Cats are fitful creatures that are often hard to get along with and train, but that doesn’t mean that flying with your cat has to be hard. You just have to give yourself plenty of preparation before you and your cat are ready to go jet set off on a plane somewhere.
A good time frame is 30 days, or about a month, before you leave. The first thing you want to do is make sure the airline allows you to bring your cat in the cabin or not. If so, great! If they only allow you to bring your cat in cargo, consider choosing another airline.
Storing your cat in cargo is a bad idea all-around. The reason for this is because most cargo areas on planes don’t have air conditioning while boarding and unloading. This means your cat could potentially overheat and unfortunately die, and no one wants that.
Also, be sure to ask the airline what kinds of documentation your cat will need. Usually, they’ll ask for vaccination and health certificates, which you can get from your veterinarian.
The airline also might also ask that your cat has a collar and ID tag (which your cat should wear anyways) and that the carrier you transport your cat in meets USDA standards. This part can get a little complicated, so make sure you cover all of your bases.
You should ask what the dimensions of the seats are in the airplane to make sure that you can fit your carrier underneath the seat in front of you. That’s the best place to keep your cat during the flight, so make sure you can do it.
If you’re traveling outside of the country, you should do research about the laws of whatever country you’re traveling to. Some countries