Cat travel prep.

If you know me, you know that I have a little tortoiseshell shadow called Jellyfish. I got her from the RSPCA in Brisbane when she was a wee runt of a kitten, and now she’s a big and beautiful girl, nine years old. There was no way I was coming to Hobart without her, and I had to give a fair bit of thought as to how I’d get her down here.


There are two clear options with interstate pet transfers—air or road. There are easily identified pros and cons for both options. Air is a far, far shorter total travel time for your pet, but it’s also more of a hassle to organise if you’ll be driving your car down (side note: why get your car freighted when you can have a road trip adventure?). If I was going to have my cat flown down, I would have had to either leave her with friends or a cattery in Brisbane for a few days while I drove down, so I could be there to meet her at the other end, or I could have put her on the plane myself in Brisbane and then had a cattery pick her up in Hobart and hold her for a few days until I got there.

The third option would have been to leave her with friends, drive down to Hobart, fly back up to get her and bring her back on the plane with me—or the opposite, bring her down to Hobart on the plane first and leave her in my new, empty house for a few days while I flew back up to Brisbane, got in my car and drove down. All of these options meant that she’d be spending at least a few days with STRANGERS!!! in a STRANGE PLACE!!! (her thoughts, not my words) and for anyone who knows my cat, that may not have been very good for her already delicate nerves. She’s easily startled and/or terrified of most things that exist on this earth. It also meant shelling out money for the flight/s and the cattery (or asking for a HUGE favour of friends).

So instead, I chose to bring her in the car with me. Her delicate nerves would still be tested, of course, but I would be there with her to talk her down from the ledge for most of the trip (which, to be honest, would probably actually just make ME feel better, as this is a co-dependent relationship). The only cost to incur was an extra $20 for a kennel on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry that I was using to bring my car into Tasmania anyway, and a little extra for the pet-friendly stopover accommodation (the Ardeanal Motel in West Wyalong; a solid option).


Roadtrip cat!

I’m going to waffle on a bunch more about preparing my (or your) cat for a road trip, but I’ll spare the front page and put this behind the cut, so keep reading only if you feel so inclined.

So far:

  • pet friendly accommodation
  • kennel on the Spirit of Tasmania

I did need to get her a cage to travel in, too, as I’d gotten rid of her old, cheap, too-small carry cage in my garage sale before I moved out of my rental in Brisbane. I’ve always had a harness for her, which is generally what I’d put her in for vet trips anyway, but for such a long journey she was going to need a new cage (even if she was going via plane, and then it had to be up to flight standards). Being a considerate cat mother, I went out and bought not a standard cat carrier, but a dog crate with a bit more space, that I’d decided I’d also be able to easily pack things around and on top of once it was in the car.

Pause (paws) for thought.

If I had the chance to do this trip again, I would have gone to the vet before buying anything. I booked a vet appointment because I wanted to discuss the possibility of using sedatives for the ferry part of the trip, where Jellyfish and I would have to be separated and it would be potentially loud, noisy and cold on top of that. The vet was extremely helpful, and one of the first things she did was get me to take Jellyfish off the leash so she could explore the room. The first thing Jelly did was hide in the corner of the room, under a chair. Cats like dark, confined spaces, particularly when they are scared. It makes them feel a lot better about and more in control of their situation. That’s why cat carriers are designed in such a way—as much as a stink a lot of cats put up about being shoved into a carrier, once they’re in there and taken to a new environment, it’s not so bad to be in that small, dark space. So I probably wouldn’t have gotten the dog crate for her after that, but what was done was done, and I made it as dark and confined as possible. I stuffed it with one of those cat beds that most cats never use, because they’re cats and they don’t do what you want them to do.


Example A.

I felt like a bit of a dingus, but I decided to make the best of my situation—instead of stuffing around and trying to return or swap the cage, which probably would have been smarter, but I was a bit frazzled and running out of time. Note: always leave enough time for planning. The other thing I wanted to discuss with the vet was sedating my cat for the trip. Now, actually tranquillising pets is not something that a pet owner should be doing. That’s vet stuff only. I didn’t want to tranquillise Jelly, I just didn’t want her to have a heart attack—particularly for those twelve hours we’d be apart and she’d be in a cold and weird-smelling new place (on the Spirit of Tasmania). So the vet gave Jellyfish some valium. Did you know that pets get pretty much exactly the same drug as humans do? I was literally given some tabs of valium to administer to my cat, as an anti-anxiety drug and also a muscle relaxant.

I definitely advise having a visit with your vet at least a week in advance of travelling, because if your vet is good, they will have you do a trial of the drug with your animal so you can observe how it responds to the drug and call the vet with any questions or concerns. I have to admit, the trial afternoon with Jellyfish was both hilarious and distressing. I was hoping Jellyfish was going to take the tablet (we have tablet-ingestion down to a very fine art, Jellyfish and I, and it involves a headlock) and then maybe ride the wave and curl up for a nap. This did not happen. She seemed pretty confused about the whole relaxed-muscles situation and couldn’t settle, but because she’d also had an anti-anxiety hit, she also wasn’t too concerned about casually attempting to leap off the bed or bounce off the walls. My mum kept scolding me for giggling.


Mum’s face looked a bit like this.

The end result was that I decided to go ahead with my plan to administer the valium for the Spirit of Tasmania leg of the journey, but unless Jellyfish showed any great signs of distress in the car, I’d leave her undrugged for the rest of the adventure.

So, now:

  • pet friendly accommodation
  • kennel on the Spirit of Tasmania
  • vet visit to discuss travel and possible sedatives
  • standard cat carrier

Because I didn’t have the cat carrier, I made one more trip to the pet store and picked up a soft cat bed with a bit of a ceiling, to give Jellyfish a more enclosed space. Well—I had always planned to cover the crate with a blanket, but I guess the cat bed filled the space a little more.

