In our modern lives we can travel a great deal and often we like our pets to come with us. Travel can be tough for our pets; yet a journey can often be greatly improved with a few simple changes. This guide aims to help make travelling a better experience for you and your pet by giving practical advice on general travel, as well as car journeys, public transport and ferries.
If you’re travelling without your pets and you’re thinking to leave your cat or dog at a cattery or kennel, read our cattery and kennel guide for tips and advice.
- Prepare Before you Travel
- Travel in the Cooler Part of the Day – if you are travelling in summer, try and travel when it is cooler and there is more shade, either early in the morning or in the evening.
- Feeding - with dogs feed well in advance of the journey, or even wait until you reach your destination as they travel better if they do not have full stomachs. Always make sure you are carrying water in a bottle for your dog with a clean bowl in case they need a drink. Cats can be fastidious and should ideally have access to food at all times if they want it.
- Keep Your Pet Under Control – if your pet is small enough to be carried, always use a carrier. Otherwise, you will need to keep your pet under control by using either a lead if on public transport or one of the securing options if in a car.
- Check Your Insurance Policy – is your pet covered for car journeys on your car or pet insurance? Does it make a difference to your cover?
- Find a Local Vet at Your Destination - either ask your vet or use the internet. You want a vet that can speak English if you are going abroad and cannot speak the local language.
- Use Dietary Supplements like Zylkene, as you get closer to your holiday, changes in the household will be noticed by your pets. Giving them Zylkene calming supplements can help them cope with the lead up to the holiday, especially when suitcases start to come out.
- Pack - make sure you have all of your resources for your pets, including their medications and supplements as you may not be able to buy them at your destination and familiar items such as toys or blankets to help make them feel safe.
- Be Relaxed - try and be calm and do not act differently. If you don’t, your pet may pick up on this and be worried.
- Gather Your Paperwork - make sure you have all of your paperwork needed for the destination country. Additionally, if your pet has a pre-existing medical condition, a letter from your vet explaining the condition and treatment is helpful for any local vet at your destination, both at home and abroad.
- Go to Your Vets - if you are going abroad, get their advice on how to prepare.
- Get a Pet Passport - this allows travel between certain countries and entry back into the UK, but you will still need to meet all the requirements of your destination. This can take a while to organise, so it is advisable to start the process at least three months before travel. Check www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad for the latest and more information.
- Check the Cat or Dog Import Requirements for Your Destination - these vary depending on the country. Pretty much all countries require that your cat or dog has a microchip and has had their rabies vaccine at least 21 days before travel. Some countries can require treatments for ticks, fleas and/or tapeworm 24-48 hours before. Additionally, you will need a microchip and proven in-date rabies vaccine and tapeworm treatments to re-enter the UK.
- Check the Local Medicine Import Regulations - if your cat or dog is on medication, make sure that you are allowed to take it with you.
- Be a Suitable Size for Your Cat or Dog – it should be big enough for your cat or dog to stand, sit, lie down in a natural position and turn around easily.
- Be Safe – it should not contain anything that could injure your pet or allow them to stick out a paw, head or tail that could get trapped. You must also be able to secure it firmly in a car to stop it moving around either by clips or straps.
- Provide Ventilation and Fresh Air – this ensures that they do not get too hot. Remember that a carrier might be in ‘still’ air conditions for a long time.
- Give Access to Food and Water – you should have food and water bowls inside the crate/ carrier that are fixed and preferably spill proof and can be easily refilled on longer journeys.
- Have Absorbent Bedding – you can use several layers of newspaper with other absorbent material such as matting, which may need to be changed over a very long journey.
- Leave the carrier/crate out for a few weeks before you travel to allow your cat or dog to get used to it.
- Try feeding your cat or dog inside the carrier/crate or leaving treats inside it to create positive associations. Do this at least a couple of weeks before you need to use it.
