How to Travel Nomadically With Your Cat

A woman and a cat in the bag
A girl walking holding cat in her arms
Cat near the street

As idyllic as it may seem, full-time nomadic life can be challenging. So you can imagine the reactions my partner and I receive when we tell others how, not only do we travel nomadically full-time as an unmarried international couple, but that we also do it alongside our favorite piece of luggage: our three-legged adventure cat, Yoda. Why travel with a cat? Simply said, Yoda is home; no matter where we live or where we go, he reminds us that home is when we’re all together—and he likes it!

Every time we arrive at a new destination, he gets excited to explore our new home. I’d like to think it’s mostly thanks to our dedication to training and preparing him to travel, but his tenacious personality certainly helps also. Even after undergoing amputation and radiation to treat cancer last year, he still loves to run around, explore the outdoors, and discover the world with us.  Here’s how we manage to take our fluffy bestie along with us for the road and some actionable steps so you can do the same.

Adjust to a Slower Nomadic Lifestyle

With a pet in tow, you’ll need to approach your nomadic journey a little differently, specifically when it comes to making decisions about your next destination. For example, many countries, such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia, among others, have strict quarantine measures in place for immigrating pets. In the case of New Zealand, all pets arriving from other countries (except Australia) must enter a quarantine facility for at least 10 days, extendable to up to 60 days, which can cost pet owners approximately between $1,000–$1,500. If you are permanently moving somewhere or traveling at a slower pace as we are, it may be worth it. But for most nomadic travelers, that isn’t the case.

Choose Countries With Fewer Restrictions

Since we’ve been traveling around Europe, North America, and Central America since 2018, we’ve found that places such as Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, and even the Caribbean islands, typically have fewer restrictions. Mexico even lifted the health certificate requirement entirely for travel from the US to Mexico, effective December 2019.

For most countries and airlines, the health certificate signed by your vet, plus rabies vaccination certification, is all that you need to fly with your cat in-cabin. Restrictions may apply, so it’s essential that you research online to find the most up-to-date information. Aside from vaccinations and routine vet visits, traveling in-cabin with your cat is as easy as checking in your baggage—except this way they can sit at your feet for the duration of the flight.

Practice Makes ‘Pawfect’

Of course, all of this globetrotting won’t be possible if your cat isn’t comfortable with traveling, so before you hit the road, you should take them out for a few practice runs. Start small with leash training and work your way to taking a few road trips and then eventually, boats, trains, and planes. If you can, kickstart your nomadic travels with your pet earlier in their life rather than later; we introduced Yoda to travel when he was only 12 weeks old. 

Luckily, Yoda somewhat naturally took to being on-leash; it didn’t seem to bother him too much, but that may be thanks to our positive reinforcement training which involved rewarding him with each successful trip, leaving the harness and leash (or backpack) out by his food, and making the experience generally fun and stress-free overall so he’d want to go again. Now, at the ripe age of 8, Yoda definitely knows—and understands—that on travel days, he just needs to go with the flow (and sleep it off). The only part of the trip he doesn’t look forward to is getting taken out of his carrier to go through security at the airport—if your cat is skittish or stressed during travel, you can ask a TSA agent for a private screening room. 

Brittany Sneller
May 19, 2023
min read

Bri is a full-time slow traveler and digital nomad living abroad since 2015 in an insatiable pursuit of adventure. She is the writer, photographer, and creator behind Bucketlist Bri travel blog.

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