My son-in-law self identified as a dog person. Since I have known him, Bill and my daughter have been dog parents to five large and exuberant canines. Don’t get me wrong, he always liked cats and my cat-loving daughter brought two of her own to the marriage, but he “saw” himself as a dog person. All of that changed last year when, after the passing of their beloved Great Dane, a tiny tuxedo kitten joined the family. Named Leo by my granddaughter, he was a tiny ball of fluff that has grown into an elegant and sleek man-cat! Hoping for a cuddlier version, my granddaughter sought out a more, shall we say, needy kitty and the elusive Stella joined the tribe. Soon after, Finny appeared. Rescued (again) by the same granddaughter, he was a flea-ridden, orange and white mess. Fast forward to today—granddaughter is now moved out and independent; all cats are adults; and Finny is the spoiled baby of the pack. Lately I have been hearing about “Camping With Kitty”, a game played each morning by said son-in-law and Finny. According to my daughter, the game involves making a tent of bed covers and luring “Kitty” in for pouncing and trouncing. This sounds like a game that would send my own kitty heading straight for his closet shelf hideout, but apparently Finny is a joyful participant.
As much as we all love the big hounds, it is hard to envision this game played with a 125-pound Great Dane! The game did, however, make me think about how many people actually do engage in some real-world version of camping with kitty, doggie, bunny, birdie, or you name it. For some pet parents, a trip is no fun if the four –legged members of the family can’t come along. From personal experience, I know that traveling with pets can be highly stressful for both you and your pets. So if you are planning to take a trip with pets in tow, here are some tips to help ensure a safe and comfortable journey for everyone. I will give a list of resources at the end of this blog, but here are some common sense practical tips for making sure that everyone ends up in the same place and with some semblance of sanity! Remember, no matter where you are headed or how you plan to get there, make sure your pet is microchipped for identification and wears a collar and tag imprinted with your name, phone number and any relevant contact information. Traveling by plane? Unless your furry friend is small enough to ride under your seat, it’s best to avoid air travel with pets. If you must bring your pet along on the flight, here are some suggestions to keep your pet safe while flying the friendly skies.
--Book a direct flight. This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel during a layover.
--Prior to your trip, make sure vaccinations are up to date and obtain a health certificate from your vet dated within 10 days of your departure. Check with your vet for ways to relax your pet if you suspect he or she may become afraid, uncomfortable or anxious mid-flight. From experience I can tell you that both my anxious, skittish cat and my laid-back “who cares just pet me” cat slept soundly from San Francisco to Chicago. We intentionally took the red-eye since both cats tend to sleep through the night. No tranquilizers were involved—most vets do not recommend them!
--Make sure your pet-crate is airline approved, large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably, and lined with some kind of bedding or shredded paper to absorb accidents. Take a small pouch of dry food and freeze a small container of water that can be placed in the crate. It will thaw during the flight and provide enough water to see your pet to your destination. Be sure your crate has complete identification securely marked in an easily located spot.
--Check with airline officials as early as possible before booking a flight so as to be aware of updated information and requirements. If traveling overseas, contact the foreign office of the country you are traveling to for more information.
Road trip time? Get your pet geared up by taking him on a series of short drives, gradually lengthening the time spent in the car. Most dogs adore car rides, but there is always the exception! Cats…another story indeed. Of my two, one pants and groans, the other wants to sit on my lap, feet on the window, observing the world around her. If you are traveling across state lines, we found that some states ask for proof of rabies vaccination, some do not. Be prepared with the appropriate documentation. Bring a pet-friendly travel kit: food, a bowl, leash, waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid. A favorite blanket or toy will give your pet a sense of security. Needless to say (but saying it anyway)—never, ever, leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle! The reasons are many, and you know what they are!
Skipping over travel with fish, birds, snakes and hedgehogs…here are some wonderful websites that provide a wealth of information concerning pet-friendly travel, accommodations, national and other parks, emergency aid while in transit. And while many pet owners do utilize print resources, remember that regulations change and the most up-to-date resource may indeed be found on the web.
There is an app for everything, including pet travel. Some well-reviewed ones are:
Dogfriendly, Pawtrotter, Petcentric, Mo’s Nose and Wetnose. Most are free or have a very small signup fee.
Increasingly there are travel agents whose specialty is animal travel. Kay Lorinc, owner of Four Paws Travel (http://fourpawstravel.com/) believes that although all reputable travel agents can help you plan a pet friendly vacation, she thinks that it is better to plan pet travel with a travel agent who owns a pet. Lorinc says, as a pet owner, I know what questions to ask to help other pet owners find the best pet-friendly transportation arrangements, accommodations, and other services. Travel shows are great places to gather pet travel information. My cousins who travel regularly with their two small dogs speak highly of The New York Times Travel Show (http://www.nyttravelshow.com/). In checking out this website I found destinations that I would never have thought of visiting with an animal in tow. Many tourist boards have pet travel information readily available on their websites or in their offices. Among the resources available at no cost are lists of pet friendly accommodations, restaurants, activities, stores and parks. If you do call, ask if there is a representative pet owner with whom your can speak. This way you can learn about events, farmer’s markets, festivals and other happenings to which you can bring your pet.
Clearly most of the available information is dog-centric. I have, however, personally seen travelling kitties—the last safely zipped into a small bike trailer where they could “enjoy” the scenery as their dedicated owner pedaled along. In case you are wondering, this was last weekend in Traverse City, down by the Bijou Theatre! Having twice traveled coast to coast with a 40 pound Cocker Spaniel firmly ensconced on my lap, I can say that for me, a dedicated dog-sitter or cat-nanny is a wonderful thing. Ask your vet for local sitters whose services they can vouch for. If, however, Camping With Kitty is your personal choice, I hope some of the above resources are of use. Enjoy the summer, with or without an accompanying wet nose!