Cat Air Travel Tips

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, offers advice on traveling with cats on a plane.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: June 24, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: I am thinking of taking my cat on a plane with me. Any advice?

A: Flying these days is very stressful for people, let alone our cats. I suggest that if you are going away for less than two weeks, it is best to leave your cat at home and have a trusted friend or cat sitter care for her. I have a client who is in Manhattan during the spring and summer and goes to Florida from December to March every year. They fly and arrange to bring her two kitties, Kathy and Millie, in the cabin. We call them “snowbirds” but I laugh when I think how Kathy and Millie feel about that!

If you are going to fly with a cat and have her in the cabin where you can safely keep an eye on your cat, you’ll need to do your homework. Not all airlines allow cats to fly with you, so call around and see what their requirements are. They will have a cat carrier size restrictions and I believe the carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. In this case, a soft-sided Sherpa-style cat carrier with mesh for ventilation and visibility is a good choice.

Get your cat’s vaccinations up to date and get a cat health certificate from your cat vet; your airline will probably require it. You can also ask your cat vet about tranquilizers, although some cats react poorly to them. Allowing your presence and soothing voice to calm them down could work best. Keep your cats’ favorite cat food treats on hand.

Above all, you are the best judge of your cat’s personality — is your cat suited to the rigors of air travel? A nervous Nellie is probably not the best cat candidate. I know you will make the right decision and enjoy your trip. As always I welcome your questions and comments!

Readers: I will release my first cat book, Cat Calls, with co-author CAT FANCY editor Susan Logan in September 2011. Stay tuned to  for details! Also, visit my website for more advice and follow me on Twitter where I provide a daily cat tip.
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Reader Comments

jay    somewhere, IL

7/11/2011 8:26:24 PM

Cats fly all the time. It's no big deal HOw do you think the cats that are campaign week after week get to shows. Its not by driving believe me. From East Coast to west coast & allpoints in between plus our friends in Canada & Europe plus Mexico. Suggest a Sturdi bag for taking kitty with you Sherpa's are not secure enuff in the top closure part. Too many of us have had kitty escape on the plane. Get to the airport a tad bit early have health papers & off you go. Do make a eservation for kitty to be with you early as airlines restrict # of pets in cabin & it's not cheap

O-    P==, MA

7/11/2011 1:08:26 AM


Mary    Pensacola, FL

7/8/2011 12:46:40 AM

My 6-year-old tabby, Jack, has flown cross-country and back from FL to CA twice, only because these were extended visits and she is miserable when I leave, even with a good sitter. Jack was with me in the cabin both trips, but seemed to get overheated. It seems that under the seats is where the ventilation is poorest and the temperature is warmest. On top of that, the noise of the engines is loudest there, and how much louder and scarier it was for Jack. I brought cool rags and lots of water for her, and yes, some flight attendants were sympathetic to her and allowed me to keep the carrier on my lap at least during take-off. Also used some of the Bach flower remedies for pets which seemed to help. The only times Jack became upset were during takeoff and landing (of course). However, because it is such a stress on her, I do not plan to fly with her again. If I have to be gone a stretch, I'll try to find another way to go. My vet encouraged me to take her as both of her cats travel well, and I've heard of others also. Jack, however, is not one of them, and it's way too hard on her.

Elizabeth    Woodland Hills, CA

7/7/2011 11:55:15 PM

My cat has flown with me more than a dozen times. She does wonderful with it. My advice is if you plan on traveling with your cat, get the correct soft sided pet carrier when she is a kitten. Also, I keep a towel on the bottom of the carrier that she has had since coming home from the humane society years ago. My cat actually uses her carrier as a bed normally, so she sleeps when traveling without any meds.

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