Flying in an airplane with a cat is an unusual experience for most of us. If you and your cat are facing a big move, or you’re just moving a foster kitty to her forever family, you may be facing an uncomfortable plane ride as part of that journey. The process of getting your beloved cat onto a plane and across the country or world isn’t complicated, but its many steps are likely unfamiliar. If you ever need to schlep Snowball to a faraway destination, remember this article!
1. Research and Choose your Airline
Aggregate ticket websites are a good place to find the cheapest ticket available. If you’re traveling with an animal, however, you have to consider the airline before the price. Research the policies each particular airline has on pets. What is the fee for bringing on an animal? What paperwork does the airline require, such as vaccination records and health certificates? Do you have a short-nosed cat? Are there any embargoes, holiday, or weather restrictions? What are the pet carrier minimum dimension for your pet? You can research most of the information off the airline’s website, and then contact the airline directly to double check it. You will also want to discuss with them whether your pet will be allowed in the cabin or placed in the cargo hold. Airlines limit the number of pets allowed in the cabin so you want to make your reservations early. Be informed as you don’t want to deal with any miscommunication when checking in on your travel day!
2. Visit your Vet
You want to inform your local vet that you’re planning to fly away with your cat. Only pets in good health will be allowed to travel. Your vet can recommend any stress-relief medications, make sure your cat is up to date on her vaccinations, and give you the paperwork you need for the airline. This step is a necessity, as you’ll have to provide certificates of health before your cat will be allowed on the plane. Plan your visit to the vet in advance of your flight, but not too far in advance! Records need to be relatively recent, typically dated within 10 days of your initial travel date. In addition, you’ll want to locate a vet in your new destination as well as check health and vaccination requirement information of the state or country you are planning to travel to. Some states or countries may require your pet to be quarantined upon arrival.
3. Go Shopping
This is the fun part! Make a list of everything you cat might need while in the cabin. First things first, you’ll need a carrier that’s the right size dimension to fit under the seat. If you already have a carrier, measure it to check that it’s not too big. Even if the carrier has a soft top that you could squish down to push it under the seat, the airline will likely not allow it. So find a carrier that is the right size, then deck it out.
You’ll want pee pads to line the bottom carrier’s floor. It’s recommended that you don’t feed your cat after midnight before the flight. This is to prevent vomiting and abdominal discomfort en route. But a water dish inside the carrier and plenty of pee pads will prevent any messes that you can’t easily clean up.
There are a lot of feline pheromone products that promise stress relief. Check them out before your trip to see if they work on your cat.
You might want to also consider a ThunderShirt. This is a shirt that your kitty wears. It is supposedly like a hug, and the gentle pressure it provides is meant to calm your cat. You are not allowed to remove your cat from the carrier during the flight so this might be a viable substitute for your own embrace.
Get a harness and a leash. While you can’t free your cat on the plane, you’ll be required to take him out of his carrier while going through security. If he’s especially wiggly, a harness might be necessary to prevent him from sprinting through the terminal.
Pack extra pee pads, Ziploc baggies of medication and food, wet wipes, paper towels, and latex gloves. If your cat does the unthinkable and poo’s, you want to clean it up before he begins an abstract painting on the walls of his carrier.
4. Plan Ahead and Prepare Your Cat
It’s inadvisable to surprise your cat with an immediate trip across the world. Pets know when we are preparing to leave somewhere. Your cat already knows something is up, even without the vet visits and the abundance of new toys. Preparing her early will help reduce stress on Departure Day.
Get her used to her carrier. Leave it out and open for her to explore and sniff out. Spray the inside with stress-reducing pheromones. Lure her inside with treats and catnip. Give her time to associate her carrier with a warm, comfortable atmosphere. If you are willing to sacrifice an old shirt or hoodie, you can line the carrier with it. Your kitty will likely be calmed by your scent.
As well, getting her used to the harness and ThunderShirt will help prevent dramatic flopping around on Departure Day. Have her wear it for increasingly longer intervals, until she doesn’t care (or at least doesn’t actively dislike it).
Have you had an experience traveling through the sky with a cat? Was it pleasant or persecuting? Do you have any good tips not mentioned above? We’d love to hear your stories. Safe travels!
About Michele Sarver
Michele is the owner of Totally Tails Pet Care Services. A Pet Sitting, Dog Walking and Dog Training business serving Stanwood, Camano Island, and Arlington, WA areas.