How To Take Your Cat On A Plane
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The thought of travelling on a plane with your cat can feel a little daunting. But sometimes it is a necessity. We may be travelling a long distance and a plane is our only option.
While it may be daunting, there are many things you can do prepare and be ready. To help you we asked our community how they prepare, and travel on planes with their cats.
Thinking About Travelling With Your Cat
Before booking a flight for your cat and you, we suggest you think about your cat and whether you really need to fly.
Perhaps the trip you are doing could be done as a one day road trip. This may be a better option if that works for you and your cat.
However, you know your cat the best. Perhaps if they are well travelled, they would be comfortable with a flight. At the end of the day, whether you fly with your cat really depends on you, your cat and the trip you are taking. To be honest, you never really know whether you cat can go on a plane, till you try it.
Rules and Regulations
The rules and requirements about cats on planes vary based on countries, states, regions and airlines.
There could also be variances in the paperwork you require, or the carriers you use or even how you book your flight. Research the requirements for your trip beforehand. It may actually be easier to call the airline to make sure you understand what you need to do for your whole plane trip.
Cabin vs Cargo
Our recommendation is that you only take your cat on a plane if you can take them in the cabin with you. This might have an extra fee associated with it, but it helps you ensure that you are with your cat at all times and can reassure them if need be.
Travelling With Your Cat in Cargo
However, some countries (like Australia) & states do not allow you to take you cat in the cabin with you. In these situations, your cat will be travelling in a carrier in the cargo hold.
Prior to your flight, speak to the airline about their requirements for feeding and water. Some may let you have some water in your cat’s crate while others may not. Similarly, they may have requirements on the type of crate you can use. Our recommendation is that you do not use your cat’s backpack as their crate as this may be awkward in the cargo. A hard box like crate would work better.
When flying with your cat in cargo, we suggest that you remind the flight staff that your cat is in the cargo. This is so that they can ensure that the temperature in the cargo hold is adjusted to a relevant level for your kitty.
Similarly, if there are flight delays, ask the airline staff where your cat is. This is particularly important if it is an extremely hot or cold day. While you may feel like you are annoying the staff, it just helps ensure that your kitty is safe.
Booking Your Flight
Once you have decided where you are flying to and what airline to travel with, it is time to book both your and your kitty’s plane tickets.
Our suggestion is that you try and book a flight without a layover. However, if you need to have a layover, it may be ideal to have a longer layover so that you and your cat can leave the airport and stretch their legs and have a toilet break.
When to Travel
We also suggest that you avoid travelling during peak times as there will be less crowds that may spook your cat. And, if your cat has a time of the day when they have the zoomsies, try and avoid this too – last thing you want is a kitty trying to zoomsies in their carrier on a plane.
Airlines may have different rules for tickets for your cat.
Before booking your (i.e. human) tickets, call the airline to check if there is room for your cat in cabin (or cargo). This is because some airlines limit the number of animals that can go in the cabin (or cargo). Furthermore, many airlines only allow you to take one cat per person.
There is also likely to be a ticketing charge for your cat and you will have to reserve a ticket for your cat.
Before you go
Once you have booked your tickets, it is time to prepare for your trip.
We highly recommend that you prepare in advance, particularly if this is your cat’s first flight.
The carrier you use will need to be an airline approved carrier. We recommend that you check the requirements with your airline as they may vary.
It is likely that your carrier will be different to your cat’s backpack and stroller. As such it is important to train your cat to feel safe in their airline carrier. Even if your flight is just 2 hours long, there is a chance that they might be in the carrier for 7 to 8 hours.
You can use the same process you used for backpack/stroller training, and we suggest starting this a month in advance.
Your cat also needs to get used to being in the carrier for a long period of time. Our suggestion is that you take them for car rides in their carrier. These can start as short rides and become longer ones. This will be particularly useful if your cat is used to roaming in the car and may not be used to being in a carrier for a long period of time.
On the day of your flight, prepare your cat’s carrier so that it is comfortable. Perhaps you can use a soft blanket that they like and include a few of their favourite toys. We also recommend that you place a dog pee pad on top of the blanket, just in case your kitty has an accident.
One of the benefits of a cat stroller is that it doesn’t hurt your back. If your cat is used to a stroller, you can take your stroller with you and place the airline approved stroller.
The stroller will be treated like a child’s stroller, in that you tag it, leave it next to the entrance to the plane and then pick it up on the other side.
However, we recommend that you also check if this is ok with your airline.
We suggest you speak to your vet about medication that you can use for your cat that will help them relax on the flight. In saying that, you know your cat the best and know whether they will need something.
