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Vacationing with cats vs leaving cats at home: which one is right for you?

vacationing with cats
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Vacationing with cats is a big commitment, and you not only need a suitable holiday destination but also a chilled and laid back cat! It can be a lot of fun, though. From making the decision, to preparing, to the actual traveling, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Should you go on vacation with your cats?

As dedicated pet owners, it’s only natural that we should want our beloved kitties with us all the time. Vacations mean relaxation, new surroundings and extra time, and our pets can benefit from that as much as we do. Whether or not you go vacationing with your cat, though, depends on a range of factors.

Is your cat confident, adventurous and outgoing, likely to take a change of scene in his stride? Or is he a bit of a scaredy cat, who’ll be terrified by the journey and new environment? Although some cats like to grab adventures with all four paws, others are happier under the couch! More timid cats could be happiest staying at home with a sitter or spending time at boarding kennels where they feel secure.

Vacationing with cats: pros and cons

We’ve put together a list of advantages and disadvantages to help you decide if vacationing with your cat is right for you.

Pros

The advantages are obvious – you’ll have your cat with you, able to join in the fun of the vacation. You’ll have more time than usual to spend with him, and that can increase the bond between you. You won’t have to book a sitter or boarding kennel, which can be expensive, and you’ll know he’s with you so you won’t worry.

Cons

Finding pet-friendly vacation accommodation can be challenging and you might be charged a premium plus an extra cleaning fee. Having your cat with you might sound like great fun but can be restrictive if you want to go out for the day sightseeing. Cats can find travel stressful, and an unhappy pet could ruin your vacation. If you dislike packing, taking your cat means you’ll be packing for two!

vacationing with cats

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What to consider when vacationing with your cat

Taking a cat away means some extra planning. As well as which pair of shoes to take for which outfit, you also need to think about cat bedding, food and more.

Before you go: Well before your trip, get used to traveling with your cat so that he’s familiar with the process. You’ll need a sturdy, secure crate, so check out our guide to the best cat carriers. If you’re planning to fly with your cat, take a look at the regulations for your airline to see what sizes and types of crate are allowed. If you let your cat out into an unfamiliar environment he may be scared and run off, so it’s safest to keep him with you on a harness. You can check out our suggestions for the best cat harnesses here. If this is new territory for both of you, spend some time learning to walk your cat on a leash before you go!

What to pack: It’s best to take unwashed bedding, as it will have your cat’s scent on it and will help him to settle. Other essentials include food and water bowls, a supply of his regular food and a litter tray and litter. It’s a good idea to take a scratching post as well, to save the hotel furniture!

Hints and tips: Either before you leave home or immediately you arrive at your destination, find out where the nearest veterinarian is and make sure you have their contact details. Check your cat has a secure collar tag with your current cellphone number. If your cat is microchipped, have a quick look to see if the details are correct. You could also invest in a pet ID tube tag, which unscrews so you can add your own message on a slip of paper. You could put in a temporary phone number, or the name of your hotel.

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Pet tag ID tube, Auear: Made from waterproof and durable stainless steel, these tags are lightweight and easy to attach to the collar of your pet.

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Signs of travel stress in cats

It’s easy to tell if people are enjoying their vacation – smiling, taking selfies and chatting are all promising signs! It can be less easy to tell if your kitty is having a good time, though. Cats are creatures of routine and can become upset by change. Here’s how to tell if your cat is stressed.

Just like people, stress causes cats to behave differently. If your normally easy-going cat is acting aggressively, hissing or scratching, then stress could well be the reason. Nervous cats often urinate outside the litter box, which is a problem if you’re staying in an AIrBnB! Other signs can include changes in appetite (eating or drinking more or less than usual), vomiting or diarrhea, or becoming more withdrawn than usual.

How to reduce travel stress in cats

There’s plenty you can do to make life easier for your cat. Take him on plenty of short journeys to familiarize him with traveling, and make sure he travels with toys or bedding with his own scent on. Sometimes, pheromone sprays can help to create a calming atmosphere. Always allow yourself plenty of time – traveling can be stressful for you as well as your cat, and he will be very quick to pick up on any tension!

If you’re going to be on the road for a while, stop regularly and offer water. It’s best not to take your cat out of the carrier in transit though. If you have room for a large crate, you can put a litter tray in there with him. Otherwise, try lining the crate with an absorbent puppy pad to make cleaning easier in case of accidents. Not giving your cat breakfast on a travel morning can help to reduce travel sickness.

For some cats, swaddling shirts (tight wrappings which help you cat feel secure) may help. Your veterinarian can also recommend sedative medication, if necessary.

vacationing with cats

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can I leave my cat at home alone?

This very much depends on your cat and how needy or independent he is. Some cats will be happy alone for up to 48 hours, so could be left for the weekend if the weather is not too hot. You should of course provide food, water, some form of entertainment such as a radio and an extra litter tray. Cats shouldn’t be left alone for any longer, as water will become too dirty to drink and they’ll become bored. Although your cat may be happier at home than away with you, if you’re away for more than a day or so you’ll need a friend or neighbor to come in at least once a day.

Leaving your cat behind: the pros and cons

At the end of the day we all want our pets to be happy, and some cats just aren’t cut out to be adventurers. More timid cats are often more content staying in their own homes in a familiar environment, but you could also consider a boarding kennel.

Pros of leaving your cat behind: Your cat is safe and secure and doesn’t risk getting lost in an unfamiliar place. You may feel more relaxed as you’re not having to keep a close eye on your feline friend.

Cons of leaving your cat behind: You may worry how your kitty is getting on without you. Whether you choose to book a pet sitter or take your cat into a cattery, costs can mount and your holiday may end up costing a lot more than you thought.

What to consider when leaving your cat at home

Make your arrangements in plenty of time and have a backup plan! There’s nothing more stressful than learning your sitter is ill or the cattery has an emergency right before you’re due to leave. If you’re leaving your pet with a sitter, meet them beforehand. If they’re a friend of a friend, they should have come highly recommended! If they’re a professional, they should have business insurance and be able to supply references.

Show your sitter where everything is, including cleaning supplies and extra bedding. Lay in plenty of litter and food so there’s no chance of running out in your absence. Make sure that your sitter has several different emergency contact numbers in case they’re unable to get hold of you in a hurry.

Write down your cat’s normal routine, including feeding and play times, food quantities, medication and bedtime, and add your veterinarian’s contact details at the bottom of the page.

Final thoughts

Now that you know more about the pros and cons of vacationing with your cat vs leaving him at home, you can make a more informed decision. If you’re not sure, then test the water with a day trip or a short weekend away before committing to a longer period. Taking your cat away is a certain amount of trouble but can be very worthwhile with some careful planning, helping you both to enjoy your trip together.