How to Travel with a Cat on a Plane

how to travel with a cat on a plane

The last thing on your mind while getting ready for a trip is how to travel with a cat on a plane.  It’s difficult enough getting yourself ready by packing your bags, making sure you have your belongings, and now you have to add a cat into the mix!

So you couldn’t find a cat sitter for your feline friend, and your only choice left is to take him or her along with you even if that means taking your cat 39,000 feet in the air?  Don’t worry.  Take a seat and grab your favorite drink.  Follow this detailed guide and you will be will prepared on how to travel with a cat on a plane.

Plan Your Plane Trip with Your Cat in Mind

The first and most important thing you must do is make sure the airline you will be using allows you to travel with a cat on a plane cabin right underneath the seat in front of you.  Try to avoid flying on a plane that forces you to store your cat in the cargo/luggage area.  Here is a link to different airline pet policies.  The last thing you need is your cat stressing out and being scared to death while on the long trip.

Research the dimensions underneath the airline seats so you know what size cat carrier to purchase.  Also do research on the specific paperwork that is needed for your pet in order to travel.  These usually include vaccination records as well as a certificate for travel.

Use a Cat Carrier Specifically Designed for Taking a Cat on a Plane

Make sure to purchase your cat’s travel carrier far in advance of your trip.  Take into consideration a soft-sided travel carrier since it will be more forgiving when placing it under the airline seat space.  Keep the carrier open and near you at all times to make it more comfortable for your cat.

A good practice to start doing before the trip is slowly introducing the carrier to your cat.  I recommend this cat carrier for airplanes from amazon.  Take a moment and read my full post here about choosing the right cat carrier.  Have your cat play near it and also feed your cat inside the carrier.  This will create a more familiar and soothing environment when the big day comes.  Practice helping your cat get in and out of the carrier to make it as normal as possible.  This part is important to slowly condition your cat to its new environment it will soon be in. This is also a very crucial step to get.

Once you have booked the flight reservation, visit your pet’s veterinarian close to the date of departure.  Most airlines will require a valid health certificate for travel that must be completed by your vet before you can take your cat on the plane with you.  Also be sure all of your cats vaccinations are up to date, and expect to have your cat’s rabies vaccination certificate within reach while traveling.  Last, but not least, make sure you have a pet passport!  The pet passport will help speed up the travel process and is totally worth it to save a potential headache down the road.

Where Can I Get a Pet Passport?

A Pet passport is not required for a normal plane trip, but can still come in handy.  A passport for your cat usually helps speed up the boarding process because it will provide your airline with all of your cat’s information including vaccinations.  If you are going to the airline without a passport for your cat, be sure to bring all the necessary documents required to travel with your cat on a the plane.  You can find the required documents needed to fly with your cat on the airline’s website.

If you ever plan on traveling with your cat overseas then a passport will be required.  Read my full article here for all the steps needed to acquire a pet passport.

How Much Does It Cost to Take a Cat on a Plane?

The fees will vary based on the airline that you plan on choosing.  The price can generally range from $100 – $200, and some airlines may charge you a price for each way.  Don’t be surprised if the price is higher than listed, as airlines are constantly changing the prices of traveling with pets.  Contact your airline by phone or website for the most up to date pricing.

How to Get Your Cat Through Security at the Airport

First and foremost, your cat’s carrier will have to go through the luggage x-ray screening.  Your cat must be carried by you at this time.  They are not allowed to be inside it while it is being scanned.  Make sure to have your cat wear a snug fitting harness with a leash.  This is to secure your cat from running away if they are frightened.  Follow these steps when going through a security checkpoint:

  1. Prepare yourself and your belongings.  Remove anything that has metal, and place all your belongings inside of the security bins that need to go through the x-ray.
  2. Next remove your cat from the carrier and send the carrier through.
  3. Lastly, place your cat back inside of the carrier before gathering all of your belongings.  Secure your cat in the carrier for the entire duration of the plane flight.

How Can I Help My Cat Be Comfortable During a Plane Trip?

Make sure your cat travels on the plane on an empty stomach to minimize the risk of nausea and vomiting.  Having a full stomach is a recipe for disaster.  This is similar to when humans get car sick or plane sick.  Motion sickness in cats is a real thing. Be sure the carrier is lined with absorbent potty pads in case your cat needs to urinate or defecate during the flight.  Don’t forget to bring your cat’s food with you as well as any medication they take.  Also having a good sized carrier will keep your cat comfortable on this journey.

If you see that your cat starts to become scared or anxious simply provide them with their favorite cat treat.  At this time you can also put some water in their bowl as long flights can be very dehydrating to both you and your cat.

What Happens If My Cat Defecates or Urinates in the Carrier on the Plane?

The cat carrier should be lined with a pee pad for this scenario.  Don’t be that person that just puts cardboard or some paper towel on the bottom and call it a day.  You don’t want to be the one with the finger pointed at when the whole cabin of the plane smells like a fart bomb or strong ammonia from cat urine.

How Do I Keep My Cat from Meowing During the Flight?

There are many ways to prevent your cat from meowing.  You can try to talk to your cat in a soothing voice.  Having some cat treats to give your cat when they are having anxiety can be useful as well.  Click here to read my full article on how to sedate a cat for travel.  Sedating a cat before traveling is a great way to make sure they don’t meow through the entire plane ride or have excessive anxiety.

Should You Use a Sedative on Your Cat During Travel?

A sedative is always an excellent idea if you think your cat may be scared or frightened during the plane trip.  If you are looking for a way to sedate your cat, a spray is a good method.  A cat calming spray works to help calm your cat by using pheromones.  Simply spray it in your cat’s carrier, blanket, or bed.

Even if you believe your cat will not have any issues during the flight it is still good to educate yourself as a secondary precaution.  The last thing you want is your cat having a panic attack right in front of you with a 4 hour flight.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t have to be hard to travel with a cat on a plane.  Being prepared and planning for your trip are the keys to a successful plane trip with your cat.  Using the correct airline approved cat carrier, sedating your cat, and choosing the correct airline are the 3 most important factors to do before you leave on the plane.  Take all things into consideration and you will have a great trip with your feline friend.

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