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Airline Regulations For Cat Travel

Updated on April 12, 2008

Air Travel for Domestic Cats - Updated: 04/12/08

Airlines have been transporting household pets since the early days of aviation history. Air carriers are committed to providing safe and comfortable transportation for your pet with the least amount of risk and anxiety for both owner and pet.

As a pet owner considering air transportation there are some things important to know that apply to animal transportation in general.

Rules and regulations governing animal transportation do vary by airline. See links below.

Each airline reserves the right to accept or deny the animal for transportation when presented to the air carrier.

There are three ways pets are transported on an airline:

In the passenger compartment along with the passenger.

As excess baggage, traveling on the same airplane as the passenger but in the cargo compartment.

As air freight or cargo. In this case the animal travels without the owner or handler in the cargo compartment of the aircraft.

Advance arrangements are required by all carriers. The owner should contact the airline at least four weeks in advance of the travel date to make necessary arrangements and learn of any special requirements for transportation.

All airlines place an embargo on animals being transported as excess baggage or air freight during periods of temperature extremes. During these times animals can still be carried in the passenger cabin.

Maximum outside air temperature allowed when your pet is traveling in the baggage compartment or as air freight is 85˚ F. (Because of high summer temperatures some airlines will not accept pets as baggage or freight from May 15 to September 15 of each year)

Certain cat breeds cannot be transported if the temperature is above 75˚ F. (Himalayan, Persian, Exotic and Burmese)

Minimum outside air temperature allowed to accept a pet for transportation is 10˚ F. These temperature guidelines are based on the actual or forecasted temperature at both the departure city and the destination city. It also applies to each intermediate city your animal will be transiting. Remember, the airline has final word as to whether or not the animal will be accepted for transportation.

All airlines require that pets travel in a container or kennel which meets the minimum criteria for size, strength, sanitation and ventilation established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Click here to obtain a fact sheet from the USDA entitled Traveling by Air with your Pet, which discusses these minimum standards.

If your pet is going to accompany you in the cabin of the aircraft it must be in a kennel at all times, and the kennel must be able to fit securely under the seat in front of you. This generally means that your kennel cannot be larger than: 18”L x 13”W x 9”H or 40” in total dimensions.

A health certificate may be required if you are shipping your pet as freight or air cargo. Generally, airlines do not require health certificates if your pet will accompany you in the cabin of the aircraft. Even if the airline does not require a health certificate it is still up to the owner to know if one is required by the state into which you are traveling. For clarification on current requirements it is a good idea to check with your veterinarian.

The use of tranquilizers is usually frowned upon by airline personnel. The reason for this is that tranquilizers can have an unpredictable affect on your pet at high altitude. If you plan to sedate your pet you must have a written consent from your veterinarian and that consent form must be attached to the kennel. Be aware that airline personnel cannot administer medication to your pet enroute.

Service animals trained to assist the passenger are permitted by most carriers at no additional cost. Medical documentation may be required and the animal must be with the passenger at all times.

Any information contained herein is subject to change with or without notice. The airline makes the final determination as to whether or not it will accept the animal for transportation. For the latest information and requirements contact the carrier directly at least four weeks before your intended travel date.

For more airline specific information click on the airline you plan to travel.

Northwest Airlines

American Airlines

Delta Airlines

Helpful Links:

USDA pet travel websites

Tom Kartes


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    • Paulart profile image

      Paulart 6 years ago from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001

      Wow amazing hub.I am really glad to read this kind of information.

    • profile image

      Traveling Tips 6 years ago

      By experience, I found that traveling with a cat is harder than traveling with a dog.