Do you have an upcoming trip that requires you to fly with your cat? Maybe you’re moving across the country or just bringing your cat along with you on a vacation. Either way, the thought of flying with your cat can be overwhelming. With proper training and preparation though, it can also be an exciting adventure!
Here are some helpful tips to make flying with your cat as easy and stress-free as possible!
1. Research the rules for flying with a cat – each airline is different!
The rules for flying with a cat vary from airline to airline. In general though, there will be regulations regarding:
- How many pets are allowed per flight
- How many pets are allowed per paying adult passenger
- How many pets are allowed in a single carrier
- The age of the pet
- The need for a health certificate and up-to-date vaccinations
- Whether your cat counts as a carry-on or personal item
- The dimensions and specifications for accepted cat carriers
2. You will need an airline-approved cat carrier.
If your cat will be traveling with you in-cabin (which is recommended), be sure to purchase an airline-approved carrier! Each airline has their own specific regulations when it comes to pet carriers, but generally, you need a carrier that:
- Fits under the seat in front of you
- Allows sufficient room for your cat to stand up and turn around in
- Has a waterproof bottom
- Has adequate ventilation
Before purchasing a carrier, be sure to check with the airline you are flying with for their specific requirements.
3. It will be more expensive to fly with your cat.
All airlines require some sort of pet fee for your cat to travel with you. Some of them can be quite expensive.
Also, keep in mind that your cat counts as one carry-on or personal item, so you may have to check a bag if your airline only allows for one carry-on item. Checked bags add even more expense. Be familiar with all the associated fees so you aren’t surprised when you get to the airport!
4. Start carrier training your cat long before your trip.
Since your cat will have to be confined to a carrier for an extended period of time, you want to make sure your cat is comfortable riding in one. Carrier training can take some time, so be sure to start the process a few weeks, if not months, before your trip.
Cat Carrier Training Tips:
- Leave the carrier out for your cat to investigate on their own
- Put treats and/or catnip inside to entice your cat to go in
- Feed your cat inside the carrier
- Leave the carrier out at all times so your cat begins to see it as a bed/safe space
- Once your cat is okay with the carrier in the house, take your cat for short car rides while riding in the carrier
- Increase the distance of your car rides
- Reward with treats throughout the process so your cat always associates the carrier with positive things.
5. You should take your cat to the vet to get a health certificate.
While not all airlines require a health certificate for your cat to travel, some do. Even if the airline doesn’t require it, the state you’re traveling to may. To make sure you have all your bases covered and to make sure your cat is healthy and approved for air travel, make an appointment for a wellness check with your veterinarian.
Note: Health certificates usually need to be obtained within 10 days of travel.
6. Factor in extra time for the check-in process the day of your flight.
With the addition of a cat traveling companion, there are extra factors to consider when planning your timeline for travel day. When you check-in for your flight, you will need to also check-in your cat. The security checkpoint take longer (see tip #7). Your cat may need to use the bathroom at some point along the way as well. Be sure to allow yourself extra time to deal with any and all of these expected or unexpected obstacles by arriving at the airport earlier than you would if you were flying alone.
7. You will have to take your cat out of the carrier at the TSA Security Checkpoint.
When you get up to the security checkpoint, you will have to take your cat out of the carrier before walking through the scanners and metal detectors. The carrier goes on the belt through the X-ray machine with all the carry-on and personal items, but you have to carry your cat with you through the scanners. Some TSA agents may even require you to take your cat’s harness and leash off before walking through the scanners. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent policy on this, but be prepared either way.
8. You may ask for a private security screening.
Obviously going through the TSA security checkpoint with a cat has the potential to be extremely stressful, especially if your cat doesn’t do well with noisy situations. If you think you or your cat might not handle the checkpoint well, you have the option to ask for a private security screening instead.
You would do this once you arrive at the security checkpoint. A TSA agent will then take you to a private room for your screening. Understand that a private screening will take longer than going through the regular checkpoint, so be sure to factor that into your plans!
9. Have your cat’s treats accessible at all times!
To reward your cat for their good behavior and to help keep them calm, giving treats throughout the day is a good idea. Not only will it make your kitty happy, it can give you an insight into how your cat is feeling. Cats won’t usually take treats if they are too stressed.
Also, during takeoff and landing, your kitty may become uncomfortable and stressed. There is a lot of noise after all, and the pressure changes affect their ears the same as yours. To help them equalize the pressure, you can give them a few treats.
For more tips for flying with a cat as well as tips to keep your cat calm in-flight, check out Emily’s full article about flying with cats on KittyCatGO’s website.
Emily Hall is a pet blogger who writes about all things related to adventure and travel with cats. She also raises awareness for and educates about cerebellar hypoplasia, a neurological disorder one of her adventure cats, Sophie, lives with. You can read her articles on cat adventure training, gear, safety, and more on her site KittyCatGO. You can also read about her and her cat’s adventures on Kitty Cat Chronicles.