Travelling with a pet can highlight previously unknown behaviors and seemingly small things can have a great impact.
Dogs, for example, that don’t enjoy car travel may be soothed by regular rest stops with an accompanying short walk. This can be enough to placate some dogs and provide some normality and assurance to a more nervous dog.
Cats on the other hand tend to be more territorial and their nature generally lends them to be more comfortable in that territory.
One of the major reasons for this is that cats spend a lot of time ‘setting up their territory’.
Behaviors such as scent marking and scratching favored spots play an important role in a cat’s comfort level and their marked zone can be fairly said to be their comfort zone.
Add to this the fact that cats are known to favor their own personal time schedule in terms of where they like to be at certain times and it’s easy to see why travel can be a significant source of stress for our feline friends.
With the above in mind, it is interesting to note a potentially valuable tip for owners that may go some way in comforting a travelling cat.
Dr Jess Kirk DVM of VetExplainsPets advises:
“No matter what your cat’s comfort item is, bring it along on your travels.”
This advice is centered essentially around the fact that a cat’s favored comfort item has been scent marked with pheromones that are known to have a calming effect on cats.
Five different facial pheromones that can reduce stress in cats have been identified and the items that cats regularly use are likely to contain a broad mix of them. This means that washing these items prior to travel could be counterproductive when it comes to a cat benefiting from the calming effect of the pheromones.
Ideal items to take on a journey are a bed, blanket or a well-used familiar toy.
Most cat owners use some variation of cat carrier and it may be valuable to consider the following advice for potential maximum comfort for a travelling cat.
Ensure that you use a carrier large enough to incorporate a cat’s bed, blanket and a favored toy or other object.
Leave the cat carrier accessibly around your cat for a couple of weeks prior to travel so that the cat may explore in and around the carrier and mark it’s scent around it. This also gives you the advantage of not surprising the cat with an unfamiliar, non scent-marked item at the time of travel.
If intending to undertake a long journey with a cat it is worthwhile making a couple of short journeys beforehand whilst utilizing the above advice so that your cat can have the opportunity of associating the experience as a safe one. This advice is especially valuable with a more skittish cat.
If safe to do so and your vehicle is not parked on a roadside and your cat is comfortable with being outdoors it may be advantageous to let your cat have a roam inside the vehicle to both leave it’s scent and familiarize itself before going on a journey.
A combination of the above advice can really help a cat to immediately feel more safe and familiar when undertaking a long journey and helping your cat to understand a potentially stressful experience can prove valuable to your feline friend.
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