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Is it Cruel to Take a Cat on a Plane? [+Top Tips]

When it comes to traveling with our beloved pets, the well-being and comfort of our furry friends are of utmost importance. Cats, known for their independent nature, can experience stress and anxiety during travel. One common method of transporting cats over long distances is through air travel. However, concerns have been raised about the potential cruelty involved in taking a cat on a plane. In this article, we will examine the various aspects of this issue to determine – is it cruel to take a cat on a plane?

Is it cruel to take a cat on a plane? Here are the stress factors.

Cats are creatures of habit and can experience stress and anxiety when placed in unfamiliar environments. Air travel can be particularly stressful due to the unfamiliar sounds, smells, and confined spaces associated with airplanes. The noise of jet engines, turbulence, and the inability to understand what is happening can all contribute to heightened stress levels in cats. Additionally, the separation from their owners during the flight further adds to their distress.

These are all factors that point towards it being cruel to take a cat on a plane. However, there are safety measures put in place by airlines and some steps you can follow to prepare your cat for air travel. We will discuss these in more detail below. 

Airline Regulations and Safety Measures.

Airline companies have recognized the concerns surrounding pet travel and have implemented regulations and safety measures to ensure the well-being of cats on planes. Most airlines have specific guidelines for transporting pets, including cats, in the cabin or in the cargo hold. These guidelines often include requirements for suitable carriers, health certificates, and restrictions on breed and weight. The aim is to provide a safe and controlled environment for cats during a flight.

Preparation and Acclimatization.

To minimize the stress associated with air travel, pet owners can take the following steps to prepare their cats for the journey.

1. Select the right cat carrier.

Airlines have very strict rules and regulations about what pet carriers passengers are allowed to bring on their flights. The right carrier for your cat will depend on whether you are traveling with your cat in the cabin, or if you cat will fly in the pet cargo.

When flying with cats in cabin, many airlines accept both hard-sided and soft-sided carriers, however some only allow soft-sided carriers. We recommend using soft-sided carriers as they generally allow your cat a little more room. You can get some great cat carriers with expandable sides, so your cat can have some extra room for stretching out when at the airport.

When flying with cats in cargo, you must select a hard and sturdy travel container. It must also be clean, leak-proof, escape-proof, claw-proof and well ventilated on 4 sides. 

In all cases, you must comply with International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines. These state that cats must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their crate (without touching any side or the top of the container).

2. Get your cat used to confined spaces.

Most airlines require cats to remain inside the carrier throughout the entire journey – that means at the airport, and on board the plane.Therefore, once you select the crate or carrier your cat will be flying in, it’s important to spend some time working on ensuring he or she is comfortable in it. We recommend starting training as early as possible, as it can take time for cats to acclimate to their new carriers. If your cat has a nervous temperament, you’ll want to allow more time. 

When introducing your cat to its new carrier, it’s important to let your cat explore it on its own. Never place your cat in immediately, and you should never close the door until they are comfortable sitting or lying down in it with the door open. This may lead to your cat associating the carrier with stress. Instead, place your cat’s treats, toys and blankets inside and let them explore it by themselves. You want it to become a safe place. 

It’s also a good idea to do some practice runs with your cat’s carrier. Take your cat out for a walk around the block, or to the cafe. The more practice runs you do, the less stressed your cat should be on the real flight. 

Choosing the Right Option: Cabin vs. Cargo Hold

When flying with a cat, one of the primary concerns is deciding whether to transport them in the cabin or the cargo hold. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice should be based on the individual needs and temperament of the cat.

Transporting a cat in the cabin provides the benefit of proximity to the owner, which can be comforting for both the cat and the owner. However, it is important to consider the size and temperament of the cat, as well as airline restrictions. Some cats may find the confined space of a carrier under the seat distressing, while others may feel more secure being near their owner.

Alternatively, larger cats or those who become agitated easily may be better suited to travel in the cargo hold, where they have more space to move around. However, it is essential to research the specific airline’s policies regarding temperature control, ventilation, and safety precautions for pets in the cargo hold. Some airlines have strict protocols to ensure the well-being of pets during the journey.

Related posts:
Flying Pets in Cargo: Will My Pet be Safe?
13 Airlines That Allow Flying With a Cat In-Cabin [Prices & Policies]
Flying with Cats in Cabin? [13 Top Tips!]

Seek Professional Guidance.

Before deciding to take a cat on a plane, it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian. A professional can assess your cat’s health, temperament, and readiness for travel. They may also provide advice on calming techniques or suggest appropriate sedation if necessary. Veterinarians are well-versed in understanding the needs of cats and can provide valuable guidance on making the journey as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Should I give my cat sedatives on the plane?

You may think that it is less cruel to take a cat on a plane that is sedated. However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases, cats should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying. This is 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. 

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.

For more information, check Cat Sedatives for Travel: Should I use them?

Additional Considerations

In addition to the above factors, there are other considerations that pet owners should keep in mind when deciding to take their cat on a plane:

  1. Duration of the flight: Longer flights may increase the stress and discomfort for cats. If possible, consider alternative modes of transportation for shorter distances.
  2. Route of the flight: try to book a direct flight if possible. 
  3. Destination and accommodations: Ensure that the destination and accommodations are cat-friendly, with adequate space for the cat to move around and relax.
  4. Health and vaccinations: Make sure the cat is up to date with vaccinations and is in good health before embarking on the journey. This will minimize the risk of illness and ensure a smoother travel experience.
  5. Comfort and safety: Choose a carrier that is well-ventilated, secure, and comfortable for the cat. Provide familiar items such as bedding or toys to help alleviate stress during the journey.

Bottom Line

Determining whether it is cruel to take a cat on a plane requires careful consideration of the various factors involved. While air travel can be stressful for cats, it is essential to acknowledge that measures are in place to ensure their safety and well-being during the journey. By following airline guidelines, preparing the cat adequately, and seeking professional advice, pet owners can minimize stress and discomfort for their feline companions. Ultimately, the decision to travel with a cat should be made with careful consideration of their individual needs and capabilities. 

Related posts:
Flying Pets in Cargo: Will My Pet be Safe?
13 Airlines That Allow Flying With a Cat In-Cabin [Prices & Policies]
Flying with Cats in Cabin? [13 Top Tips!]
Cat Sedatives for Travel: Should I use them?

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