Long-distance drive....tips? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 02:02 AM Thread Starter
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Long-distance drive....tips?

So it looks like in the fall we'll be doing a 5,000km drive from Nova Scotia to Alberta....and that means the cats will be doing it as well! I don't even know where to start.....I was hoping I could piece together some tips and ideas from those of you who have done long drives?

Questions...in no particular order....

1) has anyone taken cats across the border from Canada to the US and then back again? That's the quickest way to go but I'm not sure what the rules are. How would I find out?

2) Is there a resource for pet-friendly hotels/motels in the US/Canada?

3) Has anyone ever had to sedate a pet for this long of a drive? We were hoping to let them out in the car using a harness (training starting this week!) and hopefully the kitten will eventually get over his habit of losing control of his bowels.....

4) Do you think they'll eat? What are appropriate intervals to let them out to use the litter box, and how could we do that safely?

5) Help!
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 02:21 AM
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I haven't gone across borders, but make sure you look into any issues regarding necessary quarantines.

My old cat, when we moved nearly 900 miles, needed to be sedated. The vet prescribed Diazepam and the trip went great. It was about 14hrs total and we did it in one shot.

My two girls took the move just fine when I moved back. They were each in separate carriers and I kept them from having food or drink for several hours before the drive. There would have been no opportunity to stop and pee before we reached the hotel where we were staying for a layover. Halfway there, I stopped and gave them the option of a little food and water because I figured I'd be at the hotel by the time the potty need kicked in. I didn't let them out; getting them caged is always the most traumatic part and I didn't want to have to repeat it. When we hit the hotel, I let them out for the night, and they got plenty of food and water then.

I would say that whether or not your pet needs sedation has entirely to do with age and anxiety level. Younger animals are generally more resilient. Animals CAN get motion sickness, and I'm afraid you won't know until you're on the road!

That's all the advice and experience I can offer. Good luck!
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 02:23 AM
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It sounds like the kitten is very scared right now of car travel... unless this changes before the trip, I would heavily suggest keeping the kitten at home and getting a family member, friend, neighbour, or trusted pet sitter to care for the kitten while you're gone.

I don't know any answers to your questions though. The best thing I can come up with is:

1) Phone and ask whatever governing body needed about border restrictions. A friend's family has property across the border in Washington and they take their dog with them all the time, I don't know what this entails, if they need vet records, or if they have exceptions in place for those that own property. It could also be different for cats. They don't take their cat with them, she stays at home.

2) I don't know of any, but I've never looked before. I would suggest if you can't find a site like that to instead find hotels within your budget as there are plenty of those type of sites and then phone/e-nmail them and ask if they allow pets.

3) Again, I don't know. But as I mentioned above, if your cat is freaking out, a long road trip shouldn't happen with them. Seems pretty pointless to have your cat drugged all the time, and sounds unsafe to me.

4) They'll eat when they're starving, but if the cat is stressed this may only happen once it settles down in the hotel at night. Not any fun for the cat.

5) Sorry, I can't suggest more besides getting the kitten used to travel now, and used the outdoors, and used to new locations. Some cats this simply does not work with, no matter how much you try with them. If you don't see serious improvement I don't think you should needlessly stress and endanger its health by taking it on the trip. One of our cats freaks out not only in his cage where it'll pee and howl while he's in there, but he won't adjust to a new location for several months and despite trying he's never felt safe outside. We don't take him on vacation with us, it wouldn't be fair to him.

Oh, and my Uncle had a dog they took on a sail boat with them. They had to have it emergency shipped back home. The dog refused to poop on the boat. Just something to keep in mind... your kitten might have that type of issue, too.


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Last edited by Carmel; 06-13-2011 at 02:26 AM.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 02:52 AM
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We've crossed the border several times with our cat. Your cats will need to be up-to-date on their rabies shots and you'll need a health certificate. US does not require a rabies certificate, but Canada does. They've never asked to see or inspect our cat. They barely even looked at the certificates.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Importing Domestic Cats
USDA - APHIS - Import and Export

Our cat hates the car, but we never sedated him. He'd meow loudly for maybe an hour at the very start of the road trip, but then he'd settle down for the remainder. We'd drive like 8 hours a day and he slept for most of it. He'd use the litter box and eat once we were at a hotel. As for hotels, look into small motels. A lot of chains will charge you extra for having a cat, and others only allow dogs.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 02:53 AM
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I got the impression that this isn't just a trip. The comment about going across the border and back again appears to have to do with the shortest route from Nova Scotia to Alberta, which cuts across Maine.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 03:02 AM
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I have no idea about the laws of coming in/out of the US/Canada.

