Traveling with a cat doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal. The key to a successful trip is preparation, and this includes traveling by air.
If your feline companion will be taking to the skies with you, it is worth considering flying with your cat in the cabin.
As the Humane Society of the United States points out in their article on travel safety, pets can be lost, injured, or even killed when traveling in the cargo hold of an airliner.
Do Your Homework Before You Go Out To Play
Before you book a flight, make sure to research airline policies to verify company procedures.
Restrictions on carriers, the number of pets, and seating will vary based on the type of jet or route.
For example, United Airlines states that a passenger traveling with their pet in-cabin cannot book a seat along the bulkhead or in a row with an emergency exit. There may also be restrictions on international travel with your cat.
It is at this stage that you will be able to determine what size requirements are necessary for the cat carrier.
You will also discover what veterinary records will be needed for your pet to board the plane. When you book the flight, the airline will inform you how many animals you can carry in-cabin and what their fees will be.
It is important to remember that airline rules change often, so verify all of this information each time that you travel by air.
A Visit To The Vet Allows You To Travel With Your Pet
After researching the airline that you plan to travel with, your next step should be a visit to the veterinarian.
Any paperwork that will be required, including a health certificate or an updated rabies card, can be obtained at this time.
As Robin Downing (DVM, CNPP, CCRP, DAAPM) indicates in “Flying with your Cat,” your pet can have a prescription filled out for medications if they are required.
While many felines travel fine, some could benefit from an anti-anxiety medication for the flight.
This visit will also be a good time to update any required vaccinations. A general physical will help to ensure that your companion is healthy enough for the trip.
Any prescriptions that your pet already has for health issues can be taken care of as well. Your veterinarian will also be able to answer any travel questions you may have at this time.
Staying Contained While In-Cabin
Your four-legged family member will be required to stay in a proper pet carrier for the duration of the flight.
The container must fit under the seat in front of you, on the floor. Your cat should be comfortable using the carrier.
As Chelsea Dinen states in her video about traveling with her cat, this is something that can be worked on before the flight.
Eliminating negative associations with the cat carrier will take time, so this must be worked on well before.
The first step is to leave the container open so that your pet is free to climb in and out of it.
Placing a blanket or other type of bedding inside the carrier will encourage your cat to spend time in it.
Feeding him or her in it, or offering treats afterward, is a great way to add positive reinforcement.
The cat carrier should provide adequate ventilation from all sides. A “window” will allow your feline friend to peek out and let you see into the carrier in-flight.
The container should be soft-sided so that it can fit more easily under the seat and provide more comfort for your pet.
A blanket can provide extra comfort as well as give you a wrap to use on the cat during screenings.
Leading Up To The Main Event
Your cat will need to wear a harness when it is taken out of the carrier, so it should become used to wearing one before you travel together.
Practice taking the cat in and out of the carrier for a few days ahead of time so that it goes smoothly during check-in.
Do a test run with medications days before the flight. On the day before you travel together, feed your cat a little extra.
On the day of the flight, do not feed your pet beforehand. An empty stomach will be easier on your pet while you fly.
Follow the instructions for any travel medications your vet prescribed. Keep your flight companion in their carrier once you arrive at the airport so that it will stress less.
Preparing for checkpoints is an important factor according to Lani Kennedy on PetMd.com.
You will be required to remove the cat from the container at these stations. It is best to wrap your pet in a blanket to help you control it and to prevent it from scratching you.
The harness and leash add a second line of defense against escaping at this stage.
She reminds us that at this stage, the cat will most likely be very happy to return to its carrier without a fuss.
Catching Those In Flight Blues
Once you both are airborne, the flight attendants should allow you to move the cat carrier from under the seat to a position on the floor between your feet.
Your furry friend should be content during the flight. If your pet becomes fidgety in-flight, the staff at PetTravel.com recommend offering a treat and perhaps some scratching behind the ears from a small opening at the top of the carrier.
A clever suggestion they also suggest is to include a shirt, or another article of clothing, with your scent on it in the carrier. This may help to soothe your friend.
During stop-overs, remember to take your cat out to relieve itself. Once you both arrive at your destination, give your pet time to relax. Remember, it won’t be long until you both are seasoned fliers!