Cat Transport 101: How to Transport Your Cat Long Distance

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated July 1, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book
A pregnant woman comfortably carrying a cat.

Although most people consider dogs the ultimate companion pets, cats can be loyal and loving family members. Traveling with your cat can be a rewarding experience if done smoothly and safely. Set yourself and your cat up for success by understanding a cat’s unique travel needs before you hit the road. Our guide will walk you through ever step of the cat transport process.

What Are the Different Options for Cat Transport?

Luckily, because cats are small, you have plenty of options for pet transportation. Your budget, travel distance and cat breed will dictate which mode of transportation is the best option for you.

Airline cabin

Due to their small size, cats are perfect candidates to ride in the main airline cabin. Most major airlines allow cats as a “carry-on” item, with prices around $125 for domestic flights. Remember that most airlines limit how many animals are allowed in the main cabin for each flight, and pets are restricted to only one pet per person. Be sure to reserve your cat’s space in the main cabin early.

Pet Shipping with CitizenShipper

Certain airlines, like Delta, will allow cats to ride in the cargo hold. Delta has a phenomenal track record of shipping cats in cargo, ensuring your furry friend remains safe and comfortable. Remember that certain snub-nose cat breeds, like Burmese, Himalayan, Persian and exotic short-hair cats can have difficulty handling the changing air pressures aboard a plane. Since airlines do not allow snub-nosed breeds to fly, ground transport services are the only option for brachycephalic pets.

Keep in mind that you will need to remove your cat from its carrier to go through security. Once the empty carrier has been x-rayed, you can return the cat to its carrier and continue on your journey. 

Air Nanny

An air nanny service can help simplify air travel when flying with pets. An air nanny helps with planning and logistics ahead of time and rides with your cat in the main cabin. If there are long layovers, your air nanny will stay with your cat, ensuring it gets onto the next flight safely. While perfect for domestic travel, some countries require an air nanny service for international travel.

Pet Transport Service

A pet transport service takes the guesswork out of travel. These services can help organize complicated logistics, including caring for your pet during layovers. Pet transport services are ideal for shipping new kittens to their forever homes. Additionally, approved transporters can help gather the necessary documentation to enter different states or countries.

Cat transport service can also tackle ground transportation, driving your cat to your final destination. Ground transportation is the safest, most-affordable transit option if you have multiple cats or a brachycephalic breed cat.

Amtrak

As the most affordable option, train travel with Amtrak can be one of the most restrictive pet transport options. Not only does your cat’s carrier have to fit under the seat, but the carrier with the cat inside cannot weigh more than 20 pounds. Trains have a strict limit of five animals allowed on any one journey, and trips longer than seven hours prohibit pets.

Prices range from $29 to $39 per pet, depending on the distance. Pets cannot travel alone on Amtrak. Pet owners must also complete a Pet Release form (available on Amtrak’s website) before their travel.

What Kind of Carrier is Best for Cat Transport?

Keep your cat safe and secure with an approved cat carrier for your trip. Cat carriers come in many shapes and sizes, so you must check for size restrictions before buying a new carrier.

Airline/Amtrak Carrier Regulations

The owner must provide their cat carrier, but hard and soft-sided carriers are accepted. Ensure the carrier is leak-proof and provides plenty of ventilation for your cat. Amtrak restricts carriers to 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high. Airlines have variable minimum size dimensions, so it is best to check with your airline. Spirit Airlines has the roomiest size restrictions for carriers, allowing up to 18″ long x 15″ wide, and 9″ high.

To meet airline and Amtrak restrictions, your cat must be able to sit, lie down and turn around comfortably without hitting the sides of the carrier. Remember that your cat will count as a piece of carry-on luggage.

Different Types of Carrier Options

Choosing the right carrier for your cat will depend on your mode of cat transport and your individual pet. Some airlines will have strict size restrictions, so pay close attention to your particular airline’s regulations.

  • Hard-Sided – Hard-sided carriers have a rigid structure that holds their shape. Many people prefer a hard-sided carrier for ground transport or cargo holds. While hard-sided carriers can be heavier and bulkier, they provide the most protection for your cat.
  • Soft-Sided – A soft-sided carrier is often preferred for airline travel in the main cabin because there is some wiggle room to fit the carrier under the seat. Plus, soft-sided carriers are lighter, making them easier to carry throughout the airport.
  • Wearable – Modern cat carriers can be wearable, with styles ranging from a backpack to a front hammock. While a hammock isn’t safe for airline travel, a backpack can free your hands to carry other luggage.
  • Built-In – If you take regular trips with your cat, creating a built-in carrier system in your car can be an excellent option. Not only will your cat become familiar with their integral carrier, but you can also save time loading and unloading your cat with a built-in system. A built-in carrier is also a great option if you transport multiple cats simultaneously.

