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Flying With a Cat

Updated on September 2, 2020
Bob Schroeder profile image

I love my cats and I enjoy having them on my trips where ever I go. It took me a lot of trials and tribulations to get airline travel right

Enjoy Your Travels With a Cat

Pet Transport Can be Tricky


Wouldn't you like to travel on an airline with your cat, knowing that you have all the information you need, and because of that your cat will be safe and happy?

If you are like most cat owners, then you are probably also a "cat lover". "Cat lovers" are always looking for ways to take care our loving little friends.

We buy them the goumet food, pamper them with soft little beds and even get them pet gold fish, so they have something to watch all day long. You know how wonderful it is when your cat actually comes over to you and gives you that little "purr" that says THANKS.

♥ But what happens when you have to go on an airline trip with your cat ♥

With today's mobility and with friends and family living thousands of miles away, it is very common for hundreds of people each day, to be traveling with their cat.

Although most cats will tell that they would rather stay at home in their nice comfortable little environment, this isn't possible all the time.

Some cats have to go to a kennel or to the house of a friend, but other lucky?? cats get to travel with their owners on the airplane.

If you have ever had the experience of traveling with your cat, in a car, on a boat or in a plane, then you know how difficult and stressful it can be, for you and your cat.

Cats can be World Travelers if Given the Chance

How cute is this
How cute is this | Source

Airline Travel Carriers for Your Cat

Cat carriers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Get the one that you feel will give your cat the most comfort. You can have your cat in the cabin with you or you can check him or her as baggage. Either way you will need a good solid carrier that can withstand some banging and knocking in the plane.

I always put one of the cat's toys and a blanket in the crate with them, that way they feel more at home. Once they smell their own scent, they can relax and get rid of their fear.

Airline travel can be a disaster or it can be a smooth experience for you and your cat.

Carriers are Very Important

EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier (3 Year Warranty, Airline Approved), Multiple Sizes and Colors Available (Medium: 17" L x 9" W x 12" H, Sky Blue)
EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier (3 Year Warranty, Airline Approved), Multiple Sizes and Colors Available (Medium: 17" L x 9" W x 12" H, Sky Blue)
For a small cat that you want in the airplane cabin with you, this carrier is ideal. I found that this soft side is great for slipping under the seat or holding between my feet. My cat likes the soft sides and just curls up and relaxes during the flight.

Note To Self

Always plan ahead

Remember that my cat can travel 3 ways

The airlines will take good care of my cat

My cat will need to be inspected, just like luggage

Understand The Rules And Regulations Of Flying With Pets

Not Getting Information Is Like Starting A Trip Without A Map

I had some really bad trips (or should I say HORRIBLE TRIPS) with my cat on an airplane, I was stressing myself out , and almost ruining my trips. For my own sanity and for the comfort and safety of my cat I decided to figure out the process and what I had to do for my own sanity and for the comfort and safety of my cat.

After all was said and done I finally figured out one great truth, your planning and information gathering pertaining to airline travel with a cat will pay off great dividends in the long run.

There are many things to consider.

Do I have to purchase an airline pet carrier that has been approved by the airlines; will my cats airline carrier or crate fit under the seat in front of me; if I ship my cat as cargo, will the transport crate meet the approved dimensions; will my cat be allowed out of its airline carrier during the trip; and what will the temperature be along the route. If your cat can't travel in the cabin with you because of size or if the airline cat carrier is too big, then they can be shipped as checked baggage and another size of cat crate can be used.

New regulations are coming out every day that apply to you and your traveling cat. Each airline will have their own restrictions and rules, always check with them to make certain that you have met the criteria.

CATS ARE GREAT COMPANIONS - Transporting them sometimes becomes a problem

Airlines do Welcome Your Cat

Cats Travel Many Different Ways

How do you travel with your cat?

See results

There Are Restrictions On Type Of Cat


Are There Any Age Or Breed Restrictions On Airline Travel?

YES, Make Sure You Know What They Are

Most Airlines require that your cats be at least eight (8) weeks old for travel. In fact the USDA requires that your pet must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling.

I disagree with the cat only being 8 weeks old. I actually believe that pets should not be sold before 12 weeks old, this gives the mother a chance to socialize and teach the pet all the things that mothers teach their young.

An 8 week old kitten that is put on an airplane is, in my opinion, at risk and I don't recommend you doing so at that young age.

Many airlines have restrictions on the breed of cat that can travel on a plane.