If you do use any medication, we suggest that you test it out a week beforehand, just so that you know the impact on your cat. The last thing you need is an allergic reaction or a mess on the day you fly.
We also recommend that you ensure that your cat is fully vaccinated prior to travel. If you are travelling overseas, it is likely that your cat may need extra vaccinations for your destination. For example a cat travelling from Australia to the US will need to get a rabies vaccination, which is not common in Australia but is required in the US.
With any type of travel, there is always a fear that you may get separated from your cat.
With that in mind, we recommend that your cat is microchipped and your details are up to date. We also highly recommend that you have a nametag on your cat, either on their collar or harness or both.
And if you want to go the extra distance, we suggest you use a pet tracker.
In the rare instance that you do get separated from your cat, we suggest you carry a printed photo of them (just in case your phone runs out of battery).
The paperwork you need for your cat may vary from airline to airline and country to country. We recommend that you ask the airline about this when you book your flight.
In saying that we recommend that you always carry a statement from your vet stating that your cat is in good health, has been vaccinated and dewormed. It may also be easier to carry all their vaccination certificates.
If you are travelling overseas, you may also need a pet passport.
Kitty Plane Travel Kit
We suggest that you have Kitty Plane Travel Kit that you keep with your carry on.
Ideas for your Kitty Plane Travel Kit are:
Your cat’s favourite treats
Travel cat litter box (you can use a shoe box that has been cut to 2 inches high)
Cat litter in a zip lock bag (3kg or 6.6lb helps you stay below the carry on weight requirements)
Small toys/comfort items
A small towel
Wet wipes (unscented)
Zip lock bag of food
2/3 light weight gloves for cleaning
On the Day
We suggest that you stop feeding your cat several hours before your flight, so that they do not need to go to the bathroom on the fight.
However, we do recommend that you keep treats on hand just in case you need to lure them back into the crate while at the airport or if they need to be calmed down.
If your cat is very energetic, we suggest going for a walk or having some play time on the day of your flight. This will help make them sleepy and stop them from being restless on the flight.
Get to The Airport
We recommend that you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. This will help ensure that you are calm, and not stressed.
Getting Through Security – USA
Security requirements may vary based on which country of state you are in. Research the security requirements and prepare for these before your trip.
Private Screening Room – TSA USA
While going through security in the US, you can ask a TSA officer for a private screening. This means that you will be screened in a private room. This is ideal as it ensures that your cat does not have to deal with the crowds and fuss of the TSA screening area.
This option will not be offered, so you will have to ask for it.
Sometimes, it is not possible to get the private room (as you may be late) or your cat may be super calm and crowds are not a concern.
If you have to go through the TSA security screening it is likely that you will have to take you cat’s harness and collar off as they may contain metal. You will then walk through the detector while holding your cat close to you. You may also be asked to hold out your hands to be swabbed (while holding your cat),
We also recommend that you place your cat’s zip lock bags of cat litter and food on a separate tray as it is likely that they will be picked up in the x-ray machine.
If you have TSA pre check, the lines will be shorter and may be easier to navigate with your cat.
About 30 to 45 minutes before your flight, we suggest giving your cat the opportunity to use the bathroom before boarding your flight.
Some airports have pet relief stations that you can use. If you cannot find these, you can use a family bathroom with a door. Our suggestion is that you set up your cat litter tray with a little bit of cat litter. You can remove their business using the doggy bags while wearing your gloves.
In order to keep your cat calm, we suggest being one of the last to board.
On the Flight
Your cat might need some comfort during the flight. This may be challenging as they may not be allowed out of their carrier. If this is the case, provide them with a lot of verbal reassurance and some pats that you can sneak in.
If they are comfortable with eating, you can provide them with a few treats. This is especially useful straight after take-off as it helps their ears pop.
In order to keep your cat hydrated, ask for non-flavoured water and put a few drops on your fingers and offer it to your cat to lick.
It is also important to bear in mind that turbulence may cause some air sickness in your cat. In these instances the pee pads and wet wipes are your friend. These are also especially useful if your cat has a bathroom accident.
We love the idea of downloading and playing your cat’s favourite video for cats on your phone. This will help keep them distracted.
Stream their favourite cat video from YouTube on your phone to keep them distracted.
If your cat is feeling overwhelmed, you can cover their carrier with a blanket. If you do this make sure you check on them to ensure they are still ok and are not overheating.
However, some cats prefer to be able to see their owner and what is going on around them.
When You Land
When you land, we suggest you find a location for your cat to go to the bathroom, like a pet relief station or a family bathroom.
If you are relocating overseas, there are several pet relocation companies that may be able to help you including:
Have you travelled on a plane with your cat? We would love to hear all about it!