Top tips for travelling with pets

Whether it’s out of pure necessity, for a move or just because we want them along on our holidays, chances are at some point you will need to take a road trip, or plane trip with your pet. Whether it’s by air or road, cat or dog, the two biggest tips are to be prepared and be calm – one follows the other, and our four-legged friends take their cues from us. Here are some tips for travelling with four-legged friends.

Ten tips whatever the mode of transport

  1. Make sure your pet has a secure collar and tag with his or her name, your name, and contact phone numbers on it.
  2. Micro-chipping – as a responsible pet owner, you’ve already done that. Ensure your details are up to date on the microchip register. There are six microchip registers in Australia; make sure the one you and your pet are recorded on is recognised nationally, not just in your state.
  3. Carry a bottle of fresh water and a portable bowl in case there’s no tap.
  4. Pack any medications your pet needs.
  5. Carry a picture of your pet – just in case you get separated.
  6. Take a towel, wet wipes and plastic bags for cleanups.
  7. Have a contact number for a vet at your destination, just in case things go awry.
  8. If you’re staying in animal friendly accommodation, check what evidence they need – it may be vaccination certificates, what they require toilet-wise, and where exactly your pet will be staying.
  9. Take their own food for them if possible – the less changes to their routine, the easier their adjustment to new surroundings.
  10. Do not sedate unless specifically recommended by your vet. It can cause dehydration and anxiety in certain animals.

Five tips for road trips

  1. Crate your dog or cat if required or use a safety harness for your dog – you can purchase harnesses that attach to a seatbelt which will stop your dog becoming injured if you need to hit the brakes fast. Whether you crate or harness, throw in your pet’s favourite comfort toy, chew toy and blanket to make him feel secure and keep him entertained.
  2. If there’s a carsickness incident, have baby wipes at the ready, stop for a bit, clean-up, and offer water.
  3. Don’t feed a lot before the trip, but give plenty of exercise, and a toilet break before you set off.
  4. Take some breaks – as good for you as your pet – on the drive to allow a leg stretch, some toilet time and some fresh air. Keep your dog leashed – it’s easy to become over-exuberant or scared in a new environment.
  5. Don’t leave your pet in a parked car. Cars can become extremely hot, very quickly, even with the window cracked open.

Five tips for flying high

In Australia, unlike some other countries, your pet can’t travel along with you in the passenger part of the plane – they are cargo. Which doesn’t mean they are treated any less well – they’re actually classed as international passengers, meaning an early arrival for you of up to two hours at the airport before they are whisked off to the plane. Most pets who love to travel in the car cope well with flying, and because the atmosphere is thinner, most pets will sleep during a flight.

  1. Pets must travel in an approved crate – check with your airline – you may already have one that fits the bill, or, if you’re planning to make this a regular gig, ensure you buy to the right size and specifications. Hiring from the airline or a company that specialises in pet transport is another option.
  2. If possible, get the crate to your home a couple of weeks before you fly, and accustom your pet to it. Fill it with his favourite things, encourage him in with treats, and, initially at least, don’t close the door, allowing him free access. Don’t punish your pet by sending him to the crate – make it a safe place for him to retreat to and enjoy. When he’s relaxed or sleeping, start shutting him in for short periods. Start with short stints, and only let him out when he’s relaxed and not meowing, yelping or barking up a storm. Wait until he’s quiet for at least a few minutes before you let him out. Build up the time you shut him in. Your attitude should be upbeat and positive: ‘good dog’, or ‘good cat’, rather than reassurance if your pet is stressed. When things are unfamiliar they need you as their trusted owner to lead.
  3. Before you fly, check what other items can travel with your pet in the crate. Generally their comfort toy won’t be allowed, a blanket or base of some kind will, and an approved water device will allow constant access to water. There may be restrictions on collars for your own pet’s safety. If a collar is allowed, have an identity plate and contact numbers on it, as well as on the crate itself. Know when and where to drop your pet off, and when and where you can collect him at your destination.
  4. Time to fly. Don’t feed on the day of departure, but allow access to water. A treat or snack is fine, just not a full meal. Give your dog a good walk – the more tired they are, the more likely they’ll sleep on the plane.
  5. The handover. Offer a small drink and a final chance for the toilet. Offer cats a litter tray. Try not to be anxious. Your pet will pick it up in your tone and know something is going on. If you’re calm, they’re calm and avoid a big goodbye scene. Likewise at the other end, be happy to see your pet, but don’t go overboard, especially if they’re stressed. It’s the stress they will remember, not the comfort you inevitably want to give.

Find out more on how you can be prepared for the future care of your pet with a Real Pet Insurance Quote.