Uw zomervakantie – met of zonder huisdieren?juni 13, 2020
Summer is here, and after months of sheltering in place, I know many of you are looking forward to getting away from it all on vacation, whether it’s a weekend escape close to home, a cross-country trip, or some other type of adventure. If you’re a pet parent, you’re also facing the question of whether to bring your dog or cat with you or leave them at home.
Traveling with pets is commonplace these days, but many people aren’t aware that humans are much better equipped to handle the stress of travel and disruptions in routine than animals are. As much as our furry family members love being with us, they thrive in a familiar setting with a structured daily routine.
Taking your dog or cat away from home and his daily schedule for several days or weeks can generate a level of stress that even your constant presence can’t overcome. In fact, unless you have a very compelling reason to bring a cat along on vacation, I don’t recommend it.
Leaving kitty at home with a caring and competent pet sitter is the best thing you can do for your feline family member when you travel. The next best option is to leave him with a responsible friend or family member, and as a last resort, there are boarding facilities that cater exclusively to cats.
Generally speaking, dogs travel better than cats, but again, understand that your pet’s travel experience will be very different from your own. With that said, if you intend to bring your pet with you on vacation this year, it’s important to plan ahead and keep his safety, health and comfort top-of-mind.
Keeping Your Pet Safe on the Road
Putting your dog or cat into a crate, carrier or secure harness is for their safety as well as yours. An unrestrained animal can be a distraction while you’re driving and can become a projectile in the event of an accident, which is life-threatening for both your pet and other passengers.
You’ll want to choose a crate or carrier that fits your pet snugly, with enough room to be comfortable but not excess room (which poses a risk in the event of an accident). The crate or carrier should then be secured into the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle — not the front passenger seat.
While you can fasten almost any crate or carrier in your vehicle using elastic or rubber bungee cords, this method may not be secure enough in an accident, putting your pet at risk of injury. In addition, many pet restraint manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested and safe for use in a vehicle, but there are no established test protocols or standards required to make such claims.
Fortunately, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru have collaborated to perform crash tests on a wide range of harnesses, carriers and crates on the market. CPS actually provides a list of crash test-certified pet restraint systems.
The CPS and Subaru also crash-tested pet travel seats. These are portable booster seats for small dogs (or cats) that are placed on the passenger seat or console to elevate them so they can see out the windows. None of the four tested seats safely restrained the (stuffed) dogs in the crash tests,1 so while they may be fun for dogs, they shouldn’t be considered effective safety restraints.
Tips for Safe Road Trips With Your Pet
1. Make sure your dog or cat is wearing a collar with a current ID tag. If your pet is microchipped, make sure the information is current in the microchip company’s database.
2. Put together a travel kit for your pet. Include appropriate paperwork, food, fresh bottled water, bowls, treats, a harness and leash, and any supplements or medications your pet is taking.
3. A pet first aid kit for emergencies is also a good idea. You can include a comb or brush, some toys, and, bedding. It’s also an excellent idea to include some recent pictures of your pet from various angles that would show any unique markings or any unique characteristics about her in the event (heaven forbid) she gets separated from you while traveling.
4. If you plan to feed fresh or raw homemade food during the trip, obviously you need to pack an ice chest or some way to keep the food frozen. If you opt to switch to canned food for your journey, it’s important you make the dietary transition a week or so before you plan to leave, so you don’t encounter any unexpected bouts of diarrhea during your trip.
5. Have clean up supplies on hand. Sometimes, there are potty accidents or vomit episodes that need cleaning up.
6. Most cats won’t use a litterbox in a moving vehicle. If you make stops along the way, you can try to entice him to use the box at rest areas. It’s important to have a litterbox available when you make stops, but it also means that you’ll need a litter scoop and some plastic bags for used litter if your cat does decide to take advantage of the litterbox.
7. Never open your cat’s carrier while there are any car doors or windows, even a sunroof, open. It’s a precaution you should follow religiously at all times when traveling with your cat.
8. If you’re traveling with a dog, make sure his leash is attached to his harness or collar before allowing him off his travel harness or out of his travel crate.
9. Don’t try to feed your pet while the car is moving. It’s best to offer a light meal a few hours before departure. If you’re traveling some distance and will be staying at a hotel in the evening, feed a second meal once your dog or cat has settled down in your room for the night. In the morning, feed some breakfast a couple hours before you get back on the road.
10. Never leave your pet unattended in your car for any reason.
Air Travel With Pets
Needless to say, if your vacation plans involve air travel, the level of difficulty in bringing your pet along rises dramatically. Even under ideal circumstances, flying is very stressful for animals. Airports and airplanes are strange and often frightening places full of unfamiliar humans, sights, sounds, and smells.
