Flying With Cats in 2023: Everything You Need to Know
If you’re anything like me, your cat is part of your family, and you’d bring them anywhere if you could. Whether you’re taking an extended trip abroad, or are relocating to another country, you do not have to leave your feline friend behind!
Though you are permitted to fly with cats in most cases, you will need to plan and prepare ahead of time. Airlines have very strict rules and regulations when it comes to flying with cats, and these get more complicated if you are traveling overseas to another country.
In this article we will discuss the rules and regulations you need to follow when flying with cats, and give you some tips to help you prepare for the trip!
Flying with cats in cabin.
If you’re like me, you’d rather travel with your cat in the cabin of the plane. That way you can keep a close eye on them and provide them with comfort. Luckily for you, many airlines will allow flying with cats in the cabin with their owners. Of course, this is as long as you comply with the airlines rules and regulations.
When flying with cats, they will need to travel in a carrier that fits in the seat in front of you. Airlines have restrictions on the size of the carrier, but generally, they should be no larger than 11 inches tall and 18 inches wide. We will go into this in more detail below.
So, as long as you have a small cat, and select a cat-friendly airline, you should be fine to travel together in the cabin.
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Flying with cats in cargo.
Yes, many airlines will allow flying with cats in a designated pet-area of the plane.
As only small cats are permitted to fly in the cabin, if your cat is over 20 pounds, he/she will have to fly in shipping cargo or as checked-in luggage.
Don’t worry! The cargo area of a plane is not as scary as you may think.
Your cat will travel in a pressurised, temperature-controlled area, normally separate from passengers checked-in luggage.
Some owners actually prefer having their cats fly in cargo, as they believe it is less stressful for their feline friends. This is because some cats get stressed out by all of the people and the noises that they come across in the cabin of the plane.
Whether you choose to have your cat fly in the cabin or cargo, just be sure to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations of the airline you will be flying with.
Related post: Flying Pets in Cargo: Will My Pet be Safe?
Flying with cats internationally.
Many airlines will allow flying internationally with cats, as long as you have the correct documentation. While rules and regulations are usually quite similar, some destinations will require different vaccines and parasite prevention.
Typically, your cat’s health certificate will need to be completed by a veterinarian who is certified through the USDA. Additionally, some countries may require rabies titer test be completed before travel, which can take months to process.
It’s important to note these requirements also are subject to change, so it’s vital to check the USDA website for Pet Travel for the latest information regarding your destination.
What is the process when flying with cats?
Select a cat-friendly airline.
First of all, you’ll want to select a cat-friendly airline.
Over the years, there have been some heartbreaking accidents where cats unfortunately didn’t make it through their flight. Since these accidents, airlines have focused a lot on improving their pet policies, to prevent these from happening again. When it comes to pet-care, there are some airlines that outshine others.
Related post: 15 Airlines That Allow Flying With Cats In Cabin [Pet Policies]
Visit the vet.
When flying with cats, most airlines require a valid health certificate completed by your veterinarian. This ensures that your cat is healthy enough for travel, and that all relevant vaccinations are up to date.
If you are traveling overseas, it is likely that your cat will need a microchip and a rabies vaccination. Most countries require that cats are vaccinated against rabies between 21 days and 1 year before travel.
Your cat may also require additional vaccines, depending on where you are traveling to.
For example, Turkey requires that all cats need to be vaccinated against calicivirus, panleukopenia and feline viral rhinotracheitis, before entering the country.
As the requirement varies between countries, it’s important to check those specific to the country or territory will be visiting. That way you can be sure that your cat is getting its vaccinations in the required time frame.
Select an appropriate carrier for the flight.
Requirements of carriers and crates differ between airlines. They also differ depending on whether your cat will be flying in the cabin or in cargo, and depending on what plane you are travelling on.
For example, United Airlines states the following:
Cats flying in cabin must be carried in an approved hard-sided or soft-sided kennel. The kennel must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times. The maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm). The recommended maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm)
Cats flying in the cargo hold of the plane will need a shipping crate. If you will be buying a shipping crate for your cat, you must check that it is IATA approved.
The ASPCA provides the following guidelines and tips for buying and setting up your cat’s crate:
- the crate should be large enough for your cat to stand, sit erect and turn around in at ease
- it should be lined with absorbant bedding to soak up accidents
- the crate door should be secured shut, but not locked
- it must be marked with ‘LIVE ANIMAL’ in large bold writing
- attach a photo of your cat to the outside
- tape a small amount of food to the outside of the carrier so your cat can be fed by airline employees
- freeze a tray of water the night before – it should stay frozen while loading but will melt by the time your cat is thirsty
Get your cat used to its travel carrier.
If you want the journey to as stress-free as possible for your cat, buy it’s carrier or crate weeks before your trip.
This way, you will have enough time to allow your cat to feel a little at home in there.
Pop a blanket in carrier or crate and leave it out with the door open, so you cat can roam in and out freely. For extra comfort and security, pop some of their favourite toys in there too.
