The last time I visited with you at The Buddy Beat, I addressed feline air travel in general, including preparations and the tedious details the airlines require. I don't believe in the space allowed I did justice to the necessary preparations.
For sure, positive carrier association is a topic of its own. Besides getting your feline to adjust to the carrier, it must also adapt to the car ride.
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Testing your feline's ability to adjust to the carrier is key to not only air travel, but also trips away for a weekend, pet store, veterinarian or "just for fun." I know what you are thinking: "Just for fun" happens only with seasoned feline travelers.
You will make mistakes along this trail, but the good news is you will learn from those mistakes before your travel date.
Once your feline likes its carrier, or at least tolerates it, updating veterinarian records is important. Hopefully, the vet is not just around the corner so you can experience a true car ride reaction, i.e. to motion sickness.
Constant flicking of the tongue, drooling and meowing are indications of either motion sickness or anxiety. You can ask your veterinarian for medications you can give prior to any travel.
Another way to avoid motion sickness is to travel with a pet that has an empty stomach. Do not feed before a car ride or any travel. That also means no food or water bowls inside the carrier. Avoid being tempted to use the free bowls given with the carrier purchase.
If you already have certain medications from the vet and you want to calm your feline further, nothing is more calming than the familiar smells of home. Place one of your worn T-shirts in the carrier and some of your feline's used bedding.
You can also spray the used bedding with Feliway, a synthetic feline pheromone, to create a calming effect on a nervous feline.
Above all, do not give in to meowing and door clanging going on in the carrier, but do engage your feline. I will attempt to give you examples of both.
I very stupidly gave in to bad behavior when my feline was stressed out during car travel. I let my her out of the carrier (harnessed, tagged and microchipped). She was quiet and sat on top of the carrier. She later became motion sick from the movement of the car and the additional movement from the heightened position of being on top of the carrier. Not to mention that she was unsecured. What if I had been in an accident?
Engage your feline in the carrier with soothing words and sounds, or just reach into the carrier for gentle smoothing touches.
Do prepare for travel delays. Pack food and water in the car and in your carry on, if appropriate. When packing your medication, pack your feline's.
Many carriers even have compartments to pack food or water. Plan for an emergency and pack all your feline's belongings. You might not have everything you need with you, but your feline will. Besides, we have better coping skills than our felines. Or do we?
• The Buddy Foundation is a nonprofit (501c3), all-volunteer, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the welfare of stray, abused and abandoned cats and dogs. For more information, call (847) 290-5806 or visit www.thebuddyfoundation.org.