Traveling with Cats to Your Next Assignment · The Gypsy Nurse

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By Bethany Manas

January 9, 2021



Traveling with Cats: Tips from a Travel Nurse

Being the proud mother of cats, I have learned that we’re not really all that different.

I love taking long, luxurious naps, I don’t know when to stop eating, and I hate any changes to my environment. My cats were just as surprised as me when I decided to become a travel nurse. Packing up and moving to a new city, new job, and new apartment every 3 months forced all of us out of our comfort zone. However, after 4 years and about 8 different addresses, my husband and I have become experts at traveling with cats and all! It’s important to keep in mind that every situation will be different, but this is how a typical move looks for us. 

traveling with cats

To start:

You have to prepare your cats for the trip ahead. We start by pulling the cages out about a week before we plan to move. We open up the doors, put their cat beds inside, and lay fresh pee pads down so that they can get acclimated to the smell. If they don’t have cat beds, place a towel or old t-shirt inside so the cage will smell familiar to them.

It’s important to get a cage big enough that your cat can stand up and turn around easily. For our cats, we use smaller dog cages. We make sure that they have plenty of room to spare. Unfortunately, we have one cat who doesn’t get along with the others. The cage she goes in has a divider to keep her separated from her cage mate. The last thing you want is a catfight in the backseat when you’re driving down the highway.

A few days before we leave, we map out our trip and plan hotel stays. We try not to exceed 8-10 hours of travel time per day and book pet-friendly hotels along the way. 

Travel Day

On travel day, we take away their food and water about 4-6 hours before we leave. That way, they don’t have full bellies and bladders on the trip. The cats are the very last thing we pack. Once all of our belongings are loaded up, and it’s time to hit the road, we turn the car on and crank up the A/C. You don’t want your cats to overheat at any point on the trip. We wrestle them into their respective cages and put them in the car, making sure to buckle the cages into the seat. 

No unnecessary stops

traveling with cats

Unfortunately, we don’t make it a scenic trip. We don’t make any unnecessary stops to sightsee or sit down and eat. We stopped for gas and fast food to eat in the car only. The first time we traveled, we put mini litter boxes in their cages with them. All that did was get litter kicked all over the car. They never went to the bathroom in it, so now we just use pee pads. If they had an accident, we pulled the pad out and replaced it at the next gas stop.

However, NEVER open the cage door with the car door open. We positioned the cage doors so we could open them with the car doors shut. That way, if the cat slips out while you’re trying to get the pee pad, he’s just stuck in the car and can’t run away. 

At the hotel

When we get to a hotel, we check in and get the cats into the room right away. We leave them in their cages while we set up a litter box, food, and water. Then we let them out, order some pizza, and relax for the night. 

Arriving at our destination

When we arrive at our destination, we set them up similarly to arriving at the hotels. We check to make sure there are no open doors, windows, or cracks that they can escape through. And we typically lock them in a bathroom or bedroom with a litter box, food, and water while we move everything in. Remember, just like you. It will take them some time to get acclimated to their new home. Be patient with them. Let them explore and come out of their shell at their own pace. 

Tips for traveling with cats:

•Ask your vet about any suggestions they may have for your cat’s specific personality. 

•It’s okay to play music in the car, but don’t play it too loud. 

•If you want to use a litter box in their cage, use a 9×13 disposable cake pan. 

•If your cat starts to pant, that’s usually a sign of either stress, overheating, or both. Turn up the A/C and don’t add any unnecessary stress until he calms himself down. 

We hope that these tips are helpful the next time you are traveling with your cats. If you would like more tips for traveling with cats or pets in general, these articles offer great tips!

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

3 thoughts on “Traveling with Cats: Tips from a Travel Nurse

  1. Great tips on cat care and traveling. I want to add that I cover my cat cage with a blanket, so that she feels safe and hidden from the scary world while we are on the road.

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