The Best Way to Calm a Cat While Traveling on an Airline

Cats often find flying a stressful experience
Cats often find flying a stressful experience (Image: Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Cats are nervous creatures, and any new experience is often stressful for cats. The experience of flying can be a traumatic time. Many cats find traveling by plane distressing because their sense of personal safety is threatened. If you plan on traveling with a cat, it is best to prepare her a few weeks before you get to the airport. It is important to ensure she is as comfortable and relaxed as possible for the flight.

Things You'll Need

  • Cat travel carrier
  • Cat blanket
  • Feliway spray
  • Catnip toy

Talk to your vet seven to eight months before flying, and tell him your flight destination. This will give you enough time to get any vaccinations you cat needs before the flight. Your vet can advise you on the different vaccination requirements for cats depending on the state or country to which you are flying. Aside from regular health checks with your cat before you fly, the vet might also prescribe medicine such as motion sickness tablets, anti-anxiety drugs like clomipramine, or suggest a homeopathic remedy to help reduce your cat's stress levels during the flight.

Consult your vet well in advance about your cat's flight.
Consult your vet well in advance about your cat's flight. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Acclimate your cat to her carrier. A month before you fly, place your cat in the carrier for short periods of time so that she can become used to the carrier. Include a favorite cat toy, or one of his usual sleeping blankets to offer comfort and security for your cat. Keep the carrier in the house where the cat can get used to its presence. Take your cat on short car drives in the carrier to get her use to both the carrier and the feel of motion.

Your cat should be familiar with her carrier before her flight.
Your cat should be familiar with her carrier before her flight. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Spray some Feliway inside the carrier to soothe you cat's fears on the day of your flight. Feliway is a synthetic product to help stop scratching and other stress-related cat behaviors.

Add a recently purchased catnip toy to the carrier before your flight. Catnip triggers a euphoric response, and is known to reduce stress levels in some cats. Pet stores sell toys stuffed with catnip.

Talk gently to your cat at the airport, and offer her cat treats and attention. Do not let her out of the carrier either at the airport, or on the plane, unless instructed to do so by airport staff. A scared cat that escapes her carrier might be difficult to find in a busy airport.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact your airlines to find out what specific regulations they have on flying with a cat. Most airlines will require your cat to fly in a separate part of the plane, but some airlines might allow the cat to travel with you.
  • Your cat might need to have a special travel carrier, check with your airline for any exact requirements, and be sure to attach your name, address and cell number on the carrier.
  • Anti-anxiety medications must be prescribed by a vet, and you should be aware of any side effects that might occur. To make sure your cat will be safe, your vet might recommend giving him the medicine a few days before flying.
  • If you are flying abroad, check with the relevant country’s pet regulations so that you have all the correct documents. You will normally be required to have a pet passport, and your cat must have a microchip identification implanted plus a current rabies vaccination before she will be allowed to enter another country.
  • Due to the stress levels involved when traveling, it is not advisable for a pregnant or nursing cat, or young kittens under three months to fly.

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