Traveling With Your Cat: A Quick Guide

As a cat parent, you probably have many questions and concerns about bringing your kitty with you when you travel; especially if you are traveling by plane. Should I medicate him? Can my cat travel with me in the cabin? What are the best airline-approved cat carriers? I had all these questions and more when I traveled internationally with my cat for the first time. After all, my cat is part of my family and I wanted to keep him safe.

Just as you prepare well in advance when traveling by yourself, you need to plan accordingly when traveling with a cat. First, you should check with your vet to be sure your cat is both healthy for air travel. Cat breeds like the Burmese and Persian could be susceptible to breathing problems due to their snub noses. In addition, some sedation pills could cause problems during the flight, adding to the concern. Your vet should recommend the best anti-anxiety medication for your cat during travel.

The Airline’s Pet Policy

Once your cat is vet-approved for air travel, you should check your airline’s pet policies. Most airlines have pet-breed and age restrictions, and some airlines only allow pets to travel as cargo to certain destinations. In addition, some airlines don’t allow pets to travel on their international flights while others restrict the amount of pets in-cabin per flight. It’s important you thoroughly read the airline’s pet policies before booking your flight.

Most airlines charge a travel fee for a cat which can be as much as $200 for one-way in-cabin, so prepare to pay for your cat to fly with you. If you plan to travel with your cat in the cabin, nearly all airlines won’t let you choose your seat so keep that in mind while packing for your trip.

Please also keep in mind that your cat will need to have all his vaccinations up-to-date as most airlines require a health certificate from a licensed vet within 10 days of travel.

Best Cat Carrier for Air Travel

Once you receive vet approval and book your cat’s flight ticket, you need to be sure you have the best carrier to safely transport your cat. If you plan to travel with him in-cabin you will need a cat carrier that is small enough to easily fit under the seat in front of you. It can be hard or soft-sided with ventilation on at least two sides. Some airlines don’t accept hard-sided carriers so double check before buying the carrier.

You also need to make sure your cat can easily move around in the carrier. You want your kitty to be able to shift positions just as you do on a long flight. There are numerous cat carriers available for pet travel so be sure the one you choose includes: proper ventilation, a removable absorbent liner for possible cat messes, shoulder strap and side pockets for storing travel documents. You many also want to bring a favorite toy or small blanket for your cat.

Prior to traveling internationally with my kitty, I slept with his favorite blanket so he would have my scent with him in the carrier to bring comfort. In addition, you will need to bring collapsible bowls and some cat food and treats in case of flight delays or long layovers.

Getting Accustomed to the Carrier

Well in advance, you need to be sure your cat does not feel threatened inside his travel carrier. If the only time he has been in the carrier is on visits to the vet, then the mere site of it is likely to create increased anxiety. Place the carrier in a place in your home where your cat regularly spends time. Place his favorite blanket in it so he can perceive it as a place of rest. You can also place a toy near it or a few treats just inside it. You should also take your cat on a few short car rides to help him get accustomed to being in motion inside the carrier.

It might require a bit of preparation to successfully travel by air with your cat, but the effort is well-worth making the experience less stressful for both you and him. When I traveled internationally with my kitty, I was glad I took the time to properly prepare for it.


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