Sometimes, it is simply more prudent to put your pet into a crate for travel. It’s safer and, all things considered, more comfortable. That said, the “comfort” angle may take some getting used to, especially for your dog or cat.
Maybe your pet has never seen a crate or carrier of any kind, let alone spent time inside one. Or, if the only time your pup or kitty has ever traveled in a carrier is to the veterinarian, of course she’s going to take a dim view of anything that resembles her crate. Who could blame her? When that thing comes out, there are anxious moments ahead for sure.
Even if your dog is already crate-trained in the house, you may have your work cut out for you. Nonetheless, you can teach your pet to accept her kennel, maybe even love it.
Choose a crate according to your travel mode
If you’re taking a short car trip – to the vet, to visit friends across town, etc. – any simple container or restraint device is fine. Confining small pets keeps them from roaming around and getting literally underfoot or in your face while you’re driving. Read our article about selecting the best crate for shipping your cat or dog for more insight.
Larger dogs on the loose can be hurt if you have to stop quickly or there’s an accident. You can confine your bigger-breed girl by “fencing” off the back of your vehicle, or with a specially designed doggie seatbelt.
A simple carrier or restraint may be fine for more extended auto journeys, too. Providing your pet with a favorite toy or chew will help her remain calm. Remember to plan ahead for plenty of pit stops, and take along a leash – even for your kitty. Pack overnight supplies such as food and a portable dish. (She can sleep in her crate.)
Air travel is another story altogether
The International Air Transport Association regulates travel kennels for airborne animals. That includes dogs and cats. Their requirements are stringent, designed to ensure your pet travels as safely and comfortably as possible. If your pet is tiny, you may be allowed to carry her onboard with you, but this is not always an option. And larger pets must travel as cargo. (Their space is pressurized and temperature-controlled like the cabin where you sit.)
The key to meeting IATA requirements is kennel size. Dog or cat, you need to measure your pet. Do not guess or assume which crate is correct for her, because if it’s too big or too small, the airline will refuse to take her. This is for her own safety. Measurements in hand, you can order the right kennel online. Your local pet store may have what you need, as may your airline’s cargo counter.
In the travel industry, “fam” stands for familiarization. Just what your pet needs – a fam tour of her new crate. No whirlwind tour, though – the more time she has to get comfortable with her carrier, the more she will bond with it. It will become one of her belongings, like her bed and toys. (Or perhaps your sofa, or the foot of your own bed.)
Your job is to show the way. Purchase your pet’s new kennel as soon as you know she will be flying. Set it out where she can see it, with the door open. Put a favorite blanket or one of your old T-shirts inside, along with toys and treats – things that she recognizes and that will draw her inside.
Is your pet afraid of confined spaces? This can be a problem, especially with some dogs. For your extra-skittish girl, start by getting her used to only the bottom portion of the crate. It will look more like a deep bed than an enclosure.
In addition to putting goodies inside, play with your pet in and around the crate, so she associates it with you (her leader) as well as her belongings. The key is to make every interaction she has a positive experience. This new kennel is fun! It’s comfortable! My stuff is here, and so is my Fur Mom!
Let her take things gradually, inspecting and nosing around as she feels comfortable. Like bath time, the more you force the issue, the more you reinforce your pet’s fear and increase her stress. Just stay upbeat and reward her often for interacting with her kennel.
One final note: airlines do not allow drugged animals to fly, so avoid the temptation to give your girl a tranquilizer or otherwise sedate her prior to her flight. Drugs makes dogs and cats confused and interfere with their balance, both of which increase anxiety and the risk of injury. If your kitty or pup is a travel worrier, talk to your vet about lavender spray or some other type of natural calming product.