How to Safely Transport Cats Long Distance

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated February 23, 2024

Traveling with Cats?

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A popular storyline during the COVID pandemic is the noticeable increase in pet adoptions. ASPCA found that one-in-five households have adopted a dog or cat since spring 2020. Interest in dog adoptions has waned since 2020 but inquiries about cat adoptions have held strong. Because of the demand, many people have opted to purchase from out of state and need help with cat transportation.

Most airlines won’t ship cats. Those with strict weight limits only allow one carrier per person. There are many cases where air travel for cat transportation isn’t viable. Plus, companies like FedEx won’t ship cats.

The only alternative is ground transportation. Many people aren’t willing or able to drive long distances to pick up their new pets. This is particularly true for long-distance travel with a cat — we love kitties but they’re certainly finicky creatures.

Because it’s harder to transport kitties than puppies, drivers using CitizenShipper have a great opportunity to win bids on cat transportation jobs. Many transporters on the marketplace have shipped dogs for years, but there are few with similar expertise shipping cats. Drivers that understand the idiosyncrasies of transporting cats have a great opportunity to increase their revenue by adding cat shipping to their list of specialties. If you’re interested in transporting cats, be sure to check out our cat carrier recommendations for 2024!

Here are some tips that will get you ready to transport cats and win more bids!

Consider the Cat’s Daily Driving Limits Before Bidding

When you calculate a bid for cat transportation, factor in daily driving limits. Cats can’t be on the road for as long as dogs — and certainly not as long as items like motorcycles or bulky furniture!

  • Most cats can tolerate about six hours in their carrier per day.
  • Every cat is different — some cats actually like driving — but it’s best to be conservative with your estimated delivery time.
  • Remember that you’ll need to stop every three or four hours to let the cat stretch its legs, drink some water and use the litter box.
  • Plan ahead — if your trip will be multiple days, book rooms at pet-friendly hotels in advance.
  • Avoid driving at night. As any cat owner will attest, this is when cats are most active.

Steps to Take Before Traveling

After you’ve won a bid, brief the cat owner on all of the essential documents you’ll need for the trip. Having copies of these documents and supplies in hand before the trip is one way to ensure everything goes smoothly.

  • The cat owner needs to visit the vet for a full checkup. The cat must be healthy enough for long-distance travel.
  • Get copies of vaccination records and other health records from the cat’s owner.
  • Have the customer’s contact information handy.
  • Keep medical documents and contact information together in a folder.

The owner should visit the vet before a cat is transported.

Acclimate the Cat to Car Travel

It’s probably not a big surprise that cats don’t like traveling in the car. They prefer a safe, comfortable routine and a quiet, peaceful environment. Traveling in the car provides neither of these.

It may be out of your hands, but try to work with the pet owner to get their cat used to car travel. Acclimating the cat to being in the car will improve the experience for you and the animal. It’ll also give the owner added peace of mind once the trip begins.

  • The owner should give the cat a few test runs in the car leading up to the trip.
  • They should start with short five-minute drives, gradually building up to longer trips.
  • These “practice drives” don’t just make the cat more comfortable in the car — it also gives the cat’s owner some “intel” on the cat’s temperament in the car and reaction to being in a moving vehicle.
  • Ask the owner to provide some of the cat’s favorite toys.

Decide If You’ll Provide a Cat Carrier

Before you start bidding on cat transportation jobs, you should decide whether or not you’ll provide carriers. There are advantages and disadvantages to providing the carrier.

Advantages of Providing the Carrier for Cat Transportation

  • You can charge more if you provide your own cat carriers.
  • You’ll be more familiar with the carrier, making it less likely anything will go wrong while you’re on the road.

Disadvantages of Providing the Carrier for Cat Transportation

  • The cat can’t get used to the specific carrier leading up to the trip.
  • There’s no guarantee that the cat will be comfortable with your carrier.

Carefully choose the right carrier.

What Qualities Should You Look for in a Carrier?

If you decide to provide the carrier, make sure you don’t skimp on quality. Here are a few important factors to consider when choosing a carrier for cat transportation:

  • It should be large enough for the cat to turn around inside — generally about one and a half times the size of the cat.
  • For professional cat transportation, a hard-sided carrier is recommended. They’re more durable, easier to clean and provide more room.
  • The carrier needs to be well-ventilated. Balance the need for good ventilation with a carrier that offers privacy.
  • You should belt the carrier into the backseat, so only buy one that’s been crash-tested. Otherwise you’ll need to place it on the floor of the car and that’s less safe.
  • Carriers with multiple entry and exit openings give you additional options for placing the kitty in the carrier.

