How to Travel with a Cat

How do you travel with a cat on a plane? How do you take a cat on a road trip? How do you teach your cat to walk on a leash? My cat does all these activities on a regular basis and he behaves. 

If your cat is still a kitten, you’re in luck of making him a true adventure cat. Kittens can adapt easier to new situations than adult cats. However, don’t worry, an adult cat can be easily trained as well, even if your furball is grumpy.

My Poofy loved to travel and is actually getting mad at us when we leave him at home. Strangers are still stunned by the view of a cat walking on the leash, but I’m telling you that it’s all normal. My cat is basically like a dog in this sense, he even scratches the door if we don’t walk him every day.

road trip with pets


How to Train Your Cat to Walk on the Leash?

First things first, leash training is important when it comes to traveling with your furry friend. When we think of dogs, we think of walking them on a leash. When it comes to cats on the other hand, not so much. I can’t tell you how many times I got stopped by strangers saying ‘omg, it’s a cat on a leash!’.

Others kept asking questions how did I train my cat to do this since their cats don’t move when they put a harness on them.

Think about it, when you first put a collar or leash on your dog, he won’t behave perfectly. If dogs were behaving so great from the beginning, there wouldn’t be so many dogs training schools everywhere.

My cat is actually a Ragdoll, a breed that’s known for being an indoor cat. When I first took him outside the cat was falling off trees not able to keep a balance, birds were basically hopping around him because he was so hopeless.

Naturally, the first few times in his harness he was refusing to move. All until he realized that he isn’t going anywhere without his harness.

Take your cat to a quiet spot first before introducing him to crowded spaces. It took time for him to get a sense of what people, bikes, and cars are, but now he only occasionally freaks out for the first 5 minutes and then doesn’t even want to go back home.

cat backpack
Cat Backpack – our back-up for when Poofy is tired. (This one is also recommended and airline approved as a carrier).

Best Tips for Walking A Cat on the Leash:

  • Keep putting his harness on every time your cat wants to go outside. He won’t move around the first few times, but then he’ll realize that he can’t do anything about it.
  • After the cat is used to his harness, attached a leash to it and let him get familiar with it.

It took Poofy half a year to understand commands like ‘walk’ and ‘stop’, but he’s basically like a well-trained puppy.

leash trained cat
Poofy enjoying a walk in New Hampshire.

Best Cat Harness

Picking the best cat harness is a challenge. My cat absolutely hates the full-body harnesses and walked funnily, so I had to find a different option, but many cats prefer it. We used a different set-up for a while, but a few times he was able to easily get out of it, so while I can recommend an elastic leash that came with it or training, I can’t say the same about the harness.

This one worked perfectly when he was still a kitten and he’s currently using one with a bow. Plus, he looks very dapper with a bow.


I always put a pet name tag on him as well, just in case he sneaks out somehow. Also, make sure your cat is microchipped in an unlikely event of an escape.


walking a cat on a leash
best cat harness

Flying with a Cat

First of all, let’s clear up the air here, as there are a lot of misconceptions about flying with pets. You CAN bring a cat (or small dog) on a plane in the cabin for an extra fee on many airlines. Your pet does not need to be an emotional support animal to fly in a cabin.

Several of the biggest airlines in the U.S. charge $125 each way for an in-cabin cat, $200 for an international flight. On European flights, the fee is usually between $50-70.

Check which airlines allow pets in the cabin. I highly advise against shipping cats as cargo (unless you’re going to UAE, Iceland or UK and there’s no other option), as they’re small enough and fit under the seat. If a pet in its carrier can fit under the seat in front of you, it typically can travel in the cabin. The size of the carrier varies depending on the aircraft though.

If you’re flying domestic, you don’t need any documents. If you’re flying internationally, it’s a completely different story as there are more requirements and a topic described in a separate blog post

flying with a cat

Call your airlines before purchasing your ticket to make sure that they have space for your kitty on the plane. There are limits on how many total pets are allowed on each flight and as you can imagine, buying an extra seat for your cat isn’t allowed.

