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Moving cross country with two cats
theresaanna posted:
This summer, my partner and our two five year old cats will be moving from NYC to California. It seems there are differing opinions on whether its less stressful in general for cats to endure a long drive or a flight.

We have one male and one female cat. They are in great health. Our male cat suffers from Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, though. He has not had a flare up for over a year, though we do know that environmental stress is a major factor for him.

We have talked to our vet and have a plan in place for trying some natural options to help keep the cats calm as the move ramps up. We have also discussed potentially using Xanax or Benadryl if it becomes necessary.

Our cats have not been in the car longer than short cab rides. If driving were the front runner for our move method, we would do a couple of experimental rides with them to see how they handle it first.

It seems to me that, even though its much shorter, flying might be more traumatic than driving. Going through security, the jarring experience of takeoff, landing, altitude and the constant noise... well, lets just say that it scared me when I first flew, and I can rationalize that it is safe! Additionally, if we fly, once we get to our new home we are unlikely to have any of our furniture and things, as they will be shipped to arrive after we do. So, it is not as though we can start creating a comfortable environment for the cats or us humans right away.

If we flew, we would definitely keep the cats in the cabin with us. Checking them is not an option to us.

I expect the drive would take about four days. We would have to stay in hotels each night, where we could bring out the same familiar-smelling items for comfort, though its still a new place each night. One good thing about driving is that we could take many of our things with us (through hitching a trailer) so we could start creating home right away. For us humans, it could be a nice adventure and would save some money!

If we drove, I am hoping that we could purchase a crate/crates or otherwise devise an environment where they could be safe and belted in, but could still move about a little, even eat/drink and use a small litter box. Is this possible?

Something I am very worried about is the possibility of our male cat having a FLUTD flare up. Particularly because it may be hard to tell if he is having one. Its hard enough at home.

I will take any advice on which transportation method is best and how to make it as smooth as possible for the whole family. Thanks for reading and for your comments!

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Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Your cats would be much less stressed during a four hour plane ride than a four day car trip. Since you're concerned about your male cat, it would be a good idea to use a mild sedative for the plane trip. You'll need a Health Certificate for each cat, which your veterinarian can provide. And, yes, keep them in the cabin with you. Once you're in the new location, use a pheromone diffuser to decrease the stress of their new environment. Have a safe journey!

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice
theresaanna replied to Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP's response:
Thank you so much!
rohvannyn responded:
I have taken cats on a cross country trip and it really isn't easy. I think that ultimately the shorter duration of the flight will cause less stress because there will be less time that your male will be short on water and feeling jostled around. Cats HATE disruption to their routine so dealing with a four day journey would probably be more disruptive. If you do end up driving though, finding the biggest crate you can and padding it well would probably be the best option. They will probably "hide" in the crate for most of the trip. Make sure you find pet friendly motels, they do exist, so they can have some outside time and cuddles each night.
An_257041 replied to Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP's response:
After reading Dr. Weigner's reply, I agree. Do get the sedative for both and INSIST on keeping them in the cabin with you even if you need to pay more. Move's cost money and a "cat allowance" needs to be part of that. I wish you the very best with your trip.


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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