A family vacation may not seem complete to some families if they don’t bring along their pets. Road trips with a dog or cat add a little extra work to the journey, but it can be an enjoyable experience for the human and pet family members when some advance preparations are made.
Prepare a traveling kit for your pet that includes food, a bowl, a waste scooper and plastic bags, a leash, any medications the pet needs, grooming supplies, and plastic drinking jugs with fresh water. Drinking water from an unfamiliar area might upset your cat or dog’s tummy. When traveling across state lines, bring a record of his rabies vaccinations. Some states require this information as you cross the state line. Bring along a favorite toy or blanket so your pet will have some sense of security in unfamiliar surroundings.
Small dogs and cats should travel in a well-ventilated pet carrier. The carrier should be large enough for the pet to stand up without touching the top, turn around in, and lie down. Get the pet used to the carrier before the trip if he’s not used to one already. Take him for short car rides at first, lengthening the time spent in the car each time. Restrain larger dogs with a seat belt harness designed for pets, and accustom them to car rides in the same way. Small animals loose in the car may get under the driver’s feet, and a large dog who is unrestrained may be a threat to a police officer who pulls you over for a minor traffic violation. Your dog may be docile and harmless with family members, but his instinct will be to protect you from what he may perceive as an intruder. Keeping your pet restrained will also keep them from bolting when the car door or window is opened wide enough for them to escape. Any time you take the pet out of the vehicle, put a leash on him to keep him under control and from becoming lost in the strange environment.
Traveling pets should wear a flat collar with two ID tags. One tag should have the ownerís home address and phone number. The other should list the destination, the ownerís cell phone number, and any other contact information.
Avoid leaving your pet unattended in the car if at all possible, and never on a very warm or cold day. Temperatures will rise quickly inside a parked car, even with the windows cracked open, and your dog or cat can suffer heat exhaustion or life-threatening heat stroke. On frigid days, a warm car will cool down quickly, exposing your pet to freezing temperatures. If you must leave your pet in the car briefly on a warm day, roll the windows down far enough to allow air to circulate but not so far the pet could get his head stuck in the window, or use a solar-powered air conditioner that fits in the window. Park in the shade, but be aware that the shade may move and leave your pet exposed to the heat of the sun.
Feed your pet a light meal three to four hours before leaving on your trip and stop every few hours for exercise, food and water, and potty breaks. Don’t try to feed your dog or cat in a moving vehicle. Dry food, if your pet will eat it, will be more convenient for feeding along the way. Keep open cans of food in a cooler or throw unfinished cans away before you get on the road again.
Be sure that your destination has pet-friendly accommodations. Whether you will be staying with friends, family, at a motel, or campground know that your cat or dog is welcome. Some hotels and campgrounds will provide a kennel and some will allow pets to remain in your room or campsite. A traveling crate can be useful to keep your pet safely confined when he must be left alone in the hotel room, or at a friend’s home who does not care to have an animal loose in the house when no one is there. If you are traveling with a large dog, bring along a fold-down crate to use when necessary.
Pets who suffer from car sickness, or pets who have disabilities or medical problems, may not travel well and everyone involved may have a more enjoyable time if the pet is left at a kennel or in the care of friends while you are on vacation.