Air travel with pets

Q: I will fly internationally with my two 11 month old cats. They will fly in the passenger cabin with me in USDA and IATA approved carriers, each one under a seat. Should I tranquilize them? Can I tranquilize mid-flight if things aren’t going well? I have heard about the risks in exciting the animals (reverse effect) and potential dangers in the combined effects of altitude/pressurization/tranquilizers. My vet is of the “do not tranquilize” school and I would like another opinion. I would appreciate any information you could give me. Thank you very much.

A: Tranquilization is best reserved for only severely nervous cats. It is safer and healthier to transport them without any medication. Be sure they have adequate food and water just prior to leaving, then non-spillable water for the ride, such as ice cubes in a dish. Most cats appreciate a snuggle blanket or cave inside the box for comfort. Airlines provide the proper temperature and pressure for the pet areas, just as for humans.

Indoor vs outdoor cats

Q: Charlie is my male tabby cat. He is not fixed and lives outside. I’ve heard awful stories about cats that live outside and die early. Is this true?

A: In general, yes, cats should be kept indoors. Cats that go out-of-doors are more likely to come in contact with diseases and parasites, as well as exposure to cars and predators. With Leukemia, trucks and coyotes out there, home sweet home is definitely the place to be.

Tips on car travel with cats

Q: I am driving from California to Florida with my cats, a four day trip. What precautions should I take to insure their safe arrival?

A: You should keep them in spacious carriers inside your car with water available at all times. Ice cubes in a dish can provide a constant supply of cold water that doesn’t spill easily. Keep the carrier on the seat or floor near you, so you can be aware of their condition, and make sure the sun and air conditioner is not a problem for them. Feed them their regular food at regular meal times. Provide a cat box in the carrier, using shredded paper if sand spillage is a problem. Do not let them outside at rest stops or motels, for they may run away in the confusion. You can let them out in a securely closed motel room. Consider having an airline fly them out, for this minimizes stress by being faster. Pet airline travel is safer and less expensive than most people think. Tranquilizers are not a good idea for trips longer than eight hours.