How to Travel with a Cat on a Plane – a Step-by-Step Guide
You’ve decided to embark upon the open skies with your furry companion. Congratulations! The next few steps you’ll have to take will require a few easy inquiries on your part. Make sure you are well prepared, knowing exactly how to travel with a cat on a plane before undergoing this new adventure!
Step 1. Check to comply with Airline Policy
Is your cat allowed to travel in the airline cabin or under your seat in front of you, or must your kitty travel in the luggage/cargo hold? What is the pet travel policy of your airline of choice?
Contact your airline prior to purchasing tickets, confirming they are pet friendly, because not all are.
If at all possible, you want to avoid having to stow your pet in the plane’s cargo hold. Your best and most preferable option is under the seat with you, so you’re able to keep an eye on your pet.
Be sure to check and identify the precise dimensions available under your airline seat, ensuring your travel carrier will fit properly.
Talk to the airline about transporting your cat in the cabin.
Step 2. Do required Airline Paperwork
Make sure to prepare yourself with the paperwork required for airline travel, including vaccinations and health records/ certifications.
Some areas (Hawaii, for example) will require specific pet records, in addition to a quarantine period.
Step 3. Invest in a well-designed Travel Carrier
You’ll want to be sure to invest in a well designed travel carrier in advance, before finding yourself stuck with the last possible option. Very few airlines will allow a cat on board unsecured, able to roam where he/she pleases.
- Consider a ‘soft sided’ yet durable carrier, as it will be more forgiving during airline turbulence.
- Socialize/introduce your cat to the carrier multiple times prior to travel, ensuring your cat considers it a ‘safe and happy place’.
- Practice entry and exit from carrier, ensuring it as routine as possible for maximum comfort.
- Try not to feed your cat on the day of travel. Traveling on an empty stomach will limit the chance of nausea or vomiting.
- Line the pet carrier with absorbent ‘potty pads’ for your cat.
- Make sure to put a luggage tag on your cat’s carrier, even if he/she is riding in the carrier in front of you.
Step 4. Cat Harness
This is a good idea for all times you must carry your cat, but airport security in particular. Your cat’s carrier will need to be screened, but your cat can’t go through the scanner. You might also want to help your cat become accustomed to his/her harness ahead of time.
Step 5. Book Your Flight Early
Not only are you often able to find the most convenient flight at the best possible price for you and your little one by booking your flight well in advance, you’re given many more options to choose from. You’re given several airlines offering many different flights, instead of getting stuck with only a few options because you’ve procrastinated.
- Booking your flight early helps ensure you have a spot for your cat.
- You won’t be able to sit near an exit row or bulkhead; there’ll have to be a seat in front of you for your cat carrier
Step 6. Visit the Veterinarian
Make sure you schedule a veterinarian appointment prior to traveling with a cat on a plane!
Your vet will examine your little one, ensuring he/she is healthy for travel. You’ll want to stay up to date on vaccinations, many airlines and locations requiring it.
Your vet will provide paperwork signifying your cat is healthy for travel, which you’ll need to have on hand. You’ll be able to provide records of vaccinations and flea treatments.
Service Animals vs. Emotional Support
Regardless of their animal policy, no restaurant, airline, or other United States based establishment can legally refuse access to disabled individuals and their service animals.
This means the animal would be allowed to sit right alongside their owner during the flight, no matter the airline’s stance on pets.
Unlike emotional support/therapy animals (there is an enormous difference) all service animals are required to undergo intensive training and pass many rigorous tests before acquiring licensing.
You can very easily register your cat as an emotional support/therapy animal. It’s as simple as filling out some online paperwork, and may yield extra benefits depending on the airline.
Make sure to contact your airline of choice with this question!
Cat Travel on a Train
Most trains allow both cats and dogs up to 20 pounds (some domestic cats, like Savannahs, can weigh over 20 lbs), as long as you book confirmation ahead of time. Most require a pet carrier, the same paperwork many airlines do, and pets normally need to be at least eight weeks old. Make sure you contact the railway ahead of time, in order to confirm their individual regulations!
Cat Travel in a Car
Since it is a personally owned vehicle, traveling with a cat in a car is much simpler! Though you aren’t held to someone else’s rules, a good pet owner will still prepare themselves with the following:
- Secured pet carrier- it’s like a seat belt for your cat.
- Collapsible travel water bowl
- Travel food, just in case
- Planned route
- Clean bill of health from a veterinarian
Never leave your cat alone in a hot car!
Cat Travel in an RV
If you plan on restricting you cat to the cat carrier, RV traveling is very similar to car travel with a cat. Thankfully, an RV is like a small house on wheels; most pet owners want to let their pets roam free. There still are a few guidelines to consider here:
- Get your cat used to the RV with several introductions ahead of time.
- Be aware of potential hiding places or escapes.
- Make sure your cat has identification tags, and is preferably microchipped.