A cat in its carrier technically counts as your allowed carry-on bag, but I’ve never had an airline telling me that I can’t bring my regular carry on as well.

My Tip: Book yourself a window seat if you can, so then your cat can have some peace and quiet if he decides to sleep in his carrier. If you have an aisle seat, he will be constantly near the aisle with people walking through and flight attendants serving drinks. It might cause some unnecessary stress.

Flying with a cat and a baby.

What to do if you get a seat next to someone allergic to cats?

The correct answer is you do NOTHING. It actually happened to me many times and once we were also sat next to a little fluffy dog. A person whose allergic should call a flight attendant and they’ll find them another seat, further away from your cat.

If they’re unhappy with the situation they can deplane and be rescheduled without an extra charge. These are the rules (not my rules, official airline rules).

That said, upon further research if you have a severe allergy to cats and dogs always be prepared with anti-allergy pills. Even if there are no pets on your flight it doesn’t mean that they weren’t any pets or service animals on it before that and allergens are circulating in the air. Planes are rarely deeply cleaned and definitely not fully after every flight.

Poofy has been on 17 flights and , so he’s a veteran. Here are my best tips:

IMPORTANT: Always dress your cat in a harness and have a leash ready to go, even if your cat isn’t fully leash trained yet, or you have no intentions of getting him out of the carrier.

You will need to take your cat out of the carrier for security check and carry him through the X-ray screening, while your belonging and his carrier are being X-rayed (please do not leave your cat in his carrier and x-ray him like luggage!!).

This is the most stressful moment for any kitty because there are a lot of people around, beeping noises and things are happening around. Cats can sneak out, so it’s best to keep your furry friend safe on the leash then. Poofy just hangs around my feet on the leash when I pack my stuff. And everyone says ‘aww’ when they see him.

Best Cat Carriers

I went through a lot of cat carriers, as some fell apart and some turned out to be too big, despite being promoted as ‘airline approved’. The best one turned out to be the Sherpa Carrier, as it fits under the seat, it’s not too wide, and more importantly – it’s Poofy approved. They’re available in different colors and different sizes. Poofy uses Medium because he’s a giant cat. Most cats would fit in a small one though.

IMPORTANT: When you call the airline to pre-book your ‘pet ticket’ you’ll be asked to give dimensions of your carrier. Give the dimensions of the small carrier, even if you use medium when flying on smaller planes. No one actually measures them at the airport, but the lady on the phone won’t book your cat if the dimensions are exceeding ‘recommended’ ones.


best cat carrier


Flying with Cats: Checklist

On top of a carrier, you might want to pack a few things. Depending on the cat, your cat might want to sit in his carrier or be a lap cat. Poofy is usually a lap cat when it comes to flying. He peeks through the window in the beginning but then falls asleep.

I’ve never seen Poofy expressing even the slightest interest with any toys when we travel – too many things are going on, so you can leave those for later.

Have some snacks ready and a foldable water bowl. Most cats tend not to drink and eat much when they travel, but at least try to offer some.

What about pooping? We equipped ourselves with a foldable litterbox and some litter in a ziplock bag, but so far the only time we actually used it was during a road trip at hotels. Poofy has never pooped or peed at the airport, on the plane or in the car. He waits until we get to a hotel, or back home to do his business.

I read somewhere that cats can last up to 24 hours without going, and I’ve seen Poofy lasting 12 hours already. He just refuses to go. Again, it’s better to be prepared. Take your cat to the restroom, prepare his litterbox and see if he goes.


road trip with a cat
Poofy in an Uber getting to the airport.

Road Trip with a Cat

If your cat suffers from motion sickness he will be quiet and drool. Most cats can overcome motion sickness, but it’s best to calm your kitty before putting him in a car for the first time. I didn’t do it with my previous cat and she hated cars forever. We gave Poofy calming snacks a few times, but these days he doesn’t need them anymore.

