Just mentioning the word “travel” or “vacation” may make some cats draw their claws. However, it’s logistically challenging to leave your cat at home on a long trip. Other times it may be necessary for your kitty to come along, such as when you’re moving to a new place. In general, cats crave the comfort of familiar sights and sounds, and don’t prefer to take the train. But it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your options in case they ever have to leave your city. So, are cats allowed on Amtrak? Thankfully for you, the answer is yes, Amtrak does allow cats! Keep reading to find out the details of taking your cat on the train.
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- Can Your Kitty Ride the Rails?
- How to Travel With Your Cat On Amtrak
- What’s the Best Way to Travel With Your Cat?
- What to Do If Your Cat Can’t Travel
Can Your Kitty Ride the Rails?
As one of the only passenger continental lines in the United States, Amtrak is often the way to go if you don’t want to drive, fly, or take the bus. As of 2023, Amtrak connects major metropolitan cities, but sometimes leaves out more rural parts of the country. Their routes are still a work in progress, with the expectations of new lines being built across 25 states by 2035.
Thankfully, Amtrak doesn’t leave your cat behind! Their pet policy states that cats and dogs can ride the rails, as long as their weight combined with their carrier is less than 20 pounds. Since most domestic cats weigh less than 15 pounds, this weight limit gives plenty of wiggle room for even our plumpest feline friends, except maybe the well-built Maine Coon.
How to Travel With Your Cat On Amtrak
While Amtrak may be a viable option in some cases, not every route welcomes pets, and the ones that do have extra rules. Here are some of the general guidelines you should know before booking.
1. The trip must be under 7 hours.
The 7-hour limit includes stops and immediate transfers. If your trip takes longer, you’ll have to book at least two different tickets, which will be more expensive since you have to pay the pet fee more than once.
2. There’s a pet fee.
While the fee differs depending on the route, it’s standard for Amtrak to charge between $29 and $39 for your cat’s ticket.
3. Only a limited number of pets are allowed on each train.
Most pet-friendly lines only allow five pets to ride in a train car at the same time. Be sure to book well in advance to claim a spot for your kitty.
4. You’re limited to Coach or Acela Business Class.
Due to health codes, your cat is restricted from the dining and sleeping areas of the train. You must stay with your cat at all times, so be sure to pack a snack and an extra pillow for the ride.
5. The carrier has to be comfortable, with plenty of space for your pet.
Amtrak allows soft or hard-sided carriers, but your cat must be able stand up and move around comfortably.
6. Cats must be caught up on their vaccinations.
Most state laws require that all cats 4 months and older must be vaccinated against rabies. Amtrak may require more immunizations for travel, so call before booking.
7. There are additional health requirements.
All cats must be at least 8 weeks old before traveling on Amtrak. Of course, this makes sense because younger cats are still nursing and haven’t received their vaccines. While airlines do not allow pregnant cats on board, Amtrak doesn’t specify, so you’ll need to ask if you have an expectant cat before booking.
8. You’ll need to book their ticket online and arrive early.
So you’ve secured their ticket online and packed their bags. There are still a few extra steps you’ll need to take before you take off. On the day of the big adventure, arrive at least 30 minutes early with your cat for a quick health assessment. You’ll also need to sign some liability paperwork in the event something happens to your cat while onboard the train.
9. Your cat rides beneath your seat.
Pets must remain in their carriers for the duration of the ride in the space beneath your seat. So you might want to wear some extra thick socks if you have a mischievous kitten.
What’s the Best Way to Travel With Your Cat?
Cats essentially don’t like to leave their house. However, some felines do better than others when it comes to traveling. If they don’t mind time in the car, they might do just fine on a train. If your cat does experience travel anxiety, a road trip will be a better option because you can stop whenever necessary. Putting it bluntly, it’s going to be a long ride in the train if they start yowling or hurl vomit on your toes.
What to Do If Your Cat Can’t Travel
Whenever possible, you should try to leave your anxious cat at home. You might ask if a friend will come over and check on them a couple of times a day, or if an older teenager who you trust might want to stay over at your house so they won’t be alone. Some kennels board cats, so you might also check with your vet. However, cats generally dislike kennels for the same reason that they don’t want to travel, so you’ll want to keep them home if possible.
Since they don’t need to go outside to relieve themselves like dogs do, it’s generally okay to leave your cat at home for a weekend trip unsupervised. For longer trips, though, you’ll need to find a pet-sitter, or at least someone who’s willing to drop in a couple of times a day.
While your cat can typically travel on Amtrak, it’s definitely a process and not all cats will enjoy the ride. Whenever possible, you should probably try to make accommodations for your cat at home, whether you hire a pet-sitter or ask a friend to check on them a couple times a day. If your cat needs to accompany you on your trip, be sure to book your tickets well in advance, and thoroughly read the guidelines to make sure you have everything you need on the day you embark on your big adventure.