat. But we have some very good reasons why we do it:
- Firstly cost is the biggest. It doesn't cost anything for Skadi to travel unless we make her a 2.50 euro seat reservation – which we don’t. We’ve only been charged by one hotel for her stay, most don’t mind. It would cost us a lot more to find a cattery, get her to the cattery (we don’t have a car) and have her stay there. Europe makes it really easy to travel with a pet.
- Secondly we don’t want people in our house we don’t know. We don’t want to pay someone to feed her. Skadi is also used to having people around her. She is an indoor cat and we have no other pets. I think she would get a little lonely if someone came here for an hour and then left.
Before you travel
Planning is the key.
- Choose the right carrying medium: Unless you are travelling by plane, what you choose to carry your cat in can make a lot of difference. We used to carry Skadi in a caged box. When we went to my parents we would pack her in the car in it and she hated it. She would cry all the way and not settle. When we moved to Germany we bought a bag to carry her in. I think this bag is meant to carry small dogs but works for small cats. Skadi loves it and we’ve had much better results. Here are a few reasons why this bag works. I carry it on my shoulder so Skadi is closer to my body and higher up. When I have my hands free I can hold it closer to me which might make her feel more secure. The bag also closes in around her making it dark, warm and cosy. It has flaps to open if need be, but I usually don’t open them. When we’re on the train I can open or close the bag easily and Skadi can stretch out how she pleases, yet still be encased in her bag. It works, she feels safe in it. If she’s out of it on the train stretching her legs as soon as something happens she runs straight back into it. It may take a couple of goes to find something your cat likes but it will be worth it.
|(Also has pockets for carrying things, like rollers, and small blue whales)|
|(There’s a cat in there…..)|
- Familiarisation with the travel Medium: If you picked me up and shoved me in a bag that I had never seen before after strapping me in a weird harness that might as well be some kind of torture device – because I AM FREAKING OUT – then yeah I wouldn’t be stoked. Cats are creatures of habit. Sure they are curious and inquisitive but it’s all on their terms. If you want your cat to travel then start weeks, months before hand. Set the travel medium out for them to explore, play in, sleep in, transfer their scent to. My trick was to put the bag in a warm spot that Skadi liked to sleep in. She spent hours in it before we made the trip to Venice – actually she spends so much time in it, it has a permanent slant to one side where she’s flattened it out. After seeing her sleep in it four almost 12 hours straight I knew she could make it to Venice. Get it out long before you intend to travel and leave it out long after you get home. Cats are good a recognising patterns so if the bag/box/basket is something that is just always lying around they are less likely to freak when they see it.
- Familiarisation with the restraints: This is the same as the points above. If you travel for long distances with your cat you are going to need to let them get out occasionally to stretch and curl up into another position. The only safe way to do this is with a harness and lead. If you travel internationally throughout the EU you may also have to present your cat and her passport when crossing borders – we never had to but we are prepared should we need to. It took a while (and Skadi still doesn’t like the lead) but she is comfortable with the harness. We did this through practise. First we put it on for a little while and then we increased the time. Yes she rolled over and tried to work out how to get it off but eventually she worked out it was useless. We kept at this until was happy to sleep in it. This needs to be done before you travel anywhere because the harness will signal travel.
- Practise with short trips: Just before we took Skadi to Venice we had to take her to the vet for her rabies shot (should we need to get her back into Australia she has to have one every year) and then for a blood test (Australian requirements are once a year), it was a disaster. Skadi was so scared at the vet when the shaver came out that she shook. We had to take the blood from both legs and it takes a long time to drip out her leg. It took four of us to hold her down. Traumatic! We didn’t want that to be the last thing she remembered about her bag and travelling. To counter this, every couple of weekends after the vet and leading up to Venice we took her on a short tram ride and then home again. If you do want to go on a long trip with your cat then build up to it. It’s also a good idea to go somewhere and then straight home so they get tricked into thinking this bag ride will probably end at home.
- Test any medication before you go: We don’t need to drug Skadi. She sleeps fine on the train without anything but if you do, then test it before you go. Drugs effect individual cats in different ways and the last thing you want is an aggressive, doped up cat on your hands. Know what it will do before you need it.
- Know your legal obligations: It goes without saying, which is why I won’t spend any time on it, but if you are travelling throughout Europe know where you can and can’t take your cat. Be up-to-date on your rabies shots and vaccines and always have your pet passport easily accessible.
So now you’re all ready to go.
- Choose your hotel carefully: Skadi has stayed in several hotel rooms and there have been winners and losers. We can usually tell cause Skadi starts whinging and basically telling us she wants to go home. If you are staying a couple nights then it isn’t as important but there are still a lot of things to think about. If you are staying for longer than a few nights look for a bigger room that allows your cat to run and play. A room with a good view is also important. Skadi gets bored in rooms that don’t have views. It doesn’t have to be a stunning view but it is better if it is a view of a busy street or somewhere with a lot activity. Something they can watch – no scenic views. Check out the photos of the hotel carefully for any traps or cat no’s. Air-conditioning is also a must in summer as most windows in hotels in Europe don’t have fly-screens and open fully. Lots of hotels don’t have air-conditioning so make sure yours does so your cat doesn’t overheat.
