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Tips for flying with your cat

Updated on October 27, 2008

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Frequent flying felines


Frequent flier felines.....

Yes, the title is correct. It appears that more and more cat owners are traveling across states and countries and are bringing along their precious,furry four legged friends.

Inevitably, in many households it will occur sometime that due to a holiday vacation or due to a permanent move, pet owners will find themselves debating over the ifs and hows of bringing their pet along for some long distance roaming. In some cases traveling on the road even if for a lengthy journey may appear to be the prime reassuring choice for a worrisome cat owner. However, this may turn out to be time consuming and very lengthy.

Air travel may appear in many cases the most convenient way to go and in some cases it may turn out being the only option left.

We have all heard the front page horror stories of pets running loose on runways or worst dying from heat stroke on the tarmac. But as anything else, these are stories that "sell" such as plane crashes, cruise ships' rotten seafood, and actor's infidelities.

The truth is that there are so many pets traveling on planes each year that the accidents mentioned in newspapers are just a microscopic fraction. Of course, we should not underestimate these terrible happenings which are a pet owner's worst nightmare.

On the other hand, we must admit too that these happenings are also an airline's worst nightmare due to the bad reputation following a pet's accident or death.Airlines, therefore, are becoming more and more pet friendly, allowing pets on board even in the cabin nowadays. When traveling in cargo extra care is provided in assuring that personnel are professionally trained in pet handling and that the air is pressurized and the temperature properly controlled.

I have experienced first hand both cabin and cargo travel with my 8 year old Persian cat which has followed me throughout Italy, Germany and the United States.I really wished they made a frequent flier program for felines, I am sure by now she could have gotten many air miles.

Of course having the option to choose, I do prefer to bring her along with me in the cabin, just for peace of mind. I like to have her in sight right in front of me and hear an occasional meow now and then when lunch or a snack is served. My cat takes the flight well, maybe a meow while boarding the plane when the engine is real loud or when taking off, perhaps because her ears may be popping just as mine do.

If you are traveling with the cat along in the cabin be prepared: your pet will be an absolute attention grabber. I have not been on a flight without having a bunch of people around her like a celebrity boarding a private jet. She doesn't mind the commotion; at some times she even seems to enjoy the popularity. I must admit the flights with her in the cabin are the best, I have company, extra space for my legs since they usually give us the front row and flight attendants will always be extra nice and make sure to stop bye just to say hi.

I really love carrying her in her cute Sherpa bag.

However, a day had come when I had no other choice than to put her in cargo on an overseas flight and I must admit I was terrorized. The reasons were numerous, the weather, the fact that she never traveled in cargo before, and of course those famous front page" horror stories".

Fortunately, I did a lot of research before hand and found a lot of reassuring information.

First of all, most airlines had an embargo rule, which meant that they would not accept the pet on board if the temperature was too cold or too hot during any part of the itinerary because they were aware that the pet's health would consequently risk being in stake.This may be very annoying for the owner because he/she cannot know how cold or hot it would be until the actual day of the flight and therefore there must be a back up plan if the pet is not accepted. However, this is undeniable proof that the airlines care for you pet's wellbeing.

In hot temperatures snub nosed breeds are at particular risk of having breathing problems and more stringent restrictions may apply. When I took my cat along it was winter so this was not much a concern. There were however limits on flying pets if it was too cold. To play it safe I had my vet prepare a form which stated the temperatures my cat could withstand. My vet also strictly prohibited giving her any sedatives (no Acepromazine!) because they would impair her ability to balance herself if turbulence would be encountered.

I also made sure to find a proper carrier with three openings on each side to assure enough air flow (it must be IATA approved) and stuck a tape with the word Live Animal' and This way up' to to prevent rough handling.I also attached a nice picture of kitty and wrote the flight number and the following cute note:

"Hello, my name is Miccola and I am an 8 year Persian. This is my first time flying in cargo, so I am a little bit nervous. Please take good care of me and ensure I have a great flight and I will be happy to fly with you again!"

Before departure, I also e- mailed a bunch of cat breeders that routinely shipped their cats via cargo and asked them about their experiences. I did not get one breeder saying that they had a bad experience. They were all very reassuring and one actually told me that they would loose much of their business if flying the pets was too dangerous.

Still, the day of the flight I was nervous, and when I had to leave her at the check in desk I found myself stupidly in tears along with people saying goodbye to two-legged family and friends.

The nine hour flight seemed long and I was praying we would not get any turbulence. Luckily, it turned out being a very smooth flight. Once landed at the Newark International though, I was getting more and more nervous because they were taking a long time to reunite us. I knew that pets were the last to be boarded and the first to be un-boarded so this was making me slightly anxious along with the other pet owners.

Then I saw from a distance her carrier on a big cart and there finally was Miccola, just as happy as I was to see her! She was perfectly fine and whispered the cutest meow.

I looked at her and thought to myself that there was really no need to worry because I noticed many other pets were being unloaded successfully just as her and I also thought who knows maybe sooner or later the frequent flier felines will become a reality!


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    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      If you have alternatives to flying and your cat is nervous by nature, sparing kitty from the whole flight experience would be a good idea.