Preparing Your Cat for Their Journey

Taking a cat for a long journey can be nerve-racking for you and your cat. Understanding a cat’s unique needs can make a safer and easier trip. Prepare for cat transportation well in advance to make travel logistics a breeze.

  • Vet Appointment – You want to ensure your cat is healthy before traveling. Your vet will perform a regular wellness exam. Depending on your final destination, you may need proof of vaccination or negative test results regarding certain parasites and infectious diseases.
  • Carrier – Whether traveling by plane or vehicle, your cat must ride in a carrier. Choose the right carrier for your trip. Soft-sided carriers usually work better for trains and airlines with minimum size requirements. Hard-sided carriers are typically better suited for long car rides. Try to get your cat used to their carrier well before the trip so your cat is comfortable and stress-free.
  • Travel Bag – Put together an essential travel bag for your cat. Pack your cat’s food, collapsible bowls for food and water, a travel litter box, and litter for long trips. Add your cat’s blankets and toys to their carrier to help them feel more comfortable on the trip.
  • Medication – Pack any medication your cat might need along the route. Be sure to pack extra in case you lose a pill, or your cat spits it out. Remember also to bring enticing treats, especially for picky cats. Pill pockets are an excellent option that disguises medication.

Unique Challenges of Transporting a Cat

Unlike dogs, cats don’t usually tolerate a harness and leash, and getting a cat to do what you want can be impossible. Transporting a cat, especially long distance, comes with challenges unique to our feline friends. Once you learn how to transport a cat in a car, you can travel easily with little stress.

Water Breaks

Your cat will need water throughout the journey to stay safe. But keeping a bowl of water in your cat’s carrier is messy. You’ll want to plan frequent breaks along your trek to allow your cat to get some water. Use a collapsible bowl for easy transport, and take at least a gallon of water. Because cats are notoriously picky animals, try to give them the type of water they’re used to at home. 

Before letting your cat out of the carrier to drink, ensure all doors are closed and windows are up. Your cat may want to explore your car’s interior before feeling comfortable enough to get a drink. Be patient and understanding as your cat gets its much-needed water break.

Bathroom Breaks

After a water break, your cat will undoubtedly need to use the bathroom. Unlike a dog that can walk outside the car on a leash, a cat is more particular about where it does its business. Consider using either a travel litter box or a disposable litter box. A travel litter box is usually smaller; some even have a slide-out litter tray. After a trip, you can toss a disposable litter box because they are made with compostable materials.

It can help to pack a scoop and plastic bag full of fresh litter. After your pet does its business, remove the waste, and pack up unused litter for later. Remember to be patient with your cat as it investigates the unfamiliar litter box.

Exercise

Cats love to play, and being pent-up in a crate for hours can be stressful. A cat is unlikely to play in the car, so plan your trip in short spurts. A cat should be in the car for at most six hours at a time. Try to travel during the day, when a cat naturally sleeps, leaving the evening hours for exercise and playtime.

Clean Up

Although cats keep themselves clean, their surrounding area is another story. Litter can be messy, especially in a small car. Pack a small, portable vacuum cleaner to handle any messes from the litter box. Bring plenty of paper towels to clean up spilled water and possible accidents.

How to Move a Cat Internationally

Transporting a cat internationally is more complicated than domestic transport. Most international flights are long-haul flights with lengthy layovers between cities. Many countries require that your cat remains accompanied, and some require an air nanny to ensure safe transit.

Countries sometimes need specific documentation, like a veterinary inspection or pet passport, to certify your pet is free of parasites or infectious diseases. Cats usually require updated vaccinations at a minimum. Some countries, like Australia, can also mandate long quarantine periods of up to ten days to safely and legally enter the country. Always check your final country’s regulations before arriving with your cat.

How Does Shipping My Cat with CitizenShipper Work?

With over 14 years of experience and more than 100,000,000 miles covered, CitizenShipper is the industry leader in transporting animals. CitizenShipper is an online marketplace connecting pet owners with experienced pet transporters. Offering affordable costs, easy transactions, and industry-leading protection plans, it’s clear why CitizenShipper is the preferred option for a cat transportation service.

