By Simon Harris
You would think that choosing a pet travel carrier would be a relatively simple matter — until you begin to shop around a bit online and learn about all the different types and models that are available. With all of the various features and different design elements, it is easy to become confused! Added to this situation is the fact that, as a pet owner, you want to choose only those pet travel carriers which will enhance your pets traveling experience and contribute to their security, comfort and health.
So where do you begin? I think the best place to begin is to think about the kinds of travel that you will need to do with your pet. Will you be traveling for short periods of time, or for hours and hours on end? Will you be going down the street, or to another continent? Will you be traveling on a cruise ship — an airplane — or in an automobile? These are not irrelevant considerations, because different modes of transport can require different types of travel carriers for your pet. If you begin with a consideration of your travel environment, you will be in a much better position to choose an appropriate travel carrier for your pets.
As a general rule, choosing a travel carrier for use in an automobile or airplane environment is a bit more difficult than choosing other types. Pet carriers designed for use in automobiles are generally designed to fit the sizes and dimensions of the interior of particular types of cars — so you must be careful to choose one which is designed to fit safely and snuggly within the interior.
Choosing a pet travel carrier for use on an airline presents special challenges. The best procedure is to contact your preferred airline and determine the specific requirements that your travel carrier must meet before they will accept it on their flight. Be aware of the fact that a pet travel carrier will need to meet certain size and weight requirements before your airline will approve its use.
An important quality of any pet travel carrier is that it should be “humane.” For example, I do not find the models that contain a wire mesh bottom — like a cage — to be particularly humane, as walking on these types of bottoms will certainly not be a comfortable experience for your pet. Another important characteristic of a humane pet travel carrier is that it should provide an adequate amount of room for your pet to move around.
At the very least, your pet should be able to turn around, as well as lay on its side, if it needs to. A humane pet carrier also needs to provide an adequate amount of ventilation as well — and if your pet will be traveling by airplane in a cargo hold, it may need additional protection from cold or hot environmental conditions, as cargo holds may not be air-conditioned or heated.
For long-distance traveling, when your pet must be restrained in a carrier for long periods of time, you should make sure that it is equipped with an adequate supply of food and water — this will be particularly important if the pet carrier will be stored during your trip in a place which will not allow you to constantly monitor the condition of your pet. And because any pet that has eaten or who has ingested liquid will need to relieve themselves, you will also need to make certain that your pet carrier has been properly lined with some sort of absorbent material — particularly if you are using a simple cage that has a bottom panel that is not solid.
Another important aspect of using a pet travel carrier is to make sure that your pet has become properly acclimated to its new home before you begin your travels. Don’t wait until the last minute to try and do this — your pet will need several weeks, at a minimum, to get used to the look, feel, and smell of their new traveling environment. So at least a month or two before you begin your trip, you should introduce your pet to its carrier.
The easiest way to do this is to allow your pet to go in and out of the travel carrier at will, with the door left completely open. If you can encourage your pet to spend the night sleeping in its carrier (again with the door open) so much the better. You can also try to place food and water, as well as its favorite play toys, inside of the pet carrier to encourage it to enter and be comfortable.
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