It’s that glorious time of year again - the festive season! I adore travelling with my cat, and for the past 3 years we’ve been road tripping and jet setting across sunny South Africa. Let’s face it, a long weekend away with your phenomenal pet is absolute splendour.
If you’re travelling to the bushveld, the ocean, to the mountains or to one of South Africa’s many rivers - you’re still responsible for your pet’s vacation plans. Here’re my top tips for travelling with your pet like a pro (in South Africa of course), be it half a day on the road or few hours by air.
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CAR TRAVEL WITH PETS
☼ WHAT YOU NEED
ID TAGS, HARNESSES & LEADS
Prevent your pet from getting lost during bathroom breaks and invest in a microchip, ID tag, harness and lead. The Drive Dog Harness has been tried, crash-tested and proven to be safe, secure and stupendous for keeping dogs in their seats.
Cats need protection too, I cherish the Rogz Reflective Harness. It offers maximum visibility, comfort, exquisite fit and style, and it goes without saying - prevents my cat from making a reckless run for it.
If your dog isn’t in a carrier, make sure you have a Pet-Secur car safety clip that attaches to your dog’s harness and clips into the seat belt clip cavity, keeping them safely secured in the back.
NEVER let your pets roam freely in the vehicle please, because safety first.
CARRIERS & BLANKETS
When travelling with your cat, a pet carrier is a must. I always fill my cat’s carrier with soft blankets for that ultimate cosy and content travel feeling. Carriers are great for dogs too, but if you’ve decided to go with the Drive Dog Harness/Pet-Secur car safety clip options, why not add blankets for on the seats - be that person. If your car seats mean the world to you, protect them from muddy paws and sharp claws with a seat protector.
The super convenient Curver 3-in-1 Pet Bowl is perfect for keeping your pets hydrated in the car, food fresh on the road and overall admin at a minimum. Stain removers and odour neutralizers are a delight to have on standby as well, in the case of unwanted oopsies and poopsies.
CALL OF NATURE
In my experience, having a black bag in your car is the way to go. Trash cans are rare when we actually need them. Biodegradable & Silica litter are exceptional choices for car travel, just use the one your cat likes though.
Control that classic runny tummy before or after the drive, with Eukanuba or Royal Canin Intestinal dog food. They’re wonderful diets to help prevent an upset stomach from spoiling the trip. (These diets are veterinary diets, and need a prescription from your vet but are worth the trouble.)
If diarrhoea is still lurking in their intestinal shadows, ePETstore’s Pet First Aid Kit is a miraculous item to own. Packed with stomach soothing Diomec and other brilliant products to treat unwanted cuts, burns and bruises too.
Even though most car windows block out UV rays, one can sustain long term skin damage. If your pet is prone to sunburn, like mine, I definitely recommend using a pet sunscreen in the car.
☼ ON TRAVEL DAY
All great journeys begin and end by using the loo. Have them answer the call of nature before getting in the car, many times in between and first thing when you’ve arrived at your destination. An empty bladder prevents UTI’s and other health problems from surfacing. Having them get loads of exercise before the trip also reduces hyperactivity, stress and anxiety.
When stopping for takeout or to buy cooldrink - NEVER EVER leave your pet in the car alone! The temperature in the car sky rockets, and cracking a car window really sounds more impressive than it is and isn’t enough to keep them cool.
Once you’ve reached your final destination, reward them with treats and hugs. If you’re staying with friends, family or at a pet friendly hotel, keep your pet on their leash until they’ve acclimatized to the new environment and unfamiliar people.
☼ THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO IN THE CAR
NEVER fully open your car window. Pets are always tempted to stick their heads out, and that’s a big no-no, as they could become seriously injured.
NEVER let your pets ride in your lap, stand on the console between seats, or leave them to roam freely in the car, as all these actions could be distracting to the driver, and dangerous to the passengers.
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AIR TRAVEL WITH PETS
☼ WHAT YOU NEED
CARRIERS & TRAVEL KITS
The most important item to safely travel the skies, would be an AIRLINE approved pet carrier. Bid Air Cargo requires absorbent material at the bottom of the crates, as well as water and food bowls attached to the mesh, thus investing in a travel kit is a wonderful plan. Make sure your chosen carrier has enough space for your pet to be able to stand, and turn around in, otherwise it’s not a carrier - but a joke.
Already own a carrier? Check if it’s airline approved here.
BLANKETS, JACKETS, HARNESSES & LEADS
Bear in mind, the temperature can drop significantly on board the aircraft, blankets and jackets are stellar ideas. Having a leash for your dog or cat on standby is grand, because our pets usually do want to stretch their legs after their flight.
A simple spray of Feliway and Adaptil last 4 to 5 hours, and is clinically proven to calm pets down with its synthetic happy pheromone vibes. A Thundershirt is a great, non-medical option to try, and has an 80% success rate in reducing anxiety in dogs and cats.
VACCINATIONS & VET VISITS
AND last but not least - they need a vaccination booklet. Make an appointment with your vet, not less than 14 days before your flight and have them vaccinated. Remember: by law all cats and dogs must be vaccinated against RABIES in South Africa.
Speak to your vet about snub nosed animals, as many of them have a difficulty breathing above the clouds. If you have older pets, or a young pet that has fallen victim to a germ or bug - always consult your vet to see if they recommended having these pets take to the skies.
Have a look at Bid Air’s other pet travel requirements.
☼ BOOKING THEIR FLIGHT
Book with Bid Air Cargo at least 48 hours prior to your flight, to secure a seat for your pet-baby in the designated area of the plane. No matter where you’re departing from, always book via JHB Pet Lounge at (011 230 4600). When booking your own ticket, consider booking with an airline that allows animal cargo, e.g. Kulula or BA Comair (British Airways), this way your pet is booked onto the same aircraft as you, making their journey much shorter and tolerable.
☼ ON TRAVEL DAY
Before having your pets enter their first-class carriers, it’s vital for them to use the loo, as there is nowhere to go once in the crate. Make sure they get loads of exercise before their aerial adventure, to ensure for a sleepy pet between the clouds.
On your day of departure, your pets need to be checked in at the Bid Air Pet Lounge 2 hours before your flight. This is non-negotiable. To find a lounge near you click here. Don’t forget to pack their vaccination booklets.
☼ FAQ’s ABOUT AIR TRAVEL FOR PETS
How young is too young?
Puppies and kittens can fly from 8 weeks of age. If your pet is under 3 months, you’ll need a clear, legible copy of their mother’s vet booklet.
Can I sedate my pet?
May two pet siblings travel in the same crate?
A maximum of two adult animals of comparable size up to 14kg each, that are compatible (dog & dog / cat & cat) may be shipped in the same container. Animals over that weight must travel individually.
A maximum of two animals from 8 weeks up to 6 months old from the same litter, up to 14 kg's each, that are compatible (dog & dog / cat & cat) may be shipped in the same container.
Cats over the age of 2 years may not fly in the same container.
How much does the flight cost?
It depends on the weight and size of your animal and crate. I pay approximately R400 for 6kgs of feline splendour, when travelling with my cat.
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WHEN TRAVELLING WITHOUT YOUR PET
If your pet is not joining you on your vacation, make sure you find a safe and reliable pet hotel, pet sitter or responsible friend/family member to feed your pets whilst you’re away.
☼ ADDITIONAL READS
PET FRIENDLY ROAD TRIPS IN SA
CATS WHO LOVE TO TRAVEL THE WORLD