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Moving With Your Pets – Planes, Trains or Automobiles?

Whether for work or a personal reason, you are relocating and because you are taking your dog Bonzo, and your cat Prima Donna with you, you are undecided how to travel with them. Their comfort is top priority, and you will go for whichever is the best option as far as your pet is concerned. Well, perhaps money or your needs might weigh in to some extent.

We can immediately rule out Amtrak, as it is not an option at all. Because of strict limitations imposed by the US Department of Agrigulture, Amtrak no longer allows either dogs or cats on trains. The exception to this is if your dog is a service animal – for the blind or otherwise a special need that requires you to have a guide accompany you everywhere. This leaves you with planes and cars. There are a lot of things to consider and plenty of preparations to make before your family can begin their adventurous journey. These preparations should start at least six months before you are due to leave.

A good place to start is with whatever airline with whom you have frequent flyer miles. Check their site for rules and regulations on travling with pets. With very few exceptions, most, if not all the airlines have similar rules. Take into consideration the time of the year that you will be travelling, as most airlines will not allow pets on board if the weather is too hot or cold. All, without exception require your pet, be it a cat or a dog, to have a recent health certificate. In most cases, this certificate may not be older than 7-10 days prior to your date of travel. Many will require an up-to-date rabies shot (within the last 11 months) and some will want you to have administered either Frontline or Advantage (for fleas and ticks) in the presense of the Vet, and have this documented. It is not unheard of to be held up trying to claim your dog or cat until you can show proof or suffer waiting for an onsite Vet to show up and administer this for you. Of course it takes hours to produce a Vet and so your best bet is to do this at the Vet’s office and document this on the health certificate.

Now that you have contacted the airline, scheduled your Vet visit for 7-10 days prior, what is next? Hopefully Bonzo has been using a crate since he was first brought home and either through some stroke of genius or luck, this is an airline approved crate and you needn’t buy a new one for him. If he hasn’t for some reason been crate trained, which is rather unusual for dogs, you will want to introduce him to this concept. The sooner you start the better. In most cases it takes approximately a week to crate train a dog – be it a puppy or a full grown one. The first few nights he will protest, whine and cry, but it is best for you to be diligent and get him used to it. Knowing that dogs are den animals, he will eventually take comfort in his crate. As such, you needn’t worry that his protests are an indication that he has or is about to soil his crate. It is important to ensure that this crate is large enough for Bonzo to stand up, move from back to front and lie down comfortably.

Prima Dona is likely used to being in a crate, given that it’s the only way you can get her to the Vet. As you already know, she doesn’t like it and will protest and do so as loudly as possible to ensure that every single person knows how unhappy she is. In most instances, the airline will allow her to sit in the cabin with you. To minimize her stress, hers and those of the passengers around you, ask your Vet about administering a kitty tranquilizer. Following these directions, your flight should be without incident and as stress free as possible.

Riding in Cars with Pets
In the same fashion that your dog is utterly obedient and uses his crate when instructed and your cat avoids all commands given to her as would any member of royalty, which makes plane travel with each very different experiences, so too will car travel with Bonzo and Prima Dona. Although you have to be concerned with Bonzo’s safety, which means ensuring he is properly harnessed in the car, Prima Dona will only step into that car if she is in a crate. While the car represents a joyful experience for Bonzo, one in which he can happily stick his tongue out the window and say hello to all his friends along the highway, Prima Dona will consider this a form of punishment you have inflicted on her. And what does anyone who is being tortured do to express their hatred toward the one who is torturing them? For every person Bonzo says hello to during your drive, Prima Dona will cry out to them in utter agony. It is her hope that some kind soul will save her and lock you in the goulag for inflicting this horrible indignity upon her. Depending upon how long your drive will be, whether it is a day, three days or longer, expect your drive to be a mixture of emotions experienced by each of your pets – elation for Bonzo, utter anguish for Prima Dona and in turn painful for you. So, how do you mitigate this?

There are two words for you: Kitty Tranquilizers! Just prior to your days’ long journey, ask your Vet for a prescription of kitty tranqs. You will in no way regret doing this. Prima Dona will be out of it during the ride and Bonzo and you can enjoy yours. The trick is to give it to her with her breakfast (on a full stomach) and within an hour she will be your complicit traveler – a combination of stoned and sleepy.

There you have it. With any luck, this article has given you enough information to make an informed decision about which form of travel is best for you as you move with your pets from one city to another. Good luck!

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