Riding the rails in comfort and safety is like any travel adventure: It requires a little advanced planning. Here are some tips that will help your four-legged friend travel well — and stay healthy.
Talk to the Vet about Regions and Seasons
Best practices for your pet's health vary by time of year, activity, and destination. Hiking and backcountry adventures increase exposure to ticks. Some regions have higher risk for heartworm. And your pet may be flea-free, but there's never a guarantee that fellow animals are as well.
Prevention is key, so ask your vet about any treatment your pet should have before your journey — or at your destination. While you're at it, get an updated copy of your pet's vaccination and medical records. You may need them when you board your train and they're essential in case of an emergency. And if you haven't micro-chipped your pet, now's the time to talk about doing so with your vet.
Learn Railway Requirements
Different routes have different rules about pets on board. Some routes have a designated pet car and allow only a limited number of pet passengers; other routes allow pets in all cars. Some railways limit your dog or cat to seven-hour routes, maximum, and your pet must be crated for the duration of the journey. Ticket your pet in advance — no one wants the heartbreak of a trip delayed or canceled because the train is at capacity for four-legged travelers.
Try the Rhythm of the Rails
If you know your dog or cat loves to go for a ride, you may be good to go. But anxious pets could benefit from a practice run. Crate your pet and head for the station. Hand out treats and praise as the trains roll in. A test ride is even better. Take your pet on a day trip to see how well they manage the noise, the motion, and the excitement. Nervous pets may benefit from calming medication — another topic to discuss with your vet before you embark on a longer trip.
Pack Your Pet
Once you've got your pet's medical and identification needs covered, it's time to think of their comfort. You'll need a crate big enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in. Bring a travel water bowl and your pet's favorite tasty treats. It's tempting to wash everything before a journey, but your pet's favorite blanket has that good doggy or kitty smell and that can reassure an animal on a big adventure. You might think it's icky, but your pet finds your scent reassuring, too — tossing in an unwashed t-shirt in the crate may help your companion feel secure.
A prepared pet is a happy traveler. With a little preparation, your dog or cat can become a railroad regular!