In addition, give your cat plenty of treats inside so he/she associates it with good things. Furthermore, let him/her play and sleep in there as much as possible.
You could even do some practice runs – pop your cat in the carrier and take him/her for a walk with you, or out for breakfast.
What are the requirements for flying with cats?
The requirements for flying with cats can vary depending on the destination country and the specific regulations in place. However, there are some general requirements that apply to most international pet travel from the United States. The following are the key components typically needed for a flying with cats:
Your cat must be microchipped with a compatible microchip that meets ISO standards (ISO 11784 and 11785). The microchip should be implanted before or at the time of rabies vaccination.
Your cat must be vaccinated against rabies. The vaccination must be administered after the microchip is implanted. Check the specific vaccination requirements of your destination country, including the timing of the vaccination in relation to travel.
A health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian is generally required when flying with cats. The certificate should be issued within a specific timeframe before travel (typically within 10 days). The certificate confirms that your pet is healthy, fit for travel, and up-to-date on vaccinations.
Some countries may require additional vaccinations, such as those for calicivirus, panleukopenia and feline viral rhinotracheitis,. Research the vaccination requirements of your destination country and ensure your pet receives any necessary additional vaccinations.
Certain countries may have specific requirements for parasite control, such as flea and tick treatments. Follow the guidelines provided by your destination country and ensure your dog is protected against parasites according to their regulations.
Documentation and Identification.
It is important to have proper identification for your dog, including proof of ownership. Keep records of your pet’s microchip number, vaccination certificates, and any other relevant documentation. Carry these documents with you when flying with cats.
Import Permits and Customs.
Some countries require import permits or have specific customs procedures for bringing pets into the country. Research the requirements of your destination country and obtain any necessary permits or complete customs procedures as required.
Depending on the destination country, you may need to have your pet’s health certificate endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Contact your local USDA Veterinary Services office to determine if this step is necessary and follow their instructions for endorsement.
Remember, it is crucial to research the specific requirements of your destination country as early as possible and contact the appropriate government agency or embassy for accurate and up-to-date information. Each country may have its own unique requirements, so following their guidelines is essential to ensure a smooth travel experience with your pet.
Flying with cats: banned breeds.
Certain breeds are often banned from flying. This is because, they have physical or behavioural traits that make them at higher risk of having health problems.
For example, United Airlines has banned the following cat breeds (including mixed breeds) from their flights:
- Exotic Shorthair
Limit access to food before flying with cats.
Though it may seem cruel, it is a good idea to limit food the morning before take-off. When flying, some cats will experience nausea and vomiting, so it’s better to have less in their stomach. It also means they are less likely to need to poop, which may cause them stress when traveling. Of course, you should still ensure they are well-hydrated!
Familiarise yourself with the airport that you are departing from and arriving to.
Most airports will have a dedicated area for pets and service animals to rest. It is actually a legal requirement that all U.S. airports have pet-relief areas available for working animals and pets to rest. Take some photos of the airport maps, so you don’t have to wander around on the day trying to find a resting place.
Consider leash training your cat.
Although it isn’t usual for cats to wear harnesses and walk on a leash, when flying with cats in cabin they may need to be harnessed and leashed. It’s important to take time to leash train your cat before your flight, to minimise stress.
Most of the time your cat will be required to remain in their carrier, at the airport and on the plane. However, when passing through security and customs you may need to take your cat out of the carrier.
Spend some time getting your cat used to walking on a lead at home. We recommend simply letting your cat wear a harness around the house for a while, before getting them to walk on a lead. That way they can get used to the feeling of wearing a harness.
Book a direct flight if possible.
When flying with cats, you should try to book a non-stop, direct flight whenever possible.
Additionally, try to fly on a weekday when airports are typically less hectic.
To avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures, we recommend flying in the morning or evening during the summer, and midday during the winter.
Pack all the essentials.
It’s best to be over prepared when flying with cats. The following will all come in very handy:
- A small amount of dry food or treats
- A collapsible bowl
- Medications and first aid items
- Documents (health certificate, microchip and rabies vaccination certificates)
- Your cat’s favourite soft toy, blanket, or pillow
- Your vet’s contact information
It’s also important to properly label your cat’s carrier with your name, phone number, and destination address.
Should I use sedatives to fly with a cat?
If you are flying with cats, you may wonder whether it’s a good idea to sedate them.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases, cats should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying because they can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems as the cat is exposed to increased altitude pressures. Additionally, they can also alter the cat’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium, which can be dangerous when your cat’s carrier is moved.
However, while sedation is generally not advised, the decision on whether or not to prescribe a tranquilizer or sedative for your cat should be made by your veterinarian.
Although sedation isn’t recommended, there are many natural, holistic alternatives that are made specifically for pets.
Some essential oils have a calming affect which could help a stressed cat when flying.
Also check: Cat Sedatives for Travel: Should I use them?