Checklist for Traveling With Your Pets

Many people see traveling with pets as a daunting task, but also don't want to leave precious "furry family members" at home during a long trip. Find out how to make a vacation easier on your pet and let him or her experience your family outing.

Some of us just can't fathom the idea of a family vacation without a beloved pet. It depends on the individual personality of your furry friend; if your pet can't stand the idea of being away from home for 20 minutes, it probably is a better idea to board him or her until you return from the family vacation. If, however, you want to try to get your cat or dog used to traveling, put your cage or carrier in the backseat and attempt a few short trips away from home. If your pet seems to enjoy this or at least not to cause a monumental fuss, it's probable that there wouldn't be any major trouble during a longer trip.

First Things First

The most important rule of thumb for traveling with pets is to have a suitable carrier. It may seem simple enough to pile dogs in the car and allow them to roam from the front seat to the back seat during your trip to Florida, but this is dangerous and opens the door to problems. Jumping up in front of the windshield and feeling a need to "use the litterbox" in the car may be just a few of these. If you have a small dog or cat, either buy a carrier of the proper size or utilize one you already own. The cage or carrier should be big enough to allow your pet to have enough lying and standing room, but small enough to take up as minimal space in the backseat as possible (especially if you are taking an extensive amount of luggage).

Keep Pets Healthy and Comfortable

It's important to watch out for fleas and ticks if you're walking pets in woodland areas. Even if you plan to walk on bare surfaces, it's still a good idea to keep them protected by a flea collar or medicine put directly on the skin. If you notice your pet scratching extensively after a day of walking, examine the area that is being traumatized. If you find any little pests, use a fine-tooth flea comb or brush to pick them off, and keep in mind that even if they are not yet dead, the medicine will likely take care of the pests for you eventually. It's important that your pets are as comfortable as possible during long trips, because if they are miserable, chances are that your family will be miserable watching them suffer.

Always provide adequate food and fresh water, especially on summer days or in hot, dry climates. Rest stops are also a good place to stop by a picnic table or bench and try to coax your pet to have a meal. If kids get hungry during long trips, imagine how pets must feel! Never give a pet chlorine or city-treated water, as it can make them sick if they are not used to drinking this sort of water. You may want to carry water bottles along for this express purpose. It doesn't need to be cold water, but should always be fresh. Carry a bag or small carrying case of cat or dog food cans, special treats to calm irritated pets, and bottles of water, and you'll be all set.

Remember that pets need bathroom breaks, too! Every time one of the family members in the car disembarks at a rest stop, try to get pets to do their business as well. This eliminates the possibility of "surprises" in the car. If pets are scared of traffic, especially small animals such as cats, they may not use the litterbox where there is overwhelming noise. Try to take the pet behind the restroom building or in a wooded area, where it is quieter. (Keep in mind that your pet may refuse to "go," so in the case of a cat, at least have a clean litterbox armed and ready when you arrive at your hotel for the night).

Make Your Hotel a Second Home

It's a good idea to take some familiar toys along, too. If your dog or cat has a favorite, make sure to bring it; it will put them at ease in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar place and reinforce important interaction. Small toys such as balls, squeaky toys or feathers can easily stored among luggage.

Check out which hotels are pet friendly before you leave for your vacation. Getting to a hotel you've chosen and discovering pets are not welcome is a horrible feeling when you're unable to travel any further for the day. Find out if pets are welcome and if any extra fee is charged. It's always a good idea to clean up after your pets, i.e. taking along a small cordless vacuum to pick up cat litter and dry cat or dog food so hotels can not present you with a hidden charge for the mess caused.

A Few Excellent Accessories

Many people have no problem with letting dogs or especially small cats run around the room all night while human family members are sleeping. If you don't want the anxiety of never being sure if your pet is going to pounce on you as you lie unsuspecting, you'll want some kind of enclosure where they can sleep comfortably. Doctors Foster and Smith's online store sells a wonderful devise known as a "KittyWalk" (tm) which can also be used for very small dogs. It is a mesh "tunnel" you snap together with metal rods. A litterbox, food, water, and a few toys, as well as your pet's sleeping place, can be slid inside the tunnel. When the ends are tied shut, your pet will have a place to race back and forth without feeling confined, and you won't have to worry about feisty animals with insomnia.

It may seem like a strange idea to take your pet with you while you're shopping or strolling along, but with a pet stroller such as the ones Doctors Foster and Smith sells, it's a much better idea than many people imagine. You can walk your pet along without worrying about sunlight or bugs bothering him or her, and it will reduce the fuss of pulling and tugging on a flimsy leash. The strollers are available for both dogs and cats and your pet's leash can be pulled through a small opening in the top and still held securely in your hand if the stroller would somehow pull loose. It will be a comfortable ride for a pet that's already endured an agonizing trip. A storage basket underneath the stroller and a place to store drinks on top make it a great vacation accessory for you as well.