Are you the sort of parent who likes the idea of traveling with your beloved fur baby in tow? Do you especially enjoy train rides? Is your train ride incomplete unless you’re traveling with pets?
If you answered “yes” to either question, you’re in luck. The USA’s only cross-country railway system Amtrak has allowed dogs and cats on select train lines since 2015.
As long as they fit the company’s stipulated size restrictions, your pet can board an Amtrak train with you for a reasonable fee of USD $26.
Many smaller regional train companies around the country also welcome pets, and some may even allow your pet to ride for free.
It’s important to remember, however, that train rides can be disconcerting for your pets, especially if they rarely leave your home.
Fortunately, there are many concrete things you can do to make the journey easier and more comfortable for yourself, your pet, and other passengers.
If you’re thinking of taking your dog or cat aboard a train sometime soon, the following tips can help guarantee a hassle-free experience.
6 Things You Must Know Before Traveling With Pets
Make Sure Your Pet’s ID Is in Order
Losing your fur baby in an unfamiliar place is a worst-case scenario no devoted pet owner wants to think about, but it helps to prepare for it regardless.
Before all else, ensure that they always have some kind of identification on them. ID tags that you can clip onto standard leather collars, nylon dog collars, or harnesses are always a useful option.
It will also help to get your pet microchipped if you haven’t already. These IDs will help the individuals or organizations who happen to find your pet return them to you speedily and safely.
When considering an ID tag for your pet, make sure you at least have the following: their name, and something along the lines of “if found, please call….” and your phone number. If there is an option to double-engrave on the ID tag, consider adding your address.
That way, while traveling with pets, if anything happens you can be assured that whoever finds them will be able to safely return them.
You can obtain an ID tag from any pet store- for the U.S. readers, we’d recommend somewhere like PetSmart or PetCo- it’s usually under USD $20 and takes only a few minutes.
Even if you have a nylon dog collar and a microchip, having a physical tag can be extremely helpful on your journey of traveling by train.
Inquire About Regulations First
Before you book those tickets to travel with pets, call the train service you intend to use and ask them to walk you through any policies they have regarding pets.
Pet size restrictions and stipulated fees, for example, are important basic information to ask about. Most railway companies will also require pets to be carried onboard in carriers or crates.
Many will even specify that these must be “hard-shell” crates with specific maximum dimensions.
If your chosen train service doesn’t require your dog or cat to be created, they’ll probably insist that you keep your pet on a leash for the entire trip.
Smaller pets may also have to be carried on your lap for their own safety. If you’re bringing your pet aboard the train on a leash rather than in a carrier, however, choose a short leash that lets you keep your pet close to you at all times.
Start with Short Trips
If your dog or cat is unused to travel, ease them into it by taking a short train ride at an off-peak hour.
This will give you a chance to observe their reaction to train travel without having to deal with additional stressors like large crowds.
You may also want to simply take them to the train station a few times to familiarize them with its unique sights, sounds, and smells.
If you want to start even smaller, or if you’re not sure at all if your pet gets motion sickness, try traveling with them in a car. Take them on short trips around the neighborhood at first and work up to longer drives.
Gauge their behavior. Some dogs are more nervous than others- watch their body language. Are they relaxed in the passenger seat? Or are they whiny and shaky?
Use this knowledge to determine how your pet might act when you board the train. If you need insight from your vet, it’s never a bad idea to give them a call.
Take Measures to Avoid or Minimize Travel Sickness
Motion sickness is a common problem for both dogs and cats. While pets are most likely to experience travel sickness in cars, the clacking and swaying motions of a train may also upset nausea-prone pups or kitties.
Signs that your dog or cat may be experiencing motion sickness include excessive salivating, vocalizations like barking, meowing, or howling, pacing, lethargy, and vomiting.
If your pet is especially prone to motion sickness, consider asking your vet to recommend an appropriate anti-nausea medication.
If they do recommend a specific medication for your pet, take careful note of its dosage and administration instructions.
You’ll also want to time your pet’s meals carefully in relation to your trip, as traveling on a full stomach is likely to make any pet feel queasy and uncomfortable.
Feeding them a light meal around four hours before your trip should work in most cases.
Take Breaks If You Can
If your itinerary permits it, it’s always a good idea to split a long train ride into several shorter trips. Breaks will give your pet a chance to stretch, rest, and relieve themselves if necessary.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure that your pet has plenty of opportunities to go potty before you even board the train.
Tire Your Pet Out Before Boarding
Pet parents with especially energetic pets will want to tucker them out with play or exercise before getting on a train.
A tired pet will be calmer, more relaxed, and easier to handle than a pet who’s agitated with excess energy in addition to the stress of traveling. They might even nap most of the way through, leaving you with nothing to worry about until you reach your destination.
The idea of taking your pet aboard a train can be daunting, but preparing adequately beforehand can make even the longest journey manageable.
Once you get your furry friend used to train travel, you can look forward to many more adventures together.
We hope that after this list, you’re feeling more than ready to hop aboard that train with your furry friend!
As long as you’ve got a proper ID on your pet and know the regulations before you board, you should be more than ready. Remember, it’s always a smart idea to watch your pet for motion sickness and make sure they eat a light meal beforehand.
Take breaks along the way if you can, and tire them out before their journey! Allow them to get out all that restless energy before you em-BARK on your next adventure!
If you decide to travel by air this summer with your pet, consider checking out our guide on traveling with pets on an airplane!