Cats Make Great Traveling Companions After Careful Introduction

FOCUS ON PETS

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Cats deserve a column every once in a while. Cats come to mind at this time of year when vacation plans emerge. It has long been a myth that cats do not like to travel. However, they are generally willing travelers after a brief introduction. Cats are second only to dogs as traveling companions for RVers. You will see the cats draped around the front windshield of the big rigs.

In the beginning, put the harness on your cat and then simply sit in the car with him. Let him check it out from one end to the other. When he seems relaxed, start the engine and sit quietly. Then drive around the block -- slowly, avoiding loud trucks and honking horns.

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Oscar has been traveling with his trucker friend since he was found, hungry and lost, at a truck stop. I met the pair at a road side rest area. As I was driving away, Oscar, in his harness and leash, was leading the way to a grassy area for a little exercise. The two are a team, no doubt about it.

If your cat is nervous, keep him in a carrier. Talk with him and let him know all is well. Increase the distance and the traffic gradually. Eventually, he will learn that the harness is part of the car riding experience.

Traveling cats must be accustomed to a crate or carrier. If it is new for him, put his food inside and close him in a couple of times a day, long before the trip begins.

Wandering cats in the car can cause serious distractions. It is best to travel with the cat in a crate or secured with a harness to the seat belt.

Pack a kitty duffel with all the needed supplies, including updated health records and a photograph. Have a checklist in the bag so none of the essentials are left behind and add items to the list as you think of them.

To avoid stomach upset, carry enough food and water to last throughout the trip. Diet changes can be disastrous. Remember to pack dishes, a brush, extra leash and harness or collar, any medication and his bed and favorite toys.

Cats have been known to slip out a slightly open window and be gone forever. That does put a damper on the trip. A properly fitting harness with a lightweight leash should be on the cat all the time he is not in the carrier. They are quick.

Traveling cats should be microchipped. A microchip is the only ID you can be sure will stay with them. Microchips are implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades by a veterinarian. Your information is recorded in a central database and you will be notified if your pet is found. However, the system only works if you keep your information updated. Beyond your cell phone, provide the database with an alternate number of a relative or friend who always knows where you are.

A small ID tag should be attached to the harness with your contact information. Also attach the tag showing he has a microchip.

Cats need access to a liter box. A small covered box works well in the car and can be carried into the motel. Keep it clean for your sake and theirs. Allow your cat to move freely around the motel room in the evening and take him, secure in his harness, out for walks and fresh air.

During one trip with my cat, the litter box was in the back seat. My cousin was driving and slammed on the brakes for something. Litter went flying. Fortunately, it was clean, but what a mess. Cat litter showed up in that car for as long as I owned it.

Whether in a carrier or secured with a leash, prepare a perch so that your cat is able to look out the window. Once he realizes there is a whole interesting world moving by, he will settle down and enjoy the trip.

Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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