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Making Your Pet's Crate Comfortable and Safe for Their Journey

Published on: January 11, 2023  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

Lobo Dog in Kennel

Depending on how your pet will be traveling, sometimes they will be required to travel in a crate. It’s safer and, all things considered, more comfortable. That said, the “comfort” may take some getting used to, especially for your dog or cat.

Maybe your pet has never seen a crate or carrier of any kind, let alone spent time inside one. Or, if the only time your dog or cat has ever traveled in a carrier is to the veterinarian, of course, they're going to take a dim view of anything that resembles a crate. Who could blame them? When that thing comes out, there are anxious moments ahead for sure. 

Even if your dog is already crate-trained in the house, you may have your work cut out for you. Nonetheless, you can teach your pet to accept their kennel, maybe even love it.


Choose a crate appropriate for your mode of transportation

If you’re taking a short car trip – to the vet, to visit friends across town, etc. – any simple container or restraint device is fine. Confining small pets keeps them from roaming around and getting underfoot or in your face while you’re driving. Read our article about selecting the best crate for shipping your cat or dog for more insight.

Larger dogs on the loose can be hurt if you have to stop quickly or there’s an accident. You can confine your larger breed by “fencing” off the back of your vehicle, or with a specially designed doggie seatbelt.

A simple carrier or restraint may be fine for more extended auto journeys, too. Providing your pet with a favorite toy or chew will help them remain calm. Remember to plan ahead for plenty of pit stops, and take along a leash – even for your kitty. Pack overnight supplies such as food and a portable dish. (They can sleep in the crate.)

Air travel is another story  

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulates travel kennels for airborne animals. That includes dogs and cats. IATA travel kennel requirements are strict, and designed to ensure your pet travels as safely and comfortably as possible. If you have a small dog or cat, you may be allowed to carry them onboard with you, but this is not always an option. And larger pets must travel as cargo. (Their space is pressurized and temperature-controlled like the cabin where you sit.)

The key to meeting IATA requirements is kennel size. Dog or cat, you need to measure your pet. Do not guess or assume which crate is correct, because if it’s too big or too small, the airline may refuse to take them. This is for their own safety. With measurements in hand, you can order the right kennel online. Your local pet store may have what you need, or you can purchase one through your pet transport company.

Travel kennel acclimation & familiarization

It's important to get your pet used to the travel kennel as early as possible. The more time they have to get comfortable with their carrier, the more they will bond with it. It will become one of their belongings, like their bed and toys. (Or perhaps your sofa, or the foot of your own bed.) 

Your job is to show the way. Purchase your pet’s new kennel as soon as you know they will be flying. Set it out where they can see it, with the door open. Put a favorite blanket or one of your old T-shirts inside, along with toys and treats – things that they recognize and will draw them inside.

Is your pet afraid of confined spaces? This can be a problem, especially with some dogs. For your extra-skittish dog, start by getting them used to only the bottom portion of the crate. It will look more like a deep bed than an enclosure.

In addition to putting goodies inside, play with your pet in and around the crate, so they associate it with you (the leader) as well as their belongings. The key is to make every interaction with the crate a positive experience. This new kennel is fun! It’s comfortable! My stuff is here, and so is my Fur Mom/Dad!

Let them take things gradually, inspecting and nosing around as they feel comfortable. Like bath time, the more you force the issue, the more you reinforce your pet’s fear and increase stress. Just stay upbeat and reward them often for interacting with the kennel.

One final note: airlines do not allow drugged animals to fly, so avoid the temptation to give your pet a tranquilizer or otherwise sedate them prior to their flight. Sedatives make dogs and cats confused and interfere with their balance, both of which increase anxiety and the risk of injury. If your cat or dog is a travel worrier, talk to your vet about holistic options like lavender spray or some other type of natural calming product.

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