How to fly with a cat – on a commercial flight it requires some preparation. Here are some practical tips to help you and your cat fly safer and more comfortably. My Kitty Care followed Toby who takes his first ride on an airplane. For domestic flights, proof of shots from your vet is not necessary, but for international, you must have papers from your vet validating your cat’s shots, but this depends on the airline and destination, so be sure to research this. For Toby, this was a domestic flight from New York to Florida (USA) which lasted about three hours, but of course the actual time Toby spent in his carrier was much longer.
So the first thing to consider is total time: leaving your house, getting to the airport, then there’s waiting for departure at the airport (hope there are no delays), flight time, possibly picking up checked baggage, car rental, anything like that which adds the time your cat is kept inside his/her carrier. If your cat has done little or no traveling, try driving around with your cat in the carrier. Start with a short jaunt, then try a longer one. Also, keep the carrier visible and accessible in your house, so that your cat gets use to it.
• Here are a few more tips to prepare your cat and you for the trip.
You need a harness – check out buying a harness for your cat, or at least get a collar.It’s important because you can attach an ID tag, and a leash, and you’ll want to have both. The tag you should keep on your cat from the moment you walk out your door, until you arrive at your destination. The leash is because going thru TSA, you must take your cat out of her/his carrier – and your cat may FREAK. According to a TSA agent who I spoke to, cats have been known to jump out of their owner’s arms: at best, after you retrieve your cat, you are both very upset, but still make your flight. Or the worst case scenario: your cat isn’t found till two weeks later, dehydrated, REALLY FREAKED and your cat may become too terrified to ever try to travel again.
Next, buying a cat carrier is an important preparation. The cat carrier must have proper ventilation, and be big enough for your cat to turn around while inside it.
Also, you must get a carrier with specific dimensions, according to the airline you’re traveling on – which means check your airline. You might even want to bring a tape measure to the pet store, just to make sure. Here’s a few examples:
Jetblue has maximum dimensions of 17″ L x 12.5″ W x 8.5″ H, and total weight of your cat and carrier not to exceed 20lbs.
whereas US Airways has maximum dimensions (a soft carrier) of 17″ L x 16″ W x 10″ H
Southwest maximum is: 18.5 L x 13.5 W x 8.5″ H
these sizes are to fit under the seat in front of you (hmmm, kind of suggests which airline has a little more space)
Although your cat is considered carry on (meaning you’ve used your allowed carry on) the airlines somehow also get to charge you for your pet, from $95 – $125 one way. Plus, most airlines require booking your cat’s “ticket” in advance.
Another suggestion is to use a wee wee pad –
and keep a spare in the carrier pocket. Treats are always appreciated too – right Toby?
Toby did quite well.
Cats can travel on commercial flights, providing you and your cat take the time to prepare for your flight.