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Festive travel, owners putting pets first

As Christmas approaches, Brits will be planning their travel so they can spend the festive season with their loved ones, but if you're a pet owner, your loved one may face being left behind. Research conducted by Virgin Trains between 11 – 17 November found many owners will avoid travel or even drop their plans altogether for the sake of their four-legged family members.

Over half of the 2,000 pet owners polled admitted avoiding travel to prevent separation anxiety, whilst nearly half of UK pet owners have sacrificed or changed their plans for the sake of their pet. Twenty-one per cent cut their trip short, while over a quarter (27 percent) have avoided travelling and pet sitting entirely, and ask friends and family to visit them instead.

There's also the financial aspect to consider as it's estimated owners are hit with £100-plus per week bill to leave their pets behind with boardings kennels or pet sitters. But the research also found that the cost of flying with a pet between London and Scotland could add almost £1,500 to an airfare.

Lead the way: Helping families come together this Christmas, Virgin Trains welcomes up to two dogs, cats or other small domestic animals with every customer.

Lead the way: Helping families come together this Christmas, Virgin Trains welcomes up to two dogs, cats or other small domestic animals with every customer.

Animal behaviour expert, Marc Abraham said, "Being apart from your pet can be a very stressful experience. Many people report suffering from anxiety when separated from their pet, making them reluctant to leave them over Christmas. When it comes to flying, our furry companions can also get a little anxious whilst in the hold and away from their owners, so it is always best to travel together if possible."

Virgin Trains will be welcoming pets onboard its trains on the east and west coast routes between London and Scotland at no extra cost.

Graham Leech, Group Commercial Director of Virgin Trains, commented, "At Virgin Trains, we’re all about providing the best possible customer experience, whatever your species. We’ve welcomed cats, dogs, birds and even the odd snake on board, all with their owners of course! With frequent services between London and many destinations in Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, we believe we provide the happiest, most comfortable and affordable option for customers and their pets heading off for Christmas."

Admiring the view: Helping families come together this Christmas, Virgin Trains welcomes up to two dogs, cats or other small domestic animals with every customer.

The rail operator has worked with Marc Abraham to create some top tips on how owners can prepare themselves and their pets for travel over Christmas:

Prep your pet for long trips:

  • Take your pet on a series of short trips before covering long distances by train - animals will feel at ease in a train carriage if they have experienced practice rides
  • Ensure your pet is happy spending time in a travel carrier e.g. by placing their food dish inside the carrier and leaving them in the confined space for brief periods 

Provide identification for your pet

  • As well as ensuring your pet is micro-chipped for identification, buy a temporary travel tag for the duration of the train journey and carry a current photograph of your pet so that if you are separated they can be easily identified 

Pack a pet-friendly travel kit

  • Pack pet food, treats, bottled water, bedding, litter box, leash, and any necessary medications. Animals will also need a container to eat and drink from. Packing a few of your pet's favourite toys will comfort your animal, giving them something familiar to play with, reminding them of home 

Practise socialising your animal

  • Ensure your pet is used to busy places. Ideally, this should be done from a young age as socialising your pet develops their confidence in dealing with all types of new conditions
  • Get your pet used to new experiences they may encounter outside of the home and in a train carriage. This will teach them to be outgoing and friendly, compared to a lack of socialisation that may lead to anxiety and fear of the unknown