You hate leaving your beloved pets at home. You miss them, you worry about them, and the guilt is overwhelming. Eliminate the trauma for you and your furry, feathered, or finned family members by bringing them along. Whether you’re going on vacation or need to pack up your pets for a move, learning the safest way to transport animals will ease the stress for both of you.

One tip is universal for all animals: never leave them alone in the car. This goes double in extreme heat or cold — but even in fair weather you expose them to thieves and other dangers.

Driving Down The Highway

Dogs:

Many companies specialize in seat belts, harnesses, booster seats, and travel crates to ensure your dogs are safe in the car. In some states it’s mandatory to use one of these products to protect animals and to secure them so they don’t distract the driver or get thrown in the car during a sudden stop or a crash. While it seems cozy and adorable, having Fifi on your lap while driving is dangerous — and even illegal in some states.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) cosponsored a survey with Kurgo Pet Products that revealed that 29% of drivers admit that they have been distracted by their pets in the car. 84% said they drove with their dogs in the car, but only 14% used a restraining device. We wear seat belts and our pets need a device to prot­­­­­­­ect them, as well.

Cats:

Here are car safety tips for cats. (Many of these apply to canines as well):

Familiarize your cat with her carrier so she feels comfortable in it. Your feline should have an identification tag and microchip in case of separation. Bring a bag of cat necessities including medications, food, water, bowls, plastic bags for excrement, litter, scooper, a compact litter box, grooming brush, treats, toys, wipes, and towels. Buy a well-ventilated carrier. Secure the carrier with the seat belt to stabilize it.

Your cat should eat approximately four hours before you leave. A full tummy and a visit to the litter box ensure a comfy ride. Set up your cat in a small space so he feels secure when you arrive at your destination.

Fish:

Traveling with fish isn’t advised because it can be dangerous for them. However, fish travel containers help protect them if you need to move them to a new home or have to bring them somewhere. Use water from your fish’s tank when you place him in a bag. Do not feed your fish for 48 hours before traveling to avoid excrement. Put fish in separate bags and place the bags in the travel container using bubble wrap to keep the fish in the bags from jiggling around.

Birds:

Some birds enjoy traveling more than others. Canaries, finches, and budgies are small and easily stressed. Amazons like to travel; cockatoos and macaws generally prefer to accompany their families than to stay at home without them. These birds are very intelligent, and enjoy seeing new places.

In preparation for a trip with Tweety, determine how long your bird is comfortable in his cage. Take a short trip to find out if your bird is susceptible to motion sickness, and pay a visit to the vet to confirm your bird is healthy. Check the US Department of Agriculture website to confirm that it’s legal to transport your bird over state lines (you may need a health certificate for them). Ask your vet about herbal or prescription remedies for motion sickness if you think your bird might need them. And never bring your bird to extremely hot or cold climates.

Step one and two are to pack all your bird paraphernalia and get a travel cage because your bird’s cage is probably too big for the car. The cage should not have swinging things or hard toys in it during transport. Bring the regular cage or a play gym for use at your destination. The travel cage should be in the back seat, secured with a seat belt, and covered.

Clean water is essential for your bird so boil or filter water or bring bottled water. Bring deep food cups attached to the cage. Your bird will need one food cup for pellets and seeds and one for fresh vegetables. Fresh fruit will keep her hydrated during the trip. A seed guard will prevent seeds from cascading onto your car seats and floors. Try to continue his regular feeding schedule to keep the routine (but note that they won’t eat while the car is moving).

Bring paper towels or cage wipes, cloths, bird-safe disinfectant, sandpaper, and a scrub brush/old toothbrush to keep the cage spic and span. Check that your bird is eating well and that her droppings look healthy. Prepare a first aid kit, and find a local Avian vet near your destination. You can consult the list compiled by The Association of Avian Veterinarians.

The best way to prepare your bird for travel is by familiarizing her with the travel cage by taking short rides. Stick to your bird’s normal play, feeding, rest, and hygiene schedule. Supplement her diet with stress-formula vitamins and minerals. A pre-journey bath is a good idea. Clip wings, nails, and beak if necessary. Train her to drink from a water bottle.

Birds need travel breaks like we do. Every few hours you should stop, feed, give him water, and play with him. If he seems motion sick you can give him the herbal or prescription remedy.  A light snack before the trip and on breaks is best. The covered cage will allow her to sleep and not be overwhelmed by visual stimulus. Once you’ve reached your destination you can set up the cage and play gym away from windows in a quiet area. Give her a little attention and let her nap in case she didn’t get enough beauty rest during the drive.

Flying the Pet Friendly Skies

Airlines have different policies about traveling with pets. Some only allow them in the cargo area. Others charge a fee to have your pet in the cabin with you. There are rules about how big a carrier you need to use.

Dogs and Cats:

You will be required to keep the carrier beneath your seat, so a soft carrier is ideal in the cabin. Bring a hard carrier if your canine will be in cargo. As with car travel, acclimate your pet to his crate. Arrive early, feed a while before, don’t tranquilize your pet, and once you arrive at your destination you can walk around so your pet is familiar with the area.

Birds:

Mark the cage “Live Animal” and make sure it has your identification and the correct destination stickers. Book a direct flight, and don’t line the cage (because of security inspections). Small birds can be kept under seat with a blanket covering the cage (except in the front row); you can purchase a seat for your large bird.

Fish:

Again, each airline has it’s own policy. Pet needs should be discussed when you book your ticket. There may be a fee. Some airlines charge $85. You can ship your fish if you feel that is too expensive (as many fish owners do). The U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx ship thousands of fish everyday. Supplies you’ll need are aquarium bags, a heat pack in winter, an insulated shipping box, newspaper, and bubble wrap. Label the box “Live Fish.”

Feed your fish a couple of days before and ship him overnight. Place your fish in a tied bag of conditioned water and as much air as you can. Put the bag in another tied fish bag. Put the fish in the box and pack it tightly with newspapers so it won’t move. Place the bubble wrap on top and the heat bag above it. The bubble wrap serves to prevent the fish from being overheated. Then stick your “Live Fish” label on.

Choo Choo

Train travel is similar to flying your pet. Amtrak allows cats and dogs aboard, one per passenger. Inquire about the rules when you buy your tickets.

Every animal is different, so no matter what the species or what travel method you use be sure to check with your vet before traveling with pets.