Shipping a Cat Across the Country

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated: March 8, 2023 / Published: December 5, 2022

“Cats.” It’s the title of the grand musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Cats. They were considered to be mystical and god-like creatures by the Egyptians. Felines aren’t always the most cuddly animals in the world — in fact, in many ways, they’re the opposite of dogs. But if you have a cat, you know they’re one of the quirkiest and most fun-loving members of the family.

When you have to travel across the country, whether for a big move or visiting family for an extended period, you’ll need to think about shipping your cat. But what options do you have?

We’re going to explore the ways you can ship a cat across the country, what you need to transport your cat, the costs of transporting a cat across the country and even give you some equipment recommendations that can be lifesavers for you and your cat.

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What Options are Available to Ship a Cat Across the Country?

There are various options available to transport your cat across the country. We’ll go through each choice to determine which one is the best for you.

Transporting Your Cat via Air Travel

Air travel can be the fastest way to transport a cat, but it’s also more logistically challenging and taxing on your feline friend.

Requirements for a Cat in the Cabin and Cargo Hold

Because cats are small, they can fly in the cabin in a carrier placed under the seat in front of you. Airline policy allows only one pet per passenger and two pets per flight.

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If you’re taking your cat on a long flight or you want your cat to move around, it might need a litter box. If that’s the case, you may consider flying your cat in the cargo hold in a larger carrier that can accommodate a litter box. Before you buy a cargo ticket, remember that being placed in the cargo hold can be a traumatic experience for your cat.

One important note for air and train travel is the restriction of snub-nose cats like British shorthairs, Himalayans or Persians in the cargo area (but not in the cabin). They are forbidden because the travel could be extremely damaging to their physical health — they are very sensitive to temperatures, transport stress and have respiratory issues that can be harmful and go unnoticed in the cargo hold.

Cat Cargo Crate Requirements

  • Make sure your cat can stand up, turn around in the crate and does not touch the top.
  • The crate must have secure locking with pins extending past the extrusions above and below the door and must be secure with hardware fasteners.
  • The crate must be ventilated on all sides, and you should place a litter box inside.
  • The crate must have your cat’s name and your contact information visible.
  • Water and food bowls must be attached to the door, and they must be accessible from outside of the crate.

Transporting Your Cat on a Train

Train travel is not common in the United States anymore. But if you want to try out one of the oldest forms of public transit, it’s possible to transport a cat by train. Amtrak allows cat transportation, but it comes with several requirements and costs:

  • Only one pet per passenger.
  • The trip cannot last more than seven hours.
  • Your cat must be more than eight weeks old.
  • Your cat must be under your seat at all times inside a carrier.
  • Your cat has to be 20 pounds or less.

Transporting Your Cat by Car

This method of transportation is definitely the easiest because there are no requirements besides the documentation needed when you arrive at your final destination. However, it can be overwhelming to plan the logistics involved with car transportation. You also need to decide whether you want to drive yourself or hire a professional pet transporter.

There are variables you need to keep in mind when driving across the country — gas, accommodation and food, as well as the bathroom and snack stops you must take. Cats aren’t very adaptable, so you may need to take precautions when taking those potty breaks (as they can escape or claw you when in the carrier). Giving your cat treats while in the carrier can help reduce stress as well as providing them with a blanket or something cozy and familiar.

What Do You Need to Ship Your Cat?

So what do you need to prepare when shipping a cat across the country? You’ll need some important things, such as specific equipment and essential documents. Being prepared and having them handy right before travel is always the best idea.

You will need to have the proper vaccination records and health certificates filled out by a veterinarian, which needs to be filled out and signed at least 10 days from the travel date.

You should have equipment for your cat that is essential to travel: A carrier that is comfortable for your cat, a travel litter box, your cat’s favorite toys and travel food and water bowls.

Equipment Recommendations for Shipping a Cat Across the Country

Now that we’ve listed the essential equipment needed for the journey with your cat, the next question that might come to mind is what products should you buy?

You can always go online and do some research, but let’s take a look at some essential must haves, like a cat carrier, that can come in handy for the long journey:

Maskeyon Airline Approved Pet Carrier

  • Easy to clean with the mat being machine washed and detachable.
  • Ventilated top opening that can make it more convenient to put your cat in the carrier.
  • Organized carrier that is easy to use and multifunctional.

Morpilot Cat Carrier with Locking Safety Zippers, Foldable Bowl

  • It’s a breathable and safe design that can be safe for your cat.
  • The carrier is simple to clean.
  • The carrier has wide use with an adjustable strap that is perfect for transporting your cat by any means.

Prutapet Large Cat Carrier for Car Traveling with Collapsible Litter Box and Bowl

  • The carrier is easy to store and folded for storage in a small place.
  • It’s a perfect carrier that has the essentials for travel — including a litter box and water/food bowl.
  • Good ventilation on all sides that will ensure the safety of your cat.

WINSEE Collapsible Cat Bowl with Foldable Expandable Cup Dish with No Spill Non-Skid Silicone Mat for Traveling

  • Made so it doesn’t spill.
  • It’s durable and safe, as well as easy to clean.
  • Because it’s made for travel, it won’t skid or flip over.

