Flying with a cat used to be very straightforward – buy a travel crate, limit access to food and check your cat in as checked luggage.
However, nowadays the process is a lot more complicated, with good reason – to ensure that cats are happy and safe while travelling.
Flying with your cat can be straight forward and stress-free with a little planning:
- Select a cat-friendly airline.
- Decide whether you want to fly with your cat in the cabin or cargo.
- Obtain your cat’s pet passport.
- Ensure your cat’s carrier is appropriate.
- Get your cat used to it’s travel carrier.
- Exhaust your cat 48 hours before the trip.
- Limit access to food 12-24 hours before the trip.
- Pack all the essentials.
In this article we will go into detail on how to prepare for taking your cat on a plane. I’ve also included some travel tips, to ensure that the process is as stress-free as possible for both you and your cat.
Let’s jump straight in!
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.
In May 2018, Comparethemarket.com analysed 52 airlines and selected the top 10 pet-friendly airlines:
- Air France
- British Airways
- Thomas Cook
- Turkish Airlines
- Aegean Airlines
- Air Europa
- Balkan Holidays
For the most enjoyable and stress-free journey, try to stay clear of these 5 airlines when flying with your cat.
Additionally, when choosing an airline to fly with, it’s important to note that they all have different requirements when it comes to flying with cats.
a) Airline’s requirements for the ages, breeds and sizes of dogs.
Sadly for those of you with young kittens, most airlines won’t allow cats under the age of 8 to 10 weeks to fly with them.
For example – United Airlines states the following:
Puppies and kittens must be at least 4 months (16 weeks) of age to be accepted for travel on United.
In addition, certain breeds are often banned by some airlines.
This is because, certain breeds 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
Whether your cat is permitted to fly in the cabin with you, or whether they will need to fly in the cargo hold, is determined by their size.
We’ll go into this further in the next section – #2 Flying with your cat in cabin vs cargo.
b) Airline requirements for the size of pet carriers.
Different airlines have specific requirements when it comes to the size of your cats carrier or crate.
In addition, some airlines may also request that you purchase specific crates for their flights.
For example, United Airlines states the following:
- Not accept crates taller than 30″, including the 700 series crates.
- No longer sell or provide crates at airport facilities. All cats and cats traveling with a PetSafe reservation must have a compliant crate, which may be purchased via united.com/petmate in advance for acclimation and travel.
Have a thorough read of your chosen airline’s pet requirements well in advance of your trip.
Get your cat used to it’s 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.
If you are travelling in cabin with a carrier, 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.
Exhaust your cat 48 hours before your flight.
If possible, try to exhaust your cat a little.
Difficult, I know, as cats often just do whatever they want. But, you could try to have some extra play sessions. Most cats I know can’t resist chasing a laser beam!
A sleepy cat will be less prone to getting stressed out.
Limit access to food 12-24 hours before taking your cat on a plane.
Give your cat less access to food, for the obvious reason – he/she will be less likely to need a poop on the flight.
Familiarise yourself with the airport that you are departing from and arriving to.
Most airports will have a dedicated area for animals and pets to rest.
For example – by law, U.S. airports are required to contain areas for working animals and pets to rest.
You could even take photos of the airport maps, so you know where you are heading on the day.
Pack all the essentials.
- A small amount of dry food
- A collapsible bowl
- Medications and first aid items
- Pet passport
- Your cat’s favourite soft toy, blanket, or pillow
- Your vet’s contact information