Generally speaking, any snub nose pet (dog or cat) can't be shipped. One of the reasons is the change of pressure that is experienced when the plane gains altitude. Always check with the airline if you have: Burmese, Himalayan, Persian or an Exotic Shorthair. Some airlines only have restrictions at certain times of the year. NEVER FLY WITHOUT CHECKING THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FIRST.

Should I Sedate My Cat For Travel???

To Sedate Or Not To Sedate--Here Are My Thoughts

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases cats and dogs should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying.

An animal's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation, which can be dangerous when the kennel is moved.

I am in complete agreement with the AVMA, I think what it would be like for a rag doll in a cage and how much it could be thrown around during turbulence or even during landing and take off.

I did sedate a dog once, but only because it was so wild it wouldn't go into a crate and the Vet gave me pills just in case this happened. I didn't like the idea, but it was my son's dog and he insisted that I ship it, even if it had to be sedated. Had it been my dog I would not have done it.

Get All The Information You Need

Never assume that you know all there is to know about traveling with your pet.

Read all you can, research many sites and ask a lot of questions.

Your Cat Must Go Through Security and Screening

How will your cat be treated before traveling?

This information comes from the TSA website

Our security procedures do not prohibit you from bringing a pet on your flight. You should contact your airline or travel agent, however, before arriving at the airport to determine your airline's policy on traveling with pets.

Security Screening

You will need to present the animal to the Security Officers at the checkpoint. You may walk your animal through the metal detector with you. If this is not possible, your animal will have to undergo a secondary screening, including a visual and physical inspection by our Security Officers.

Your animal will NEVER be placed through an X-ray machine. However, you may be asked to remove your animal from its carrier so that the carrier can be placed on the X-Ray machine.

The Most Important Thing To Remember

Hundreds of cats are shipped every year without incidence. The airlines will do their best to make sure that your cat will have a safe and comfortable flight.

You must provide the correct size carrier and proper papers.

Your Cat Can Travel As Checked Baggage

If the cabin is full or your carrier too big, there are other options

If your cat or carrier is too big to fit under the seat in front of you, then the next best thing is to send them as CHECKED BAGGAGE. To some people, this sounds just horrible.....but keep this in mind...the airline will provide your cat with as safe and comfortable a trip as possible. This means that you will take the cat to the reservations desk and then check them in, just as you would with your large suitcases and other checked luggage. Curbside and self check in are not allowed, when checking in a cat as baggage. Most airlines do not require reservations for a pet that is being checked as never hurts to call the airline and confirm that there will be room.

One of the first things you should do, is check the weather for your departure point and your destination. All airlines will have restrictions on temperature. If the temperature is going to be below freezing or above 85 degrees, your pet may not be able to go. Check with your airline for their exact weather restrictions.

Your cats carrier needs to be constructed out of rigid plastic, wood, or metal with solid roofs, it should have wheels that can be removed, it needs to have handles on the outside of the carrier, must close securely but not with locks. Make sure you have a sign on the carrier that says "LIVE ANIMAL". Put bedding in the carrier and paper towels in case they "potty". Don't forget the food and water!!!! These must be in dishes that are attached to the inside of the carrier and can be accessed by the baggage handlers. On most airlines, the maximum weight for cat and crate combined is 100 pounds. Carrier maximum size will be about 40" long X 27" W X 30" H.

Make certain that you have all your cats health records with you. Most airlines will require certificate of health before you can load your pet.

Cats Can Also Be Shipped As Cargo

Even if you can't make the trip your cat can.

There are many occasions when a cat might have to travel by itself. Even though you may not want to do this, you can be sure that airlines do this all the time and will take very good care of your pet. A little pre-planning on your part will ensure that your cat will have a journey with as little stress as possible. Just following a few basic rules of thumb will be very helpful.

***Make sure that your pets shots are up to date and you have your VET give you a copy of all their medical records and certificates.

***Check the weather at the departure and arrival points and other points in between. Too hot or too cold will stop your cat from traveling.

***Make reservations for your cat 3 days in advance of the departure date.

***Find out where the cargo area is for your airline and their hours of operation.

***Have your cat at the cargo area about 4 hours before the flight

***Weight of cat and crate can't exceed 100 pounds

***Crate size should be around 40 X 27 X 30, but check with the airline for exact size requirements

***Have food and water in bowls that can be attached to the inside of the crate

***Bring a lease in case you have to remove the cat during an inspection by a TSA representative.

***DO NOT sedate your cat, they cannot travel when sedated

***Have bedding in their crate so they are comfortable when lying down

Costs for this service vary with airlines, but count on $100 to $150.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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