- When you travel, put familiar smells such as toys or blankets inside the carrier/crate with your cat or dog to make them feel as secure as possible.
Introduce Travelling Early – when socialising a new cat or dog ensure travelling in the car is something you expose them to early on. Initially make trips short and reward your pet at every stage. Make sure it’s a positive experience. Talk to your vet if your cat or dog experiences travel sickness.
- Secure Your Pet – UK law via the Highway Code states that “when in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you. if you stop quickly”. For dogs, either a dog crate or a dog guard (a metal grill between the boot and the rear passenger seats) in the back of an estate car or hatchback is often the most sensible option, and for cats or small dogs use a cat carrier. Make sure the dog guard fits securely in your car or it won’t be effective or safe. For crates and carriers make sure that all clasps are secure and that it cannot move around. It’s also possible to secure dogs with various harnesses or dog seatbelts on the market, although these are not always suitable for larger dogs. Do NOT leave a dog or cat loose and uncontrolled in your car: apart from being illegal it is very dangerous for all concerned. Loose pets can distract the driver, get in the way of your vision or the controls, and in the event of a collision, are much more likely to injure or even kill themselves and your passengers. It is also much easier for loose pets to escape from the car and run off when you stop.
- Break Up Long Journeys – remember to stop regularly to make sure your dog is offered the chance to drink and go to the toilet. Obviously letting cats out to toilet may be difficult, but they may prefer drinking when stationary and will still appreciate a stop. A large crate with a litter tray on the opposite side to some food may make them more comfortable.
- Ensure You Have Easy Access to Your Pet – if you break down or crash, you might need to get your pet out in a hurry. Make sure you can get your pet out easily, and if it is a larger dog, put the lead in an accessible place too.
- Dogs and Cats Die in Hot Cars – NEVER leave your pet in the car on a warm day, even for a few minutes with the windows down as they do not provide enough ventilation. Animals can get into distress if the temperature goes above 25°C even for a few minutes, and cars in full sunshine can quickly rise to double the temperature outside.
Pets are generally allowed to travel for free on public transport in the UK. This includes trains, buses and the London Underground, although it is always worth checking with the company in advance. The rules vary, but in general you will need to keep your pet either in a carrier or on a lead at all times, keep them calm and under your control, carry them on escalators or use the stairs, and have them on the floor or on your lap. The Republic of Ireland is different. Pets can usually travel on buses free of charge, but on some trains you may need to buy a bike ticket and larger dogs may have to go into the guard carriage. Again it’s worth checking in advance. Service and assistance dogs are generally exempt from all rules and can travel free of charge on any service in both countries.
- Avoid the Rush Hour – the influx of a lot of commuters will make the whole experience a lot tougher for your pet and there simply may not be enough room on the bus or train for your carrier or your dog if they are on a lead.
- Alert the Transport Personnel – ensure the transport personnel know you have a live animal and follow their instructions.
- Carry Waste Bags – you may need to clean up after your dog if they are too large to go in a dog crate and your fellow passengers will not appreciate mess being left behind!
Contact the ferry company prior to arranging travel to find out what their ‘pet travel’ policy is. Animals other than registered assistance dogs are not allowed in passenger areas on most ferry trips and passengers are not always allowed back to their cars during the journey. This will mean you may not be able to check on your pet during your ferry crossing. Depending on the length of your crossing you may be allowed or even required to place your pet in a carrier and take them with you rather than leave them in the car.
- Ventilation – make sure that there is enough ventilation for your pet whilst the crossing is happening by leaving your car’s windows partially open, but take great care to ensure they cannot escape the vehicle.
- Alert the Transport Personnel – ensure the personnel on the ferry know you have a live animal and follow their instructions.
- Dogs and Cats Die in Hot Cars – do NOT travel on a hot day as you may need to leave your pet in the car. NEVER leave your pet in the car on a warm day, even for a few minutes with the windows down as they do not provide enough ventilation.