Use a GPS tracker for cat transportation success.

Offer GPS Tracking for Cat Transportation

Offering GPS tracking on cat shipments is a great way to boost your likelihood of winning bids. There are some upfront costs associated with providing GPS tracking, but they’re usually covered by your ability to charge a higher rate and win more bids.

  • It’s unlikely that the cat will get loose and need tracking; more than anything a GPS collar adds peace of mind because cat owners can keep tabs on their pet along the route.
  • Calculate whether you’ll be able to win enough bids on cat transportation to make up the cost of the device ($50-$120) and the monthly subscription fee ($5-$10 a month).
  • Some GPS tracking devices can be used for dogs and cats, while others are specific to the species. One device that’s designed with cats in mind is the Pawtrack.
  • The device costs $49.99 and the subscription is $7.99 a month, placing it at the lower-end of the price spectrum.

Feed the Cat Before Starting the Trip

  • Some cats are great travelers; others get nauseous and throw up.
  • To be safe, don’t feed the cat too close to travel time.
  • It’s generally recommended to feed the cat about four hours before the trip.
  • Don’t feed the cat during the trip.
  • Save feeding for the evenings when you’ve finished driving for the day.

How to Handle Water and Bathroom Breaks

The hardest part of cat transportation is managing water and bathroom breaks. A dog can get out of the car and pee just about anywhere while cats require a lot more finesse and pre-planning. Yes, some cats are comfortable being walked on a harness, but it won’t do its business just anywhere — the setting has to be right for a cat to use its litter box.

Water Breaks

  • Bring lots of water.
  • Ask the cat owner to provide a gallon of water from home. Sometimes cats won’t drink water that tastes different than what they’re used to.
  • Sometimes when cats are stressed they’ll refuse water. One way to keep it hydrated is wet food.
  • Don’t place a water bowl in the carrier while you’re driving because it’ll spill, leaving you with a wet, uncomfortable and unhappy cat.
  • Never let the cat out of its crate while you’re driving. The cat may become agitated and dart under the pedal area or become aggressive with you while you’re driving, increasing the risk of an accident.
  • Only let the cat out of its carrier when the car is in park and you’ve confirmed all the doors are closed.
  • For added security you can put a leash or harness on the cat while it’s out of the carrier. If the cat escapes it’s easier to grab the trailing harness.

Bathroom Breaks

Bathroom breaks should be handled just like water breaks, though there’s the added complexity of managing a litter box. Here are a few options:

  • Use a reusable cat box. After the cat’s done, scoop the box, throw out the waste and save the litter. Bring cat litter in zip-top packaging and make sure you remember to bring a scooper.
  • Throw out all of the litter without scooping. Just make sure you have enough fresh litter for the whole trip.
  • Use a disposable litter box and throw it out (this can get expensive if you have to go through several boxes). A stack of disposable litter boxes also takes up more space in your car than a reusable box and litter.
  • You can also consider investing in a travel litter box. They usually cost between $20-$30, though some of the fancier models can cost up to $100.

Portable litter box for cat transportation.

You’ll also need to go to the bathroom! A great tip to avoid leaving the cat in the car alone for your bathroom breaks is to stop at a pet store, where you can bring the cat in with you in a carrying case.

Other Cat Transportation Tips

Here are a few great miscellaneous tips for cat transportation:

  • Always prepare for the worst, even if it’s very unlikely to happen. If the weather will be hot, bring ice packs to line the carrier in case the air conditioning fails.
  • Always keep the car cool enough for the cat.
  • If it’s winter and temperatures will be cold, bring extra blankets.
  • Never give a cat sedatives or transport a sedated cat.
  • There are over-the-counter “calming” treats that are safer than sedatives. You should always consult with the owner before giving something like this to the cat. At the end of the day, it’s their decision.
  • Giving a cat medication is always a challenge, especially when they’re in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar environment. If you’re transporting a cat that needs daily medication, a great way to get them to take the medicine is by using a pill pocket.
  • Cats hate loud noises so avoid slamming the door and maintain a calm composure on the road. If you yell at other drivers on the road or drive erratically, it will stress out the cat.
  • Place a rubber mat under the cat box and cat carrier for easy clean-up.
  • Keep cleaning supplies like a portable vacuum in the car in case litter gets spilled.


Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to transport a cat long-distance, you’re ready to start bidding and winning shipments! If you can show you’re a cat shipping expert, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. Update your CitizenShipper profile and start bidding on cat shipments today!