Military Families and Their Pets
Military families are a special breed of cat. And, speaking of cats, military families can face unique challenges when traveling or relocating with their Felix (or Fido) if you decide not to hire a pet sitter. For those of you who face these challenges, we have a few tips for you to make your life (and Felix or Fido’s life) a little bit easier.
- I. Assess the situation and determine where the challenges may come.
- A. Could Felix or Fido get in trouble for allegedly not having current rabies shots?
- B. Could it be hard for someone to find you if Felix or Fido gets separated from you?
- C. Could Felix or Fido have difficulties in air travel?
- D. Could Felix or Fido run out of medicine while traveling or relocating?
- E. Could Felix or Fido run into trouble if medical issues arise when away from your current home?
- F. Could Felix or Fido have to be quarantined abroad?
- G. Could Felix or Fido be denied access to motels/hotels and other places that you may visit as you travel?
- H. Could there be problems if you have Felix AND Fido? Or if Fido is especially large?
- I. Could Felix or Fido experience stress (and stress-related health problems) due to travel?
- II. Find and maintain resources to minimize the challenges.
- A. Keep Felix or Fido’s medical records handy, especially the vaccination records. If you will be flying commercially, do not pack these records in your checked baggage. Keep the records with you so that they do not get lost. (Note: in order to meet some travel requirements, you may need to take Felix or Fido to the base veterinarian within a short period of time before travel. The purpose of the close-to-departure vet visit is to obtain certain exams, vaccinations for your destination location, and documentation of the exams and vaccinations.)
- B. Ensure that Felix or Fido is wearing a collar with tags that show current vaccinations as well as how to reach you should Felix or Fido become separated from you. A tag bearing your name and cellular telephone number is helpful. (Note: if you are traveling internationally, ensure that your cellular telephone will work in your foreign destination.)
- C. If you are planning air travel on a military aircraft, speak with your base veterinarian about US Department of Defense rules about pets on military planes. If you are flying commercially, speak with a representative of your airline for their rules about flying with pets. For example, can your pet join you in the cabin or must your pet be placed in the cargo hold? Is a pet carrier necessary? If so, what rules are in place regarding the dimensions of the pet carrier? (Note: don’t forget to put comforting items such as toys and things that smell like home in the carrier along with Felix or Fido.) If Fido or Felix must go in the cargo hold, and you are traveling to and/or from a hot climate, you should book your flight early in the morning or late at night to keep your pet as comfortable as possible in the cargo hold. It may be tempting to sedate your pet prior to air travel, but there may be problems associated with sedation at high elevations, so speak with your base veterinarian first.
- D. If Felix or Fido takes medicine, ensure that you have enough medicine to cover your travel time and a little extra just in case you experience delays. If you are permanently relocating, make sure to have enough medicine to cover your relocation time and at least an additional 30 days to allow time to get settled in your new location before developing a relationship with your new veterinarian.
- E. Your base veterinarian can provide you with information about veterinary services in or near your travel or relocation destination. Also, Internet searches can generate this information as well.
- F. If you are relocating internationally, prepare for the host country’s quarantine requirements. You will need to have funds set aside to pay for the quarantine time (i.e., food, grooming, and other care-related expenses). Felix or Fido will want comforts of home while in quarantine. Find some homey items that will comfort Felix or Fido and that conform to quarantine requirements. Information about quarantine length and rules will vary by country and can be obtained from your base veterinarian or the consulate.
- G. A variety of resources exist that list motels/hotels and other locations that are pet-friendly. If no suitable accommodations can be found for your travels, perhaps traveling in a recreational vehicle, staying with family members or friends at various points along your journey, or altering the route by which you get to your destination may be advisable.
- H. Traveling with more than one pet, or with one or more large pets, can be a real challenge. This is especially true if air travel is involved. If you are planning air travel on a military aircraft, speak with your base veterinarian about US Department of Defense rules. If you are flying commercially, speak with a representative of your airline for their rules. In many cases, if your destination is continental, you may find it easier to have at least one member of your household drive (rather than fly) with the pets.
- I. It is a given that Felix or Fido will experience some stress during travel. Felix and Fido like familiar things: new things are fun to inspect only when they are in a context that is otherwise familiar. So, when Felix or Fido are traveling, they will experience stress and anxiety. Spend as much time as you can with your pet immediate before, during, and after travel. Be extra attentive to your pet: playing, petting, and otherwise spending quality time together is even more important during stressful times. Try to keep your pet’s schedule as close to normal as possible (i.e., feeding times, etc.) during travel. Keep toys and things that smell like home near Felix or Fido at all times. If Felix or Fido has one or two particularly treasured toy or blanket, make sure s/he has full-time access to that as well.
- III. When unforeseen challenges arise, and they probably will, remain calm, analyze your options and resources, evaluate your possibilities, and move forward. Remember that, if you become upset, Felix or Fido will sense that and will become more upset as well. Also remember that your base veterinarian can be your best friend in moments of unforeseen challenge. Make sure to keep his/her telephone number handy just in case you need to place an urgent call to him/her.
By following these steps, you will be doing the right things for your Felix or Fido as your prepare for and execute your travel plans.
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