Flying with a Cat Guide, How To Prepare Your Pet For Air Travel

Cat sitting in a suitcase

You’ll find less restrictions by the airlines when traveling with car as opposed to air travel with dogs. It’s a bit ironic since most people don’t consider traveling with their cats but it’s surprisingly easy and cats can do well on flights. Almost all cats can meet the weight requirements set by airlines and ride with you in the cabin. You’ll of course have to call ahead to let the airline know and book a spot since almost all of them restrict the number of pets in the cabin to a total of 2. Once you do that and find out the appropriate crate requirements, you can get your cat prepared for the flight in much the same way as you would a dog.

Getting Your Cat Ready

Probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome when traveling with a cat is getting them used to the crate. Cats don’t like to be confined and aren’t as easily calmed by your presence as dogs are. You’ll need to begin early getting your cat accustomed to the cat by placing treats and possibly their bed in there weeks prior to any travel. The car is a good place to get your cat ready after they are comfortable with the carrier in the house. You should be able to close the lid of the carrier in your home and have your cat remain calm for at least 5-10 minutes before moving out for some starter travel.

Once your cat is completely comfortable with the carrier, take them out on short car rides, each one getting longer. A good 15 minute drive at first, then building up to 1 hour will give your cat the sensation of air travel which won’t be as jarring for them when the actual flight comes around. You may also want to get your cat used to a leash – and while you may scoff – it’s a good way to give your cat a chance to stretch its legs on layovers. Also, like with dog crates, you’ll have to remove your cat from the carrier during security checks so if your cat is agitated or your are anxious holding on to them, the leash may be a good alternative. We’ve also noticed it helps to calm most cats who like to sniff around when outside of their carriers.

Breed Restrictions

Unlike with dogs, there aren’t man breed restrictions with cats. The only time it may come into play is if you get a rare cat from a country that prohibits their export. Check with the breeder before purchasing and call the airline to confirm your cat is good to go.

Don’t be afraid to fly with your cat, most of them adjust very quickly to the experience and take a day or so to get back into sorts once they arrive at their final destination. Much like dogs, cats, even the most finicky of them, adapt quickly. Set them up with litter box, food, and water once your get home; let them explore, and in a day or two it will be like they never flew at all.

How To Prepare Your Cat For Air Travel

Get started as early as you can preparing your cat for air traveling even if you aren’t a frequent traveler. By beginning early in their lives (as kittens is best) or soon after adopting an older cat you can start to slowly accustom them to their carrier, the car, and perhaps eventually a flight. Cats are territorial animals that find comfort in their familiar surroundings and by making the key elements of travel familiar to them you’ll reduce their anxiety. As we both know that when your pets re relaxed during travel you the owner will be too.

Carrier Training

The cat carrier is the first place to begin teaching your cat that they own that particular space. Most cats won’t like their carriers at first so place treats and catnip there for your pet to discover on their own. After a few days your curious cat will begin to check out the treats and feel more and more comfortable in the carrier. Once they become more relaxed in the carrier, try closing it up for a few minutes at a time occasionally when they walk in. You don’t want to do it every time so they don’t fear the carrier. Your goal should be able to keep your cat in the carrier starting at about 3 minutes to around 15 minutes at a time in your home. After your cat can handle the 15 minute mark, try walking them around the house so they get used to movement in the carrier. Remember, once these little training sessions are done, reward your cat with a treat or some dinner so both going in the carrier and coming out are fun activities they associate with positive things.

Proper carrier training won’t just help you on a trip to the airport for on long haul flights, but for more routine trips like going to the vet. You’ll make the experience much easier on both yourself and your cat.

Your cat will also appreciate it if the carrier doesn’t smell like any other pets you may have so don’t let the family dog use it as their second home. A nice blanket that is clean and fresh smelling will also make the environment that much more inviting. Some carriers also come with floral fragrances designed to calm pets but cats don’t really like the smell of citrus and nothing will work as well as good carrier training.

Training Tips

During the training process, don’t hover over the carrier, obsessing over every single sound your cat makes. That creates a tense environment and will make your animal feel like there is something wrong. Keep in mind that being in the carrier is completely normal and you must act like that. Give your cat a chance to adjust and if you do it slowly enough and over enough time, they eventually will. The one mistake you can make is not sticking with the process and trying to take a flight with a cat that is a complete ball of stress in their carrier – making the flight miserable for everyone involved.

Leave a Comment