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I wss thinking of leaving my old cst at home rather than flying with me. She even meow the hell of her life when we took her to rhe vet

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      Thank you MsLizzy. I wrote this article more than 5 years ago, and there are many things I would improve in my writing style looking at it today, but I would still do the same things if I had to fly any cat again. Seven cats in a truck sounds a bit overwhelming, but I am sure you could manage with the help of your daughter. Thanks for the votes up.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Very interesting, and well-researched, as I 'm sure I would do if I had to have my cats fly. However, it is unlikely, since I no longer can afford to travel anywhere further than a 3-hour drive by car, so that's how our cats would go, as well, were they to accompany us.

      But then again, I think I'd have to have my daughter come to kitty-sitting duties, as I'm not sure I could manage all 7 in the truck! LOL A single kitty traveling only a mile to the vet "sings" all the way there and back. ;-)

      Voted up, interesting, useful, shared and pinned.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      I am happy to hear that, they travel much better in the winter than the summer. Ours was a long 9 hour flight and shortly after landing in Philly it started snowing. The flight was fine, trouble started in the hotel room when in the middle of the night I couldn't find my cat and woke up the owners only to discover she was hiding in a small hole under the bed! I wish you and kitty a smooth flight!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This article calmed me down! I will be traveling with my Persian Cat in December, in-cargo and I was very scared!.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      If it helps you feel better, I have flown my Persian cat several times both in the cabin and the plane's belly both overseas or locally. Breeders ship Persian kitties all the time. Main concerns are embargo rules and overheating, avoid hot months, and if need be, fly in the evening or early morning. Don't sedate kitty. Will your kitty fly with you in the cabin? If so, it much less stressful, almost like flying a baby. Best wishes!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hello, I'm planning to fly with my cat from Mexico to USA, but I'm a little nervous with the fact that he is a persian, and some website and vets mention how short faced animals shouldn't travel by plane, so information is a little confusing. I really want him with me cause I will be away for 4 years, but I could not forgive myself if something happens to him.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      6 years ago from USA

      Happy you found my article on tips for flying your cat helpful, bon voyage!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ni post - looking to travel from New Zealand to Canada with my cat and this post calmed a lot of my fears. Cheers!

    • random theme profile image

      random theme 

      7 years ago

      This is my favorite hub thus far! I have been having the same thoughts since I plan on moving from NJ to CA within a year or 2. I have 3 cats and the thought of putting them in cargo really scares me. And my cats are pretty loud screamers when I take them to the vet, so I don't know if cabin would be an option either. Anyway, I loved this hub! And its not silly to be crying, I know I will be the biggest crybaby when the day comes..

    • tashurst profile image


      8 years ago from York, England

      Really nice hub. We recently flew with our cat Oscar from Italy to the UK and he had to go in cargo and it was a very stressful day but he came out of it as happy as Larry! I think we were more scared than him and here you really get a good idea of what's involved when you need to take a cat on a flight!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      8 years ago from USA

      Stacy, I was quite worried as well, guess this is just part of our tendencies to over worry for our furry friends! I have traveled with my kitty for 10 hours from New York to South Italy and everything was just fine. Just think that every day thousands of cats and dogs fly everyhwere across the globe~! Breeders also rely on planes to ship their precious cargo across the world and so do dog owners who compete with their dogs internationally.

      Lining the carrier with towels is helpful to absorb any ''mishaps'' but cats mostly tend to ''keep it'' because they are so clean! The dishes are often mandatory, one water container must be attached to the cage so to allow handlers to give her water should there be a delay. Many cat carriers already come with an outdoor water dish grasped to the cage. Many airlines also want a food dish and kibble taped on the cage so to feed as well in case of a delay. Make you check with the requirements of entering with your cat in the US. There are certain guidelines you must follow like your cat may need to be microchipped, have proof of rabies vaccination etc... Also check your airlines requirements when it comes to the carrier as each seem to have their own! This website may be helpful:

      Best wishes! And feel free to ask more questions!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello, I am in the military stationed in Bahrain, and am trying to research on how to take my cat with me. I have many long hours of flight ahead of me, upon my return to the states (colorado). This is the first time she will travel, and my first time traveling with a pet. I dont know if im worrying for nothing, or just stressing out over nothing. But if she travels with me in the flight, i want to make sure she is as confortable as can be. What would you recommend? I have seen where people have lines the carrier with baby diapers or paper towels. I have seen where people leave little dishes in there, for their cats to eat/drink. I have roughly around 19 hours of flight time, and they are not strait shots, is it possible in some airports to take your pet out and let them walk around so they are not cramped up all of the time? Thank you much for your help.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      8 years ago from USA

      Yes, cat and dog breeders do this all the time. You can ask airline companies if they ship pets via cargo or go with a company which specializes in shipping pets, this may tutn out quite expensive though. Here is an example

      If plausible and not too far you can also hire a company that transports pets through vans.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am trying to find a home for my beloved kitty, and thinking of sending him to live with family in another state rather than giving him up to a stranger. Is it possibly to send a kitty on a plain and have someone pick them up on the other side? I know it sounds cruel, but I don't know what else to do.


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