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5 Lessons I Learned from Traveling with My Cat

Lessons on keeping your zen in unfamiliar situations and places.

Travel tips abound on the Internet, but unless you’ve never traveled or are just not a planner, you probably don’t need to be told, yet again, how to organize your outfits and that you should pack extra underwear. That being said, it never hurts to look at something from an entirely new perspective, which is what traveling with my cat, Hyphen, has done for me this summer. He, his other human, and I have been on the road for nearly two months, and here’s what I’ve learned:

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1. Sniff things out.

Embrace your curiosity! My furry companion literally sniffs everything—possible food, people, the air. He eats things he shouldn’t, gets into rooms he shouldn’t, and generally makes mischief, but he does it all with a spirit of exploration we rarely embrace in our own lives. Approaching new experiences in this spirit would not only satisfy our curiosity but help us find freshness in the familiar. The first thing I try to do when I’m in a new place or situation is explore. After all, what’s the use of being or experiencing something new if you aren’t going to stop and smell the…well, everything?


2. It’s okay to retreat to your safe space.

You’re not failing if, while experiencing something or someplace new, you have to take some time in the cozy and familiar. My feline has a carrier that we refer to as “his home.” When he’s freaking out anywhere—outside, in the car, in an unfamiliar house or hotel room—he “goes to his home,” withdrawing until the situation feels like something he can handle, when he ventures back out again. Whether it’s going for a run, meditating, finding a coffee shop to sit in, or calling someone who supports you, don’t hesitate to revel a bit in the familiar before diving into the unknown.


3. Don’t be afraid to show your discomfort.

A lot of us don’t feel comfortable speaking up when we’re uncomfortable; perhaps we think that being supremely uncomfortable and saying so, will disrupt the flow of things. That’s fine if you’re not so uncomfortable you need to change things. However, Hyphen, furry Yoda that he is, does something we like to call thracking. Thracking is when the cat whacks us with his paw without his claws out. It’s his version of a gentle nudge, telling us he’s uncomfortable. (No claws means gentle, right?) While I’m certainly not suggesting you hit anyone—it works for a tiny cat, but let’s be reasonable—don’t feel guilty if you need to gently tell someone you need a minute, you need something explained to you, or you need a little more/less/different/fill-in-the-blank attention. Sometimes, it’s good to speak up about being uncomfortable—but seriously, don’t hit people to get that across.


4. Focus on you, when you need to.

Luckily, self-care has become the new hot thing, but that doesn’t mean we always remember to do it. Cats don’t have this problem. If Hyphen wants to groom, he will suddenly stop in the middle of zooming after a toy and start licking—if he wants to run, he will stop licking and zoom after something I can’t see. Often when I’m traveling or staying with people who are different than me, I not only get to engage in fun new things, but I also get to observe how self-care shows up differently for different people. Maybe it means meditating or getting your hair done or engaging in a little burst of exercise. Whatever it is, you need to take care of yourself to be sure you continue to enjoy the new experiences that come with traveling. For me, that sometimes means leaving my traveling companions to take care of myself. Hyphen doesn’t have that option, but he certainly finds ways to march to his own beat. Point being, don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) or guilt stop you from taking care of yourself.


5. Bring snacks.

This may not seem very Zen, but I promise you, if you get lightheaded, hangry, or dehydrated, you are not going to enjoy your travel experiences. Just like having treats and water make Hyphen comfy wherever he is, it’s important to keep yourself focused and hydrated, and your blood sugar at a normal level.

NOTE: Hyphen is a trained adventure cat who comes when called, is harness and leash trained, and has been vaccinated. He also has a carrier that he is in when the car is in motion. All adventures are undertaken with his safety his mind.



Photo Credit: Popel Arseniy/Shutterstock

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