To start your journey with CitizenShipper, simply:

  • Register – Register on our CitizenShipper platform by answering a few short questions about your pet and your transport needs. Listing your trip is always free of charge.
  • Choose a Driver – Receive customized quotes from experienced drivers. You’ll have the chance to read each driver’s biography and communicate directly with them. Once you find the perfect transporter, confirm your trip.
  • Pay Fees – CitizenShipper only charges a modest fee, due at the time of booking, based on your trip’s total mileage. We keep your pet transport cost low. The price for your transporter can be paid upfront or after the trip, depending on your driver’s preference.
  • Start Your Trip – Your transporter will come to pick up your cat and start their journey. You’ll be able to message your cat transporter directly and receive up-to-date photos and videos.
  • Rate and Review – After we safely deliver your cat to your final destination, go online to the CitizenShipper platform to rate and review your transporter. Share with the pet community when you’ve found an exceptional pet transporter.

CitizenShipper prides itself on being safe, seamless and affordable and can be up to 60% cheaper than traditional shipping companies. We understand your cat is a family member, so we always offer pet protection plans and access to veterinarian advice and assistance.

How Does CitizenShipper Ensure My Cat’s Safety and Well-Being?

The professional transporters at CitizenShipper care about the safety and well-being of your pet. Our drivers go out of their way to stay in contact with you along their route, giving you real-time updates, photos and videos of your cat. In addition, CitizenShipper has built-in protections, like:

  • Booking Guarantee – At CitizenShipper, we offer guarantees to ensure your pet is delivered safely to your final destination. Protections like driver replacement guarantees and refund protections help ensure your trip is successful.
  • Pet Protection – Each pet journey has $1,000 in coverage as part of our Pet Protection Plan. We are the only pet transportation service to offer this industry-first protection.
  • Trusted Drivers – Every pet transporter working with CitizenShipper completes a full background check and has a detailed biography on the platform. You’ll get direct contact with your driver before and during your pet transport.
  • FirstVet Access – Every driver and shipper has 24-hour access to veterinary TeleVet services. Rest assured, your pet will get continuous medical care throughout their journey from trained, certified, and trustworthy professional veterinarians. Drivers can get help if your pet experiences motion sickness, behavioral issues, an injury, or vomiting.
  • Customer Service – Compared to other pet transportation companies, CitizenShipper boasts a fast response time, more than 300% faster than our competitors. We take pride in helping our customers get the answers they need.

Your cat is in good hands with the professional drivers at CitizenShipper. From easy bookings, affordable transport options, and a stellar five-star rating, it’s clear why so many pet owners turn to us as the leading pet transport service.

Cat Transport FAQs

Cats are fundamentally different from dogs and have unique care requirements. Because cats can be so particular, and many don’t tolerate harnesses well, travel logistics can become complicated. Understanding the ins and outs of transporting a cat can help you plan and arrange cat transport.

Can you move cats long distance in a car?

Moving cats a long distance in a car is possible but requires some special planning. Unlike dogs that can go to the bathroom anywhere, cats generally require more planning for bathroom breaks. Cats can become skittish with changing environments causing elevated stress levels.

While some cats tolerate long-distance drives in the car, the general rule is most cats aren’t thrilled with a long trip. At most, plan to keep your cat in the car for about six hours before stopping to eat, exercise, and use the bathroom.

How do you move a cat long distance?

Pet owners frequently ask how to transport cats across the country. Cats can move long distances with either air or ground transport. Many airlines will allow cats in the main cabin, pending their carrier fits under the seat. Ground transport might be best for those traveling with multiple cats or brachycephalic breeds.

If driving with your cat, take frequent breaks to allow your pet to use the bathroom, eat, and drink some water. Avoid stretches that are longer than six hours. Cats tend to have the most energy at night, so plan your long distance pet transport in daylight hours when a cat is typically sleeping.

How do you move a cat to another state?

Usually, moving to another state requires a long-distance drive or flight. Your overall budget and travel logistics will determine your method of pet transport. Cats sometimes require a veterinary inspection and documentation before moving to a new state, ensuring your cat is up-to-date with necessary preventative medications and vaccinations.

A pet transport service like CitizenShipper can help make transportation easier. Our experienced and caring transporters are passionate about animal care and ensure your cat arrives safely in your new state. Our pet transportation service is backed by a $1,000 pet protection plan, giving you peace of mind knowing your furry family member is well cared for.

Conclusion

Cats behave slightly differently than dogs and require additional accommodations for their specialized care. Cat transport requires excellent forethought and planning, from choosing the right cat carrier to traveling with a litter box for bathroom breaks. With help from a professional pet transport company, you can rest assured your feline companion will arrive at your final destination safely.