I also picked up some puppy toilet training pads. I’d talked to the vet about what I would do with litter, because the crate was big enough to fit a litter tray and space for a sleeping cat, but I’d already talked myself out of doing that to my poor cat and the vet agreed. The end plan was to put a puppy toilet training pad in the crate in case of accidents, then put the litter tray on the back seat floor of the car and let Jelly out (on a leash) each time we stopped.

I’ma be real with you now, because if you’ve read this far you’re probably in it for the long haul and not just reading for funsies. The vet said that many cats will just hold it on longhaul trips, until everything is still and they have a moment to relax. The vet was totally right, Jellyfish was this kind of cat. She only used the litter once on the trip, and that was when we stopped overnight in West Wyalong. She used the litter again once we were in Hobart. That is some serious stamina. So it’s probably good to have some litter handy, but you’ll probably find your cat won’t use it if you’re on the move.

Finally, food and water. Similar sort of thing. Jellyfish mostly ate and drank when we were at complete stops, and even then it wasn’t much of either (perhaps related to the above paragraph). She panted a bit, but I think it was more out of stress than dehydration, as I offered her food and water every time we stopped.

Think about:

  • pet friendly accommodation (inc. kennel on any ferry if travelling over water)
  • vet visit to discuss travel and possible sedatives
  • standard cat carrier
  • food, water and litter

I’ll mention more about how Jellyfish coped with the trip itself in my recount posts (yes, I know I’ve been in Hobart for four months now, shut up, I swear these posts are still coming) but I wanted to have a post solely focused on what I did to prepare myself and my cat for the 48-hour travel, in the hope that it may help others who are considering it. This was actually prompted by an instagram follower asking about it, so I thought why not expand it to a blog post. Cool.

Safe travels!


Helping with unpacking.

8 thoughts on “Cat travel prep.

  1. Rad post Mem, awesome advice. I’ve been feeling a bit like the kitties have chained me to the one house since our second ever car trip with them while moving to our new house (their first car trip was the first time we bought them). They cried for twenty minutes and then took a stinky dump. Preparation probably would have been key. You are the best cat mum that I know. It’s good to realise that no, I’m not bound to one place forever just cause of those furry buttbags.

    • Thanks Tash! Sounds like preparation in your case would have been to leave ’em hungry the night before your move, because those stinky dumps are the WORST. Unfortunately some cats are just car-criers and some aren’t, though it may have something to do with age too? Jelly used to be more mournful in the car but even when I was ferrying her around on a couple of shorter trips pre-big move late last year she was a lot quieter. Definitely worth giving any cat transportation (longer than 5mins to the vet) a decent prep plan. You can do it! xx

  2. Wow! And I thought moving my cat down to Tassie was difficult. I don’t think we could have survived a roadtrip like you did. My partner flew with my 19-year-old kitty and I took the car on the boat. (We’re from Melbourne.)

    Flying was the only option as the cat is so old she has kidney problems. Only one toilet accident on the way to the airport, thankfully. The puppy training pads really came in handy. She wailed the entire 50 minute trip to Tullamarine.

    We’ve survived one Winter in Tassie and are gearing up for our second. The cat loves sprawling on the deck during the day, soaking up as much sun as possible. So it’s made no negative difference to her wellbeing, despite all the wailing she does every time we put her in the car.

    Hope your cat has settled in.

    • Hi Cath! My Jellyfish has settled in surprisingly well, even taking to being more of an indoor cat (something I thought she’d struggle more with after a life of mostly daytime freedom). Glad to hear your cat made it down safely too—I certainly heard my fair share of horror stories while I was preparing, as I’m sure you did? REALLY helpful…

  3. Hi Tasmemia, stumbled onto yr blog.Awesome btw!I am current in Bris and thinking of heading to Tas late Aug.I too hav a pet.Would luv to hear futher about yr pre adventure prep and logistics if u have time.Not sure how to email u directly…Anyway hope alls well.Cheers

  4. Thank you so very much for the information. We are relocating from Brisbane to Tasmania in January and this has put our hearts at ease. Can I ask if you could provide some more information on you experience on the Spirit? Was there a separate area for cats and dogs? How did you prepare the kennel? I am so anxious about my babies that I am the one who will probably be more stressed than them…
    Thanks again for the information, you have no idea how much this helps people like myself.

    • Hi Brittany! First, awesome to hear that you’re making the move down here. I highly recommend it.

      To answer your questions (and of course these answers are definitely relevant to 12mths ago but who knows what can change in a year): there was no separate kennel for dogs vs cats, it was just all ins, though a lot of the kennel spaces weren’t filled. The kennels are big metal boxes of different sizes to accommodate for different sizes of pets, tucked into a corner of the car parking level. You get a priority boarding tag when bringing your pet on board so the crew can get your car as close to the kennels as possible, but the kennels themselves are just tucked into a corner – they don’t feel very protected from the elements and the carpark levels are very cold (though in January they won’t be quite as much) and loud! To be completely honest, putting her in there was the worst part of my trip! But the good news for cats is that you can fit a whole cat carrier into one of the kennels. If your pets get along well and will find comfort together then you’ll easily find a kennel that will fit the both of them. Because it was easy to fit the whole carrier into the kennel, I just slotted mine in and then popped my cat’s litter tray in there too with a shallow amount of litter, and a bit of food for her as well. I’m pretty confident I was more stressed about the whole situation than my cat was, and getting back down below deck in the morning to retrieve her was a huge relief (you can’t visit your pets at all during the trip). But you’ll all make it, I promise. Let me know if you need any more questions answered, and best of luck with your travels!

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