How Can We Move Our Cats Cross-Country?
Q. We are planning to send our two cats from New York to Florida; we're driving, but they will be flying cargo. We found a service in New York City that will board them until we get to Florida and then take them to the airport, but it's very expensive. We don't want them getting there before we do, though. What's the best way to get them to our new home?
A. I would probably go with an option you haven’t listed: Rather than sending the cats cargo, fly to Florida with them, in the cabin of the plane (rather than sending them with the luggage). The rub here is that you would need two people to fly, since airlines typically only allow only one carry-on pet per passenger. If you have a friend who is willing to help, though, you could book a round-trip for the friend to fly with one of you (and carry the second cat) while the other drives as planned. Alternatively, the two of you could fly down with the cats and pay someone to take your car to Florida.
I’m not sure what the cost of this would be compared to boarding both cats and then having them shipped as air cargo, but I suspect it might be pretty close to even. Be aware, though, that airlines do charge an additonal fee to take a pet as a carry-on (JetBlue, for example, charges $100 per pet). And, of course, there’s the cost of the airfares, plus the expense of getting your car to Florida, particularly if you have to have it shipped or driven for you. But the advantage of taking your pets as carry-ons is that they never leave your control. While the airlines actually have a pretty good record of getting pets sent as cargo to their destinations safely, that will surely be of no consolation if one of your cats dies or goes missing en route.
Hit the Road — With the Cats
If you cannot take your cats on the plane with you, I’d look at taking them in the car instead. Again, the issue for me is keeping your cats in your own control. I think you’d be surprised at how well they may adapt to a long car trip, especially if you cover their carriers with towels (to block scary sights and slightly muffle scary sounds) and infuse their crate pads and towels with Feliway, a synthetic pheromone that, in my experience, does a wonderful job of keeping cats happy and calm. Depending on the temperaments and overall health of your cats, you should also discuss with your veterinarian whether a sedative would be appropriate for the long road trip.
Whatever you choose, be sure your cats are in good health before the trip, are microchipped (and that the chips are registered so they can be tracked) and are wearing ID tags with your cell phone numbers on them. I also recommend having them wear comfortable vest-style harnesses with leashes attached when out of their carriers.
However you get there, once you arrive at your destination, set your cats up in a "safe room," with all their needs covered to help them ease into feeling at home in their new house. Again, the liberal use of pheromones can really help with the transition.