- Know your check-in and check-out times: You can’t leave your cat with the staff on the day you check out while you continue to see the sights. Nor can your carry it around until your room is ready. So make sure you know when you can check-in and plan your arrival to that time. Know when you can check-out and depart at the same time or earlier. Try to negotiate with management for something appropriate. If you arrive too early or leave too late scope out the train station and find somewhere comfy and quiet to wait. Another bonus of first class is that you may have a lounge to wait in. Yes it is a pain but we don’t mind.
- Choose your seat carefully: Travelling by car is a little easier as there are no other people, stops or things you can’t really control. If you are travelling on public transport, and you want to travel far, often and successfully with your cat, be prepared to think about going first class. If you plan ahead you can get good deals. If you have a % off card (Bahncard in Germany) you can get more savings. Luckily in Europe first class doesn’t cost much more than second class. Even if you are not travelling first class think about where you will sit and pay for the reservation. Sit in a quiet area. For us we travel first class which gives us more room and Skadi more room. It is quieter and has fewer people. On a long 10 hour trip we will sit in a cabin where we might get it to our selves the entire way. This is important because we took Skadi’s food and some water for her to have (not that she did) along the way. The extra space gave her room to stretch and feel comfortable. If travelling second class I would recommend travelling in a cabin and reserving your cat a seat so you have somewhere to put them that is out of the way. We did this when we went to places which were only 4 hours or less away. ALWAYS SIT or rest your carry bag on the case. You may be an expert in the train and tram groove while standing but your cat will appreciate a more steady base.
- Know where the vets are: Store the details of at least two vets in your phone which are close to your hotel. Know where they are on the map. Be prepared, if you need one you don’t want to have to hunt for one.
- Minimise the time spent waiting: Try not to get to the train station too early. The worst part of the trip for us is the train station. There is so much noise, so many people, so many smells, it sends Skadi into overdrive. We try not to get there too early and when we do we always go to a book shop or somewhere quieter to wait. If you are waiting choose a corner out of the way where it is less noisy – not on the platform, that is the worst – those brakes screech.
- Know what signals travel to your cat: Skadi knows we are going to travel as soon as the suitcase comes out. It doesn’t matter if we get it out the day of travel or weeks before she is always going to hide when we leave the house. Monitor your cat when you travel and see if you can eliminate any cues. Even cut out using the word travel if you’ve used it often when travelling.
- Prepare you medication: We took some cat drugs with us. We didn’t need them but we had them in case. And no we didn’t try them beforehand so we could have had a disaster but I was pretty sure we wouldn’t need them.
|(Packing of cat incorrect)|
- Play, feed early or not at all: We can’t play with Skadi before we travel as she’s usually onto us. But if you can, wear your cat out before you travel and there is more chance they will sleep. Get up early and feed them early so they can have any bowel movements before you go – if you’re cat is like Skadi, its body will shut down into hibernation until you reach your destination, so it won’t be a problem. If leaving early give them an extra snack at night before bed so they can eat during the night.
- Break or no break?: Decide whether it would be better to break-up a long trip or just get it over with. It is stressful being shoved in a bag continuously so we opted for get there as soon as possible with no breaks. Skadi sleeps the entire way anyway. Your cat might appreciate a overnight stop somewhere to break-up the long trip. You will know by doing shorter trips with them and seeing how they handle those.
Once you’ve made it and it’s all over there are a few things to do before you let the cat out of the bag.
Travelling with your cat gets easier as you do it, ok maybe not all cats but hopefully it will with yours. Not only do they get more used to it but you get to know their signals and issues with travelling. Once you have done it a few times, hopefully, you’ll find it fairly easy.
Post reviewed by Skadi.
- Check for traps, annoying hiding spots and other cat no’s: Before you let you cat out look around the hotel room. Remove anything that might be dangerous. Remove anything they may knock over. Move tables, chairs or items that may let them jump up onto something you can’t get them down from. Use blankets or spare pillows to remove hiding spots you can’t get to. Check under the bed for slack vacuuming and traces of food, plastic wrappers anything that may harm you cat. As so as you let your cat out it will hide and explore. Make sure there are no spots left that it can get into that make it hard for you to catch them when you need to pack them up again.
- Set up your cats items: Make your cat feel more settled and at home by setting up the kitty litter, drink and food bowls, favourite toys and SCRATCH MAT (always pack a scratch mat unless you want to pay for hotel furniture). As soon as your cat jumps out of its bag it will explore so finding things from home will give it some reassurance. Once they’ve done a round of the room show them where their food bowls are and where the litter is, make sure they know.
- No room cleaning: Get the hotel to bring you spare towels when you’re there. Don’t let them clean your room when you’re not. We never do. Don't freak your cat or worse risk it escaping through an open door. Make sure you always have the do not disturb sign on or make sure you clearly tell management.
|(Skadi relaxing after he long train ride in Venice)|
Post reviewed by Skadi.