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Taking Cats on the Road

Off-site adoption events can get many animals into new homes, but getting those animals to local venues in the first place can stress them out—especially if they’re cats. Joan Phillips, president of the Animal Lovers League in Glen Cove, New York, recently posted some great cat travel tips to the HSUS’s Pets for Life listserv. Check out her ten recommendations for taking kitty field trips—using methods that keep both the human and feline hissy fits to a minimum.

We have gone many places with our cats, and with a little advance planning they do very well. Here are our basic rules:

1. Choose cats who are very social. Kittens are usually great at dealing with lots of attention, obviously, but mellow adults also do well. Trim their nails before the big day and be sure they are squeaky clean (no fleas, ear mites) and healthy.

2. Be sure the location provides shade or shelter if it’s outside. Temperature is a major consideration when added to the stress of traveling.

3. Carriers should always be covered during transport and setup. Again, it is critical to take temperature into account when covered crates are in vehicles or outdoors.

4. We use harnesses and leashes that are not the “figure 8” variety. Every cat and kitten has a harness properly fitted before they leave the shelter—we make sure they are fitted snugly enough so they can’t be slipped. I have found a harness such as the kind available at VEE Enterprises works the best for cats. They adjust to fit all sizes, and the ends can be trimmed for kittens. A leash is attached to the harness. When a person considering adoption wants to hold a cat, an adoption volunteer holds the end of the leash at the same time. We use this protocol for all humane education programs as well.

5. We transfer cats to folding crate-type cages at the event (remember that harness and leash!) with a cute “kitty kup” (or other snuggly bed) and add brightly colored toys. When people want to pet the cats, we hold the leash even though they are in the cage; there’s no telling when a cat might try to leap out. (We lost one for a frenzied half-hour in a pet store in the days before we started using the harnesses.)

6. We put water in the cage, but no food unless they are at the event a long time—and we try to plan not to be there all day, or to do shifts of animals if it is a big event. This helps prevent carsickness.

7. It is always a good idea to have one volunteer or staff member available to run a pet back to the shelter if they start to experience a meltdown despite all your best planning.

8. Our “cat kids” seem to enjoy being outside on a nice day. Bring lots of sheets to make shade for the kitties or to shield three sides of the cage if the cats seem intimidated by the crowds. There are some great cat-sized folding tents as well.

9. One last suggestion: It really helps if you can do a dress rehearsal at the shelter a few days before. Go through the whole routine of putting on harnesses, getting the kitties into carriers, and having people handle them.

10. Have fun and get lots of kitties adopted!


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