When we moved from NJ to Oregon we did it with 2 dogs and my X husband's cat. It was a 2950 mile drive. We broke it into 5 days about 8 hours a day and tried to start/stop at the same time every day. We wanted them to have lots of time in the hotel room to walk around and stretch his legs.

We found a list of dog friendly hotels here: http://www.tripswithpets.com/pet-friendly-hotel-c When I contacted a LOT of them they were less than cat friendly so we just shuttled him in and out of the room in his crate and just let them assume he was a dog.

We brought 5 or 6 of these: KatKit Disposable Litter Box - Litter - Cat - PetSmart and dropped them in the hotel bathrooms at night. Anthony rode in his carrier and we put many layers of old ratty bath towels on the bottom for car sickness. That way if he vomited I could peel up one folded up towel and toss it in the trash at the next rest stop.

He *SCREAMED* for about the first 3 or 4 hours the very first day and after that. Not a peep. He never had an accident (a few bouts of car sickness) and he would hold it until we laid down the litterbox at the hotel (he always went REALLY quick).

When we'd stop for the night we were very careful to get take out before we checked into the hotel and once we got in the room we only went back out once or twice to walk the dogs. We would put him in the bathroom with the fan on so if he meowed no one heard him. We didn't take him for walks during the car rides, we both felt it too dangerous to let him out of the crate.

We'd get up early in the morning (5:00) and feed him and we didn't leave until 8 am so he had time to eat and eliminate/pee before we left.

Last edited by MowMow; 06-13-2011 at 03:05 AM.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 03:40 AM
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It's true that it might be for moving purposes... I just assumed the long drive to Alberta was happening because that was their vacation destination. If you're doing the drive because you're moving I guess you have to bring the cat with you, unless you pay for it to fly out there while you do the road trip...


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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 11:16 AM
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I used to travel with Zoe fairly frequently. When I lived in Ontario there were drives back to both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on several occasions. I was always tempted to cross the border, but on the one occasion I did go that route returning into Canada with her I was asked to provide proof of ownership (which rabies shots, etc do not!) otherwise I was going to be required to pay import taxes. Thankfully I am a procrastinator and my digital cam memory card still had pics from the previous Christmas on it! LOL Technically what they were looking for though is paper document of some sort. Ridiculous for most kitties who aren't purebred.
When I drove from Mass to New Brunswick with Gabriel they also asked for proof of ownership then. He was purebred so it was easy to show that and they waived my taxes because he was so darned cute. LOL The border agent said she didn't feel right taxing such a cute baby! Haha!

Both of my border crossings with kitties were at Calais, but entering Canada there. Getting Zoe into the US from Ontario was a breeze. They didn't ask to see anything. When we drove back that particular trip and then every subsequent trip I only went through Canada.

Something as well to remember about crossing the border is importing cat food to Canada isn't allowed so make sure whatever food you bring for kitty you not only keep in original packaging, but make sure to have the receipt with kitty's documents for the trip. This is another reason why homemade or jarred baby food is better for travel food for kitty! This wasn't something that wasn't checked with Zoe's trip, but it was checked with Gabriel. All I had for the trip for him was baby food so it was all good.

I'd strongly recommend a hamster bottle for water. It was a life saver and allowed Zoe to drink all she liked without mess. Make sure to test that it's not a particularly drippy one before the trip though AND that your kitty will use it. I also found that for the purpose of the trip rather than regular kitty food we used single ingredient pureed meat - baby food will work for this. I just found her travel poops to be more solid. She also didn't get fed the night before traveling - we left always at about 4am. She got her first meal at about 6am when we would stop for breakfast somewhere outside the city. And by meal I mean about a tablespoon - go easy on the food or there might be kitty vomit to deal with! Keep eating to a minimum. Going the day without food isn't so much an issue. But make sure kitty is absolutely 100% hydrated for the entire trip - hence the hamster bottle. When we stopped overnight she got to eat a full meal right away before we did anything and then nothing again for the night in preparation for another early morning. We would stop for the night around supper time so plenty time for her to digest and get that through her system.

