Tips For Flying With A Cat

If you’re like me and own a cat, you probably worry about international travel with your cat. I guess the risk of bad things happening to your precious kitten on the trip is high enough to make some people skip being able to take their cat where they want. For instance, I would have loved to take my pet cat Neville with me to South Korea but I wasn’t willing to risk his safety. But now that I’ve adopted a second cat, this decision was made easier – as long as there are some proven tips for flying with a cat, I’ll be taking my furry baby wherever the wind takes us.

Changing your cat’s name to “Long Cat” so it will fit in your suitcase, having his carrier shipped separately, and custom labeling your cat’s toys are all tips that may help you have a successful flying with cat experience.

Flying with a cat can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Read these tips before your next flight, and you’ll be on your way to a smooth trip with your feline companion.

  1. Keep them in their carrier until the last possible moment.
  2. Check their carrier as luggage—don’t carry it on board with you.
  3. If you’re flying a long distance, consider taking them out of their carrier so that they can stretch and get some exercise before takeoff and landing—but don’t forget to put them back inside once you’re in the air!
  4. Make sure your cat is up-to-date on vaccinations, especially rabies and feline leukemia vaccines—some airlines will not allow cats without proof of these vaccinations onto their planes!

Flying with a cat can be a stressful experience. The following tips will help you get through it with as little hassle as possible.

  1. Make sure that the airline has approved your cat for travel before booking your ticket. Some airlines will not allow cats to travel in cargo, so check with the airline before booking. Most airlines will require a health certificate and rabies vaccination information at least 10 days before the flight.
  2. Find out whether or not an in-cabin pet carrier is required by the airline. If so, make sure you have one that fits your cat comfortably and securely during transport.
  3. Get your cat used to being in an enclosed space before trying to fly with him/her—this may mean taking them on short car rides for several weeks prior to attempting air travel (if possible).
  4. Make sure that your cat’s claws are trimmed before taking off—this will help prevent injury during turbulence or if he/she tries to escape from the carrier during the flight!

Tips For Flying With A Cat

Cats can be tricky travel companions — already finicky on land, the air might make them even more particular (or panicky). But if you’re heading to the airport anytime soon, there are some steps to take to make the trip go smoother. Levi Myers, a cat caregiver at Best Friends Animal Society, recommends first booking an appointment with your vet as many airlines require a current health certificate and up-to-date vaccine record. The paperwork you need to provide may be airline-specific — so double-check before boarding. While you’re at the vet, Myers suggests you request a mild prescription sedative if you just know your cat won’t react well to being in the air. Then there are the essentials to make sure your cat stays safe and secure before and during the flight. Consider what’s below a checklist — including airline-approved cat carriers and cleaning products for accidents — recommended by cat-behavior experts.

Best cat carriers for flying

Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier Bag

Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier Bag

$114

In our guide to airplane-friendly pet carriers, Sherpas were the most mentioned. One of the reasons was the brand’s Guaranteed on Board program, which allows you to see which carriers are approved by its airline partners like United and Delta. The small and medium sizes of this bag are part of the program, according to Samantha Schwab, Chewy’s resident pet expert from 2018 to 2021. Veterinarian John Iovino, who contributes to the Wildest, has used a Sherpa carrier when traveling internationally and emphasizes how easy it was to check on his pet. Alison Waszmer, the Dogtown director at Best Friends Animal Society, seconded that point, highlighting the carrier’s mesh paneling and sturdy construction.

$114 at Chewy

Sleepypod Air in-Cabin Pet Carrier

Sleepypod Air in-Cabin Pet Carrier

$200

Along with Sherpa, Sleepypod has been a popular pick among the pet experts we’ve talked to, earning spots on our lists of the best car seats for dogs and cat-lover-approved gifts. Myers recommends looking for a soft carrier like this one that’ll fit under the seat and let you check on your cat mid-flight without opening it up. “Other than security checks, avoid opening the carrier during transit,” he says. Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior expert with Rover, likes the Sleepypod Air because it’s specifically designed to fit under airline seats. Jamie Richardson, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, told us it’s a favorite of hers as well because there’s still enough space for pets to stretch out their claws.

A word of advice from Delgado: If you usually only take the carrier out for unpleasant trips to the vet, use the time leading up to your flight to encourage your cat to develop more positive associations with it. “Help your cat see the carrier as a safe space,” she says. “Leave it out all the time, and place a favorite blanket and treats in it, or even feed your cat meals in the carrier. During the flight, that familiar-smelling blanket will provide them with some comfort.”

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