Road Rules

Want to take your cat with you on vacation? Keep your trip fun and safe with proper planning.

By Andee Joyce | Posted: Thu Mar 15 00:00:00 PST 2001

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations limit how many animals airlines can allow in the passenger cabin on a given flight; therefore, an advance reservation for your cat is absolutely essential. Generally speaking, the less crowded the flight, the better chance you have of securing a reservation for your cat. Consider booking a midweek or late-night flight, which usually has the fewest passengers.

Typically, airlines charge $50 for transporting your cat in the passenger cabin, about the same as they charge for taking your cat in the cargo hold. Because airlines have a one-pet per passenger policy, you will have to recruit a friend or family member if you are traveling with more than one cat. Keep in mind the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits animals from being removed from the carrier while aboard the plane.

Whether your cat travels in the cabin or in the cargo area, airlines require a health certificate, no more than seven to 10 days old, from your veterinarian. The certificate indicates the animal's vaccination schedule and assures its overall good health. Health certificates usually cost around $30.

If your cat must travel in the cargo area, choose a direct flight. This will prevent your cat from missing a connecting flight and from being subjected to extreme heat or cold during transfer to another flight. Early-morning or late-night travel reduces heat stress in summer, and midday travel keeps your cat warmer in winter. If traveling during especially hot or cold seasons, call the airlines to check if it will accept animals for transportation in cargo at this time of year.

You must contact the airline before departure to ensure your carrier conforms to its travel specifications. You do not want to have your travel plans disrupted because your cat's carrier doesn't meet regulation standards. Be sure to tape a sign with large, clearly written words "LIVE ANIMALS THIS SIDE UP" on top of the carrier. Airlines also recommend pets wear an identification tag indicating a phone number of someone who can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

The HSUS advises that short-nosed animals, such as Persian cats, should never fly in the cargo area because they are at a greater risk of suffering from respiratory problems or heat stroke.

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