If you are going away on vacation, then you may want to consider taking your Maine coon with you. After all, it can be a difficult decision to leave your coon when you are going away (see my article Can I Leave My Maine Coon Home Alone When I Go On Holiday for more thoughts on this). Just check ahead of time that the accommodation is happy for you to have a pet with you (this is of course much easier if you have a holiday home or an R.V.) Once that’s confirmed it’s just the travelling aspect that you’ll have to give some thought to.
Of course there are other reasons to travel than just a vacation. Maybe you are moving to a new house and you have no choice but to take your beloved pet with you. Travelling with a Maine coon can be a variable experience; some of them get on with it just fine whereas others find the experience rather distressing. As with anything it is a case of your coon getting used to travelling. Start them off young and they should be quite content jet setting with you throughout the rest of their days.
Travelling By Car
The big decision when it comes to road travel is whether your Maine coon will be travelling in a carrier or not. Some cope just fine with their cat carrier and will just settle down and fall asleep. Others find it a distressing and confusing experience.
Often when Maine coons are yowling and crying out it isn’t the actual travelling itself that is upsetting them. The problem is that they dislike being secluded in a cat carrier and being unable to see what is going on around them. Also, cats may learn to associate the cat carrier with the unpleasant experience of going to the vet.
Consider letting your Maine coon out of the pet carrier in the car. Now, of course this is much safer if you have a passenger with you as you will not be able to tend to your cat and focus on driving at the same time. Your coon may choose to sit on your passenger’s lap and enjoy a cuddle. Alternatively they may choose to stand up and look out of the window so that they can watch the world go by.
Travelling by Plane
Air travel is not generally recommended for cats if it can be avoided. Being on an aeroplane is an unsettling experience for a human being who understands exactly what is going on so just imagine how it must be for a cat!
Although airlines do allow your cat to go in the luggage hold this is not advisable. Flying in the hold can be very distressing for your cat as they will alone, possibly around other animals and it will be very noisy. There have also been instances of cats being injured or even killed when traveling in the hold of a plane. You want to be able to keep an eye on your coon and comfort them during the journey. Many airlines will allow you to keep your cat in the cabin with you during the flight.
Let your airline know well in advance that you intend to bring your pet with you. Some airlines restrict the number of pets allowed on a flight. Also make inquiries about the cost as there will be an additional charge for bringing your cat on board. Ask for measurements of the space available under the seats on the plane. Your cat carrier will have to go under there during take off and landing therefore you need to be sure that it will fit. A soft-sided carrier will be easier to fit underneath the seat but check with your airline about which types of cat carriers they allow on board.
Make sure that you have a certificate from the vet confirming that your coon is in good health and able to fly. You may also want to bring a record of their vaccination history. If you are travelling internationally then check the immigration requirements for pets for the country you are travelling to.
Make sure that your pet and their carrier are easily identifiable. Label the carrier and if possible put a collar on your coon. Most cats also have a microchip by which they can be identified if they get lost. If your cat does not have a microchip in place then ask your vet about inserting one prior to your flight. If your coon is used to wearing a harness then consider putting one on so that you can take them out of the carrier in the airport terminal. That way you can comfort your pet but still have a degree of control if they try to run off.
In the UK you are required to have a pet passport if you are bringing a pet back into the UK from a European Union country, Japan, Australia or the USA. The purpose of a pet passport is to avoid the need for your pet to be quarantined prior to re-entering the country. A pet passport records the countries they have traveled to but also acts as a record of their vaccinations and medical history. It also confirms who the owner of the animal is and whether or not they have been micro-chipped. In essence the passport acts as a confirmation of fitness to travel. You should ask you veterinarian about a pet passport in good time before your trip. If they are unable to issue the passport themselves then they can refer you onto another practice which can help you out.
Preventing Motion Sickness in Cats
Motion sickness can be a real problem for cats when travelling. Some cats will simply show this by crying out when travelling whereas others will have a more obvious reaction such as vomiting. If you think that your cat may be suffering with motion sickness then speak to your veterinarian about treatments that may be available. There are now several remedies which you can try in order to combat motion sickness in your cat.
A thunderjacket is a tight-fitting jacket designed to exert gentle, comforting pressure. It is designed to treat anxiety in cats and dogs rather than motion sickness specifically. If a cat is experiencing motion sickness then any anxiety associated with travel will make it significantly worse, therefore it is probably worth giving one of these jackets a go to see if it makes a difference. Check out this example on Amazon, as you can see from the reviews many people have found that it’s been a great help during car journeys.
This is a bit of a contentious issue. Many vets will advise against sedation as it can knock several of your cat’s internal regulation systems off balance. Others get on with it just fine. Low dose opiates and benzodiazepines are examples of drugs that your vet may be able to prescribe for travel purposes but you wouldn’t want your coon to be having these on a regular basis.
A couple of drops of Rescue Remedy under their tongue or a smidge of CBD oil can also work well as a more natural option but do consult your veterinarian before trying either of these. You could also consider trying pheromone sprays or catnip to put your coon into a soothing daze to calm them during the journey.
Feliway is a well-known brand of pheromone spray designed to calm cats. They also make calming cat collars although this may be difficult to secure around the neck ruff of a Maine coon. Click this link to see Feliway products on Amazon.
Restrict Pre-Journey Food Intake
If your coon is prone to vomiting when travelling then you want them to have an empty stomach the morning of your journey. Feed them well the night before and then forego breakfast. It seems a bit mean but it’ll work out much better in the long run. Remember to give them a nice big meal as a reward the other end.
Choose the right style of cat carrier
When it comes to choosing a carrier you may want to consider buying one designed for a small dog. Even if your coon is only a kitten at the moment, they will soon grow into a little lion. The Maine coon is the largest of the domestic cat breeds therefore items designed to fit a typical pet cat will usually not be suitable for a coon. Base your decision on the weight of your Maine coon (provided that they are fully grown) and consider buying a carrier designed for a small or medium-sized dog instead.
There are a few features that you’ll want to have in a good pet carrier. First of all you’ll want it to be large enough for your Maine coon not only to sit comfortably, but also for them to be able to stretch out and turn around. Also try to find a per carrier with sides that allow them to see outside. This will reduce their anxiety of being trapped in a confined space. Click here to see my recommendations for the best pet carriers for Maine coons
Make sure that your cat is well acquainted with their cat carrier prior to attempting to use it for travel. Take a cushion or blanket that smells like home and place it in the carrier. Leave the carrier on the floor with the door open so that your coon can inspect it and practice going in and out of it. Put some treats inside so that they have a positive association with the carrier. If you only bring the carrier out for the purpose of travel and going to the vet then inevitably your cat will associate the carrier with stressful experiences.
In summary, you should try to avoid travelling with your coon where possible. If you do need to travel with them then by car is preferable to flying. Make sure your coon is relaxed and comfortable and take precautions to prevent motion sickness. Finally, always remember to pamper them when the journey is over.