How to Travel With a Cat on a Plane

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It’s not always easy to leave a beloved cat behind when going on a trip. In most cases, you can take your cat with you, even if you are going by plane. However, you will need to plan at least several weeks in advance; there are many things you should do ahead of time, and during the flight, to facilitate an easier and safer trip.

Things You'll Need

  • Airline-approved cat carrier
  • Absorbent pads
  • Portable food and water dishes
  • Portable litter box and litter
  • Collar and tags

Discuss your options with the airline you plan on flying with, before you buy your ticket. You should do this at least a month or more in advance. According to petsmart.com, airlines only allow a certain number of pets in the cabin of the aircraft--the sooner you plan your trip, the more likely you will be able to take your cat on board with you (which is safer and less stressful for both you and your cat than having the cat ride in cargo).

Take the cat to a veterinarian for all shot updates and an examination. Airlines require proof of some vaccines, such as rabies, before allowing an animal on board. Petsmart.com suggests doing this at least 10 days before the flight. Tell the vet you are planning on flying with the cat and ask for a certificate of health. If you are flying overseas, you will also need to check the vaccination requirements for that.

Purchase a soft-sided, airline-approved kennel for the cat. It should be large enough to give the cat room to stretch out or even stand up, but it must be within the carry-on guidelines of the airline. When you purchase the kennel, also buy some absorbent pads (such as what dog owners use to potty train puppies) to place in its bottom.

Feed and water the cat several hours in advance of the flight. This helps prevent upset stomach in the cat and may also prevent it from having a bowel movement in the carrier.

Bring portable food and water dishes with you--attach these to the inside of the carrier if the flight is long. This way you can easily add food or water for the cat. You should also bring litter and a (collapsible) litter box with you on the flight, unless it is a short, nonstop flight.

Allow yourself extra time to get through security. You’ll need to remove the cat from the kennel so the kennel can be scanned-- just as any carry-on bag.

Offer the cat food and water if you are on a long (such as overseas) flight. Prevent the cat from escaping into the cabin, however--open the carrier just enough to stick your hand in to place water or food into bowls.

Tips & Warnings

  • Even if you plan on having the cat carrier with you at all times during travel, you should make sure your contact information (name, address, home phone and cell phone) is clearly marked or displayed on the carrierm just in case you become separated from it.
  • Petsmart.com and sniksnak.com both advise against tranquilizing the cat before a flight. Sedating a cat before flying may cause serious health problems.

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