Most pet owners that live in cities will have to take their pet on public transport at some point, and it’s an experience that needs some preparing for. Many of us are also trying to cut down on our emissions, are taking public transport is a great way to travel that is kinder on the environment. However, public transport can be stressful for both you and your pet, so we have compiled this handy guide to help you before you step onto that bus, train, tram or tube.
The best time to get your dog or cat used to public transport is whilst they are still young. It can be an intimidating experience for a tiny puppy or kitten, but doing this regularly when they’re small will help avoid issues when they’re older. This is especially important for kittens as getting them used to being in a carrier will make travelling and vets visits so much easier for you both. For adult pets that might be new to the whole thing, remember to take it slow. Introduce them to the idea bit by bit, try travelling just one stop at a time, or maybe just taking them into the tube station so they can get used to the sounds and smells. Be sure to take treats and distractions with you and always look out for signs of stress. If your pet is starting to look distressed, get them out of the situation as quickly and calmly as you can.
Be sure to double check that your pet is definitely allowed to travel with you before embarking on your journey. Always check the service providers website, they will usually have very clear pet policies that you can follow. If you are ever unsure, be sure to call or email the travel company so you don't get caught out. In 2016, the New York subway banned all dogs unless they could fit in a bag. This decision lead to many humorous solutions, with owners putting their pups in tote bags, backpacks and, in one viral image, a pitbull in an Ikea bag with holes cut out for the legs. Whilst many of these images are funny to see, it is important to follow the rules properly and keep your pet as comfortable and safe as possible, so we don't recommend trying to bend the rules yourself.
Most major cities allow dogs to travel for free, but there are occasions when that’s not the case. For example, our local train provider Southeastern allows a maximum of two small dogs on a lead or other small domestic animals free of charge. For each additional animal, a fee of up to a maximum of £5 for a single and £10 for a return will be charged. Pets other than dogs must be carried in a fully enclosed pet carrier with dimensions not exceeding 85 x 60 x 60 cm and cannot be taken out of their basket or carrier. Most bus providers allow dogs onboard for a small fee, often no more than 50p whereas cats in carriers often occur no charge. Rules often vary between services, so be sure to read up before you leave the house so you are fully prepared.
Image via Blue Cross / Helen Yates
We all know how important it is for our furry friends to stay cool so that they don't overheat, but on public transport it can be difficult to keep track of the temperature. Cats in carriers will often be hotter than the outside temperature and if they are stressed this will only increase. London’s underground often reaches roasting temperatures, peaking at 42C last year, which is enough to fry humans and pets alike. Dogs are much less able to regulate their body temperature than us as they don’t sweat, so summer days are probably a definite no-go on summer days. Instead, skip the underground and instead opt for a window seat on the bus where you can get some air and cool yourselves off a little.
Finally, before em-bark-ing on your journey, we recommend doing your best to make sure that all your pets needs are taken care of. For dogs, we would advise taking them for a good long walk before travelling to help them burn off their excess energy as well as giving them a chance to empty their bladders to avoid any accidents on board the bus or train. Similarly, we would recommend trying to calm energetic kitties by playing with them before travelling. You could also try natural, calming drops for cats and dogs that are made from calming herbs and minerals if you find your pet is particularly anxious or energetic when travelling. If this is something you think your pet would benefit from, consult your vet to find out what product is best for you.
We hope these top tips helped you prepare for any upcoming journeys you and your four-legged friend are embarking upon! If you are looking for further guidance, we recommend checking out the Blue Cross guide for travelling with your dog. Do you take your pet on public transport? Let us know your top tips below!