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Learn how to make your pet travel ready

Whether its air, road or train travel, you need to prepare your pet to ensure they find the journey comfortable

It important to crate train your pet no matter which mode of transport you are using to travel. 
It important to crate train your pet no matter which mode of transport you are using to travel.  (iStock)

Last week, we came across the viral story of unconditional love between a pet parent and his pooch. The person had booked an entire business class cabin consisting of 12 seats on an Air India flight from Mumbai to Chennai for his pet to travel in style. The approximate cost of this close to two hour trip was estimated to be at about 2.4 lakhs. With travel is slowly picking up again after the second wave, here’s a quick guide for the novice travelers to ensure their pets’ comfort while on the move.

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While, air travel is the fastest and comfortable way to travel for us, not all dog breeds may be comfortable with the change in altitude. Flat faced breeds like Pugs and French bulldogs may experience breathing troubles on a flight. For these very reasons, a lot of flight operators will not allow these breeds on board. Hence, if other modes of transport are an option, pet parents should definitely explore them. 

 your dog is close to five kilo, Air India allows them to sit beside you in the cabin. Even if you are flying economy! The booking will have to be made under excess baggage. Most cats are also allowed to fly with their owners in the cabin. If you have a pet that is bigger, obviously, it will have to fly in cargo.

Whether your pet is flying in cabin or cargo, putting it in a crate is an absolute must. This is not only for the safety of other passengers but also for your pet so as to avoid any injuries during the flight. 

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Now, to avoid any traumatic experience, you must begin crate training your pet well before the travel. This way, it’s prepared. Since the journey will entail a few hours, the crate has to be big enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around. Therefore, invest in an IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved crate as those are the safest.

Start small by leaving the crate open in your home. Then introduce food or toys in the crate. This way, your pet will slowly be conditioned to associate the crate with positive experiences and will feel safer inside it.

When I fly with my Golden Retriever, Musafir, some other things I absolutely have to have on my checklist are an ID tag with his name and my number on it, a health certificate from the vet stating that he is fit to fly, and his recent vaccination record.

I have heard some pet parents exploring the idea of sedating their pets in the flight. But it’s not really an option because your pet will need to be awake to find his bearings when the altitude changes. Leave only little dry food with your pet in the crate as they travel better on a light stomach. Also, don’t forget to leave their favourite toy in the crate.

For some pets, flight experience may be overwhelming. In that case, a long road trip may seem like a better idea. Dogs and cats may find traveling by road more convenient considering the many stops you may take enroute. Your pet will have your company the whole time.

Crate training is required even for long drives so that they have a secure place they can retreat to when you have to focus purely on driving. While you require the same set of documentation even for a car ride, you also have to make sure that you carry a first aid kit, blankets, bowls, poop scoopers, litter material for your feline, and more toys. 

If a pet is prone to car sickness, you will need medication as recommended by its vet to make the journey comfortable. Before you actually embark on a long journey, it might be a good idea to take your pet on shorter outings and see if they are okay with travelling in a car. Yawning, drooling, restlessness are all signs of anxiety associated with car travel and may have to be addressed beforehand with some conditioning and positive reinforcement.

However, of all the modes of transport, train travel actually is the best way to travel with your pet, especially if you have a cat or a large sized dog. If you reserve a first class AC coupe, it is far less expensive than booking a business class cabin on a flight and also ensures that your pet can travel with you in comfort and privacy. This would be my choice if I were to travel with both Musafir and my cat, Catbury.

Your pet is your go-to person in this journey of life, so it only makes sense to take them wherever you go and create memories together.

Dr Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai, who loves to play the piano in her free time and is ruled by her whimsical cat, Catbury, at home.

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