Zoe was a great traveller except if she could see out of her crate. she preferred to be in complete darkness and would sleep most of the trip. The ONLY time she ever freaked out was when i wasn't thinking straight apparently and made tuna sandwiches for the trip. She sort of freaked out when I pulled those out of the freezer bag! I couldn't eat them and had to stop for fast food - my cat made me do it. LOL

I never sedated her for travelling - not by plane nor car - on recommendation by my vet. If your cat is vocal, it is better to find a way to settle them without drugs because if there is a car accident or kitty is otherwise bumped around, there will be a delay before they can tell if slow responses are due to the drugs or head injury, etc. Thankfully unless she could see light (or smelled tuna sandwiches) she was a fantastic traveller.

Pet-Friendly Hotels, Lodging/Accommodations, and Vacation Rentals in Canada A great listing for pet friendly places to stay.

Litter box we did at lunch time only. Just a small travel sized litter box. That allowed us to make sure she had her familiar litter and plastic box rather than new litter, new type of box, and new location. We even made sure the travel box was the same colour as her box at home. As much the same as possible.

I'd say the very best thing you can be doing right now is to take kitty for frequent drives in their crate of varying lengths now. Make it a fun event. Perhaps a special treat that is only for the car. As long as kitty won't be left in heat in the car at all ever, try to take them everywhere with you now. Gawd knows it rains enough out here lately so that should be pretty much always LOL

Oh and something super important. Bring fave toys, etc with you, but DO NOT put them in the crate with kitty!!! Keep them for overnight fun. The one and only time Zoe was car sick she puked all over her favourite beanie baby mouse. What a mess. And her fave toy had to go in the garbage in the middle of her first epic car trip moving to a new home. The dollar store has cheap blankets for cozies in the crate.


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 11:38 AM Thread Starter
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Sorry, should have clarified, this is a permanent move, not a vacation (what a horrible vacation that would be, 10 days in the car with 2 cats!)--so I can't leave the kitten behind. So far we've taken them both on their rides to the vet (35 km or so each way) and to the cat kennel once (50 km each way). The kitten I think gets car sick, he's not overly scared, but once we've turned a few corners he lets out this pitiful mew and has a stool, then is fine for the rest of the trip. Usually we pull over, clean up the mess, and then stick him in the big soft cozy carrier with the other cat after he's made a mess in the hard carrier.

Wicket just rowrs at us the whole time, but we've only ever had him in the carrier in the car so I don't know what he'll do when we let him see what's going on. I think we're going to take some preparatory trips with them, short ones, to get them used to being in the car but that's really the best we can do.

I don't like the idea of sedating them but I do like the idea of having something on hand in case, on day 3, one of them is really freaking. They both adjusted really easily to the new house when we moved in January and they're both very attached to us and tend to be fine in a new situation as long as they can see us so I'm not worried about the hotel bit (thanks for the link, by the way!). Most worrying to me is making sure they have opportunity to hydrate and use the litter box. I wish I could figure out a way to keep them mostly raw for the trip, it's reduced the smell of their stool so much....the worst thing about the kitten pooping in the carrier has been the stench!

Good to know about ownership--geez, how do you prove THAT with a mutty rescue? Maybe we'll take the long way through Ontario just to avoid that whole situation. I'd hate to get to the Saskatchewan border or something ridiculous....yech.

Thanks for your suggestions, guys!
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-13-2011, 12:58 PM
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fit in the largest carrier you can, add a shelf to it (plywood sandwiched between the top and bottom) put in small litter box, heavy bowl for food and water(maybe water bottle type) dishes that clip to door are usless.. add several cat beds top and bottom, everybody and everything can get moved to room for night at once.. (an escaped cat on a trip would be very bad)(baggies for quick litter box clean-up)

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