We road tripped and moved across the country with Poofy many times and he doesn’t mind it. He loved to walk around the car and explore the car, look through the window, hangs out on a windshield and eventually falls asleep down by the passenger’s feet.

We usually stop often and walk him so he has a chance to spread his legs, but he never really poops or pees when traveling.

road trip with a cat
Basically his seat for almost an entire ride…

Staying with a Cat at a Hotel

Staying at a hotel with your cat can be more fun than you think. Cats love staying at hotels. They have new spots to explore and places to hide.

If you leave the room without your cat, leave the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door. You don’t want to risk having housekeeping open the door and have your cat escape. Some pet-friendly hotels even have a ‘Pet in Room’ door hanger available.

Place the litter box in the bathroom, as the litter can be hard to get out of the carpet. Then feed your kitty and give him some time to explore.

cat at UFO museum
Poofy meeting Aliens at UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.

Which Hotels Allow Cats?

Finding a cat-friendly hotel can be a challenge. It’s definitely easier in Europe where most hotels accept pets, but in the US you need to double-check. Many hotels that state their pet-friendly status or say ‘we welcome furry friends’ turn out to accept only dogs and not cats, so remember to call the property before booking your room.

The hotel will most likely charge you a deposit or fee for each pet. But, you also might be a charged a surprisingly huge cleaning fee for your cat, so ask about all the fees involved beforehand.

Here are some US chains that always accept small pets:

  • La Quinta
  • Travelodge
  • Motel 6
  • Red Roof Inn
  • Extended Stay
  • Best Western ($20 per night, max $100 per stay)
  • Ace Hotel ($25 per night for the first pet)
  • Loews (most will charge $25 per pet)
  • Fairmont
  • Four Seasons

In NYC I can recommend Hudson New York. Pet stay for free and it’s super close to Central Park where you can walk your cat or dog.

cat in central park

Do you have any questions about traveling with a cat? Ask me in the comments below!

How to Travel with a Cat

20 thoughts on “How to Travel with a Cat”

  1. I’ve always been interested in traveling with my dog however the whole process has seemed daunting to me. This article has a lot of really great information that I can use for next time! I’m wondering what place that you’ve visited has been the most pet friendly. Also, is there insurance required for you pet when traveling? Thank you for all the information!

    • No insurance required for pets. Italy so far has been very pet friendly, but taking Poofy to Poland next week so will report back on that 🙂

    • Hi! This is awesome! I never thought about traveling with a cat but after reading this article I changed my mind! Thank you! 🙂 in one month I will be traveling with my cat in a train. I already bought her an expandable carrier so she will be as much comfortable as possible as this will be 12 hours long ride. I have to admit i am a little ( read a lot) concerned how to do this. My biggest concern is how/where to put her litter box. I mean, she has to pee somewhere in those 12 hours right. And next thing, she is not so used to traveling and I know she will be miawing a lot so she will disturb another passengers.
      I am from Slovenia and due to work i have recently moved to Germany. Now i am going back for a visit and i wanted to make a reservation in my own coach but there is no such kind option for this connection. So now i have to travel in a train with other people and I am not allowed to take her out of her carrier. I already booked my tickets and now i am not sure if i should do this? (Sorry for a long post)

      • If she’s like my cat she wouldn’t pee. Mine prefers to hold it, no matter how many times we try. You can get these disposable litter trays and bring litter in the ziplock as I mentioned in the article and let her try it in the bathroom.
        Don’t worry about her meowing. If she’s allowed on a train then there’s not much you can do to calm her down. I guess you can pet her, which helps my cat, but each is different.

  2. Thank you so much for open my mind about cats traveling. Next month my kitten is arriving and I will do all you did!
    Can eait!