Petmate No Spill Bowl

  • The bowl is splash-proof, which means there will be no spilling.
  • It’s sturdy and will be long-lasting.
  • Easy to clean bowl.

petisfam Portable Cat Travel Litter Box

  • Easy to clean litter box.
  • Odor free and also leak proof, which is essential for travel.
  • Lightweight and easily transportable.

SmartyKat (3 Count) Skitter Critters Catnip Cat Toys

  • The toys are interactive and will stimulate your cat, which is great for traveling
  • Easy to use toys
  • Durable and will last a long time.

LUCKITTY Cat Plastic Ball Toys with Jingle Bell

  • It’s a safe toy your cat can play with.
  • If you add catnip, your cat will be entranced by the plastic ball toys.
  • It is sturdy and durable, which is definitely a bargain.

What Determines the Cost of Shipping a Cat Across the Country?

Costs Associated with Air Travel

Cats have an advantage over dogs because of their size. They can ride in the cabin with their owners since they can fit under the seat. Make sure you call in advance because airlines will only allow one or two pets per flight inside the cabin. Your pet’s carrier — a cost roughly running from $25 to $75 — should be small enough that your cat can fit inside and underneath the seat in front of you. The one-way amount for airlines like United, Delta, and American sits between $95 and $125.

For longer journeys or if you want your cat to have more space and be able to use a litter box, the cargo hold is the only place your cat can go. You’ll need a special crate that can cost an estimated $100-$200. The cost of transporting your kitty in the cargo hold can range from $500-$1000. The exact costs will be determined at the time of booking.

Costs Associated with Train Travel

Good news and bad news come with transporting your cat on Amtrak trains. The good news: it only costs $25. That’s almost nothing! The other good news is that because 99% of cats are under 20 lbs, they will be allowed. The bad news: it is impossible to have a litter box handy for when your cat needs to go.

Costs Associated with Driving

The costs of driving include several variables. The price of gas can be subject to change depending on outside factors. For driving across the country, prepare to spend at least $250 in gas. For accommodation, estimate roughly five to six nights for a total of $900. Food will cost around $500 for two people.

The total estimate for driving cross country will cost you about $1,650. Keep in mind that when you arrive at your destination, you may also have to pay for temporary parking.


The cost estimates are based on:
*Using a 12-tank car (total = $47 per tank) and filling up your tank every 400-500 miles.
*Driving eight hours per day.
*Eating three meals per day for two people.

When arriving at your destination, make sure you have the proper vaccinations and certificates. You can find a list of pet requirements by state on the USDA APHIS website.

How to Find a Safe and Reliable Pet Transporter?

Researching online is the best way to find a reliable pet transporter. Read as many reviews as possible to get the best insight into the company. Consider these tips to find the right one for you and your cat:

  1. See what types of pets they will take and their prices.
  2. It’s important that all pet transport services adhere to the USDA’s rules and regulations in pet handling, and if one does not, steer clear of them.
  3. Communication is essential for your cat’s safety and your peace of mind. If the pet ground transport company provides regular updates, that is a good sign.
  4. Some pet transport companies offer door-to-door delivery. That is a great way to relieve you of the stress in dropping off or picking up your pet.
  5. Excellent customer service means that the pet transport company will take care of your pet as if it were their own. Pay attention to the small details and how they go about their customer service duties.
  6. Ensure the pet shipping company is associated with a professional pet travel association. Check the International Pet Travel Association (IPATA) website to see if the business is a member.

Using CitizenShipper for Shipping a Cat Across the Country

After looking at all your options — airplane, traditional pet transporter, car and train — consider using a pet transport marketplace like CitizenShipper. Our platform offers many advantages over traditional pet transporters.

  • Once you post a listing on our site, background-checked, USDA-registered drivers will send you quotes within minutes.
  • You can compare bids and chat with drivers that submit quotes; once you choose the driver you like most, you’re ready to book your trip!
  • Payment is received before or after delivery, an option usually decided by the driver.
  • There is a modest fee that we charge that varies per mileage and accounts for our stringent vetting process.
  • That’s how it works — it’s really that easy!

We pride ourselves in making pet shipping safe, seamless and stress-free. Your cherished cat will be in good hands with the verified and qualified drivers on our platform. They provide frequent updates for your peace of mind and convenience, which includes video and phone calls. You’ll also get up to $1,000 in pet protection coverage and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet just in case you need it. These two benefits will help provide you with calmness and peace of mind.

Because drivers compete for your business, we can save you up to 60-70% compared to traditional shipping companies!

Wrapping It Up!

There are several options for shipping a cat across the country. You can use a car, a train, a plane, a traditional pet transportation company or a two-way marketplace. Whatever you decide can have a massive effect on your cat. Sure, transporting a cat is easier if you fly because they’re small, but there could be hiccups and requirements to fulfill.

When you’re shipping a cat across the country, taking a car can take days and a lot of money on food, gas, and accommodation. The hassle of driving can be overwhelming for you and your cat because of things like a litterbox and the personalities of cats that can go into play.

The alternative is booking a driver through CitizenShipper. The drivers on CitizenShipper understand your cat means everything to you and will ensure proper, loving care during the trek. CitizenShipper also offers great added benefits for you, which will definitely simplify things for you.

Shipping your cat long-distance doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. By trusting drivers on CitizenShipper to transport your beloved feline friend, you will have peace of mind and comfort knowing your cat is in the absolute best of hands.

Find your cat’s travel buddy! Post your transport needs now and get free quotes instantly.

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