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Have Pet. Will Travel? (Part 1)

Jennifer Mcguiggan
Jan. 10, 2009

Should I bring my pet on vacation, and if so, what documents do I need?

As I write this, I'm pet-sitting my parents' cat. Every day for a week, I come down here for an hour or more to play with, pet, feed, and clean up after Kitty. (Yes, that's her real name.) And every day, I call my mom to give her an update on her little girl. (Sometimes Mom even asks how I'm doing.)

My parents miss Kitty, but they knew that visiting Vegas wouldn't be her idea of hitting the jackpot. They're glad I'm around to swap cat-care duties with. But what if you don't have a pet-loving daughter nearby when you travel? You can find a pet care provider here on Care.com, of course!

But what if you're considering taking your furry friend with you? Before you and your pet set out, think again. It's not always as simple as packing up the car and hitting the open road.

Is it a good idea?

If you're like my mom (and okay, like me), you may not want to leave your pet behind when you travel. But unlike humans, animals don't need a change of scenery to relax and unwind. In fact, most pets -- especially cats -- like routine and consistency. So leaving your feline -- or fish, bird, or bunny -- behind is probably a better bet. Dogs need stability, too, but in general they seem to cope better with being out and about. Whatever type of pet you have, talk to your veterinarian before taking it with you. Once you get the green light from your pet's doctor, there are still a few more hoops to jump through.

Your pet's papers

Just because your pet can't drive or vote doesn't mean he doesn't need some identification and documentation. Keep a collar and ID tag on your pet at all times while traveling. The ID tag should specify not only your home address and phone number, but also the address and phone number of where you'll be staying.

It's also a good idea to keep a photograph of your pet with you when you travel. That way, you'll have a visual reference on hand to help others spot your pet in case the two of you get separated.

What about other legal documents? It depends on where you're going. In the United States, consider the following:

  • If you're staying in-state, consider keeping a recent health certificate on hand to certify that your pet is in good health.
  • If you're crossing state lines, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) advises that you'll need a recent health certificate and a certificate of rabies vaccination.
  • f you're going out of the country, research the specific legal requirements, including quarantine times, for your destination. And speaking of quarantine times, even American cats and dogs flying into Hawaii will be subject to a 30- or 120-day quarantine, according to the HSUS. So you'll probably have to leave them at home and throw your own doggie or kitty luau when you return.

Supplies

When packing for your pet, remember to include the following:

Also very important: Don't forget the carrier. An essential for air travel, a pet carrier is also a good idea for in the car. If you're flying, check with the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) and your airline for carrier requirements.

For more information on flying, driving, and finding a hotel with pets, read Part 2 of "Have pet. Will travel?"

Jennifer McGuiggan is a freelance writer and editor in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She writes for a wide variety of clients and publications, and sometimes writes about her cats Gatwick and Cheska on her blog: thewordcellar.blogspot.com

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