Can I bring my cat on Amtrak? The short answer is yes!
Amtrak now allows small animals aboard their trains. There are a few guidelines you need to adhere to in order to bring your cat on Amtrak. I’ve outlined a simple guide for you on how to do this.
Make a Pet Reservation
In order to bring your cat along with you on Amtrak, you will need to make a pet reservation. You can do this by calling a reservation agent at 1-800-USA-RAIL. If you want to do it in person you will have to find a staffed station and make a reservation that way. Pet reservations are strictly made on a first come first serve basis and they sell out rather quickly so it is important you do this in advance.
Pets are only permitted in the “coach” class so keep that in mind when planning a trip with your cat. You will also need to pay a pet fare to bring him aboard. The fare is $25.00 for each travel segment. Reservations with pets are limited to 7 hours total. This includes the transfer time between trains if you are doing a multiple-segment trip.
A Cat Carrier is Required
Pet owners are expected to provide a carrier before boarding the Amtrak. Click here to read my article about choosing the right sized cat carrier. The maximum allowed size of a carrier is 19″ x 14″ x 10.5″. The maximum weight of the carrier with the cat cannot be more than 20 pounds.
The cat carrier must be leak proof and provide enough ventilation to your cat. Amtrak will not be responsible if your little kitty suffocates during the train ride. They allow both hard and soft sided carriers. They also recommend that your cat can lay down in the carrier without touching any of the sides for maximum comfort during the ride. Your pet carrier also counts as one piece of your carry on baggage allowed.
Rules While in the Train
You must have your pet properly secured inside of the carrier while in stations and on the trains. Your cat must be with you at all times. While riding in the train, you must place the cat carrier underneath your seat. Do not place it underneath the seat in front of you like in an airplane. It must be directly underneath you in your seat. There is one exception to this and this is on Amtrak Cascade trains where you are able to place your cat carrier on the floor in front of the seat next to you.
Some routes aboard the Amtrak will designate a specific Coach care for the pets. Amtrak Cascades, Carl Sandburg, Illinois Zephyr, Illini, Saluki, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, Hiawatha and Missouri River Runner. On other pet friendly routes, you and your pet may ride in any Coach car.
Pet Check in and Paperwork
In order for Amtrak to confirm your pet’s eligibility, you will need to read and sign a Pet Release Agreement for each portion of travel. At a staffed station, you will need to check in no later than 30 minutes before you depart to take care of this confirmation. If you are at a non staffed station, the conductor will be the one confirming the pet eligibility and provide you with the document to sign.
Pet Age and Health
Unfortunately you can’t bring a brand new kitty with you. In order to bring your cat on Amtrak, your pet must be at least 8 weeks old. Your cat cannot have odor, be harmless, must behave himself, as well as require no attention during travel. It is solely up to Amtrak if they need to remove or prohibit your pet from traveling with you. Your pet must also be up to date on all vaccinations. You are assuming the liability for your pet when you sign the check-in document that is provided before the train ride.
Keeping Your Cat Calm
Depending on if your cat has traveled with you before or not, you have no idea how well your cat will react to the train ride. It may be a good idea to sedate your cat before your trip. Sedating your cat before a trip can help insure that he will behave in the carrier for prolonged periods of time. Being cramped in a small carrier can cause a lot of anxiety in a cat. This can cause cause your cat to be very loud during the trip by meowing or growling. Click here to read my article about how to sedate a cat for travel. I highly recommend this for first time travelers with your cat.
Litter Box and Pee Pads
It is best to not feed your cat before the trip. This will reduce the chance of your cat having to pee or poo inside of the carrier. This will not guarantee that your cat will not urinate or defecate in his carrier so it is smart to have a plan b. Lining your cat carrier with pee pads is one thing you can do to help with smell and odor from urine and feces.
If you are able to fit a litter box inside of your carrier than it would be best to use a travel litter box. These litter boxes are specifically designed for travel. You can either use a one-time use litter box or you can purchase a nice portable litter box. Click here to read my article about the best cat travel litter boxes.
Do I Need a Pet Passport?
No. You simply are not required to have a pet passport. Amtrak only states that your pet should be up to date on all vaccines. Having a passport for your kitty can make the reservation process easier, but is not required. However, a pet passport is required if you will be doing any sort of international travel. You can read my detailed article about pet passports if you are interested.
Bringing your cat on a train can be a nightmare if you are not well prepared. You will need to make sure to reserve a spot for your cat before the trip. Make sure the pet carrier you have you can use to bring your cat on Amtrak. Look into a good cat sedative before the trip to help calm your cat before the train ride. Be prepared when your cat has to go to the bathroom by providing him with all the essentials like a litter box or pee pads.
If you follow this outlined guide before you book your trip with your cat, I assure you that you will be more than ready to take your cat on Amtrak.