Air travel makes most humans a little anxious, so it’s easy to imagine how much more taxing it can be for a dog or cat with no choice in the matter and no idea what to expect. For example, human passengers can anticipate pressure changes and the sensation of not having their feet on the ground.
Your animal companion can’t, so the experience is emotionally and physiologically stressful, and as you might expect, the stress increases exponentially for pets that fly as “air cargo” in the belly of the plane.
Since flying with a dog or cat carries inherent risks and stressors, I recommend leaving your furry family member safely at home with a trusted caretaker if possible. Unless she’s a seasoned air traveler, in my opinion putting your pet on a plane, especially in the cargo hold, should be an option of last resort.
Tips for Safe Air Travel With a Dog or Cat
If you do decide to bring your pet on a flight, here are some tips to help keep her safe and relatively comfortable:
1. Make sure your dog or cat is fit to fly. Very young animals, elderly pets, ill pets, pets with a chronic health condition, pregnant animals, and brachycephalic breeds are among the types of pets for whom air travel is in my opinion an unacceptable risk. Talk with your veterinarian about whether your pet is a good candidate for air travel. You’ll also want to get any required health certifications.
2. Make sure she’s very comfortable in her carrier before heading to the airport. Long before your scheduled flight, your dog or kitty should view her carrier as a safe place. Purchase it well ahead of time and get her used to hanging out in it at home.
3. Make sure she’s wearing a secure collar and a current ID tag. Also keep a photo of her on your person to help with identification in case, heaven forbid, she is lost.
4. Bring your pet in the main passenger cabin with you if possible. Whether or not she can fly in the passenger cabin will depend on her size and the airline you use. Most if not all airlines only allow dogs and cats in passenger cabins that can fit in a carrier small enough to slide under the seat.
Having her right there with you, in a climate-controlled cabin, has obvious benefits and is by far the best way to travel by plane with a pet. Book your flights as early as possible since airlines only allow a certain number of pets to travel in the passenger cabin. You won’t be able to remove her from the carrier during the flight, so make sure she isn’t traveling on a full stomach and has an opportunity to relieve herself shortly before you board the aircraft.
5. Avoid flying in very hot or cold weather and book non-stop flights whenever possible. In warmer months, book morning or evening flights so you’re traveling during the coolest part of the day. In cold weather, try to fly during the warmest part of the day.
Non-stop flights are highly preferable to connections, especially if your pet is flying in the baggage compartment or cargo hold. Keep in mind that direct flights are neither non-stop nor connecting but are preferable to a connecting flight. If your pet will be traveling in the baggage or cargo area, retrieve her as quickly as possible when you land at your destination.
6. If your pet will be traveling in the baggage compartment or cargo hold, invest in a good-quality carrier. Defective or inappropriate carriers are behind most of the problems with escaped or injured pets during air travel. A suitable carrier will be TSA approved, have secure construction (for example, locking bolts), metal doors (not plastic), metal rods that fasten the door to the container, a strong and effective lock mechanism, and no wheels.
7. Reduce your pet’s anxiety with natural remedies. I’m not a fan of sedating pets for travel except in the most extreme circumstances, and only in consultation with a veterinarian. If your dog or cat is so anxious that she needs to be tranquilized to fly, she really shouldn’t be put through the experience if it can be avoided.
If it’s necessary to sedate your pet for travel, she must be in the cabin with you so you can monitor her throughout the flight. Never, under any circumstances, sedate a pet that cannot be supervised. Natural calming agents that may be beneficial include ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola.
To help reduce her anxiety during a trip, consider giving flower essences such as Jackson Galaxy Solutions orally before, during and after travel, and mist her carrier with specially blended pet-friendly essential oils such as those from the Earth Heart line.
I also recommend homeopathic aconitum for extreme fear, if warranted. CBD oil and ashwagandha can also be very effective at reducing stress. Try out the protocol prior to travel to make sure you’re happy with the results.
In 2018, after several terrible pet-related incidents occurred in a very short period of time, United Airlines placed restrictions on the types of pets it would transport as “air cargo.” The company announced that 21 dog breeds and 4 cat breeds would no longer be allowed on its planes.
Among the dogs the airline banned are several flat-faced (brachycephalic) and “strong-jawed” breeds, including mixed breeds. Some cat breeds, such as the Himalayan and Persian, are also on the no-fly list. For both dogs and cats with short noses, breathing difficulties can be exacerbated by high altitudes.
Later, United added another restriction — it no longer accepts dogs that require crates taller than 30 inches. Delta Air Lines also recently stopped accepting dogs who require crates taller than 24 inches, and while American Airlines still ships large dogs, many of their planes can’t actually handle the larger crates.2
Most if not all the major air carriers have information about traveling with pets on their websites. If you’re thinking about flying with your dog or cat, contact the individual carrier as a first step. Find out what pet restrictions apply, approved carrier or kennel dimensions, and other critical information you’ll need for planning purposes.