  3. Hey,
    Have you ever had problems when other people were walking their dog? Like did they try to chase your cat?

    • Dogs are usually interested, but they’re on leashes so even if they try to chase him they can’t. Many dogs are actually smaller than my cat, so they’re actually afraid of him 😀

  4. Hi, my cat is an adventure cat but has never been on a plane. We are not too worried about him, because he travels very well. However, we are planning on traveling from Spain to London, then London to Vancouver, BC. After our trip to Canada we are planning on traveling to the Caribbean. Have you travelled within Europe to England, it is only a connecting flight but, are they strict? Look forward to hearing from you, Hilary.

    • I’ve traveled around Europe with my cat without any issues, but your case is quite different.

      First of all, even if you’re connecting in the UK you still need to fulfill all the requirements for the UK. And since Brexit they became ridiculous including having to test cat’s poop. Plus, your cat cannot travel in the cabin to or from London, so you’d have to put him in cargo regardless of the airline. Which is more expensive and stressful to the cat 🙁

      In terms of the Carribean travels, it’s fine and your cat could go in the cabin with all the necessary paperwork (unless it’s Jamaica or Barbados, then also only in cargo).

  5. Have you had any issues with the harness or leash setting off the alarm in security? I have the puppia harness

    • Nope, never. However, for some reason every time I fly through Warsaw Chopin Airport they tell me to undress the cat before I carry him through.

  6. Thank you for the useful information about traveling with cats. We’ve taken our indoor cat outdoor to public places in her favorite stroller, but never at hotels. We are vacationing with her in a hotel that accepts cats and allows el fresco dining. I plan to keep her in the stroller, but have a leash should she get the courage. Also bought a collapsible carrier with littler box and food bowl. We are excited to vacation with her for the first time.

  7. Hi Anna! Thanks for this article! I’ve been trying to figure out if I can live a location independent life in SE Asia/Australia next year, and my cat has been the major thing holding me back. I discovered Matt’s blog on quitting being a digital nomad, then Poofy’s instagram, then this article! You’ve inspired me to put more effort into her training, especially while summer lingers. If there’s one piece of advice I would add to this article, it would be for folks to spray Feliway in their carriers before putting in their cats (unless they are completely used to it, like Poofy!). You mentioned calming treats–can I ask what brand that is? I’ve been starting to leash train Miette, but man is it a slow process! I’m also worried about fleas and worms etc. Did you get any worm vaccinations for Poofy? And what flea prevention do you use? Backpack training has also been a challenge. Did you find that your cat preferred the open-back backpack than one with a bubble or mesh? I’m also curious how you taught the ‘walk’ and ‘stop’ commands. Miette has responded to clicker training in the past, but typically more to body language than actual language. Gosh, I have too many questions. If you happen to have any advice about traveling with a cat in SE Asia, that would be very appreciated too! (I have gotten her a rabies shot a month ago and am about to get the (expensive) blood test done. I wonder too if the order of countries visited matters.) Thank you! ?

    • We actually tried a few brands of calming treats but stopped after two trips (honestly don’t remember which one), as there was no point anymore. Poofy gets regularly vaccinated and when he scratches himself we buy the regular flee drops at a vet and put it on him.
      Poofy prefers to walk on his own, but he wasn’t a fan of a bubble. He needs to be able to peak out and feel like nothing is blocking his view.

      In terms of traveling in SE Asia I know that Bali is basically impossible to bring a cat to.

  8. P.S. I got distracted by your other articles 🙂 and forgot to ask one important question: Have you tried moving around frequently with Poofy? What would you say was the sweet spot in terms of Poofy being happy and you still being able to move? Cats don’t normally like to move and get very stressed out by it, but I want to live abroad and travel next year, so I’m considering staying 3-4 months in one place at a time (with frequent side trips), and hopefully that will keep the cat happy. Thoughts/experiences? Thank you!

    • Yes actually. We had to move 3 times in one year, plus he stayed with his grandparents as well, and he was fine. He’s better knowing he’s coming with us rather than staying home, so these days when we pack we have to keep telling him that he’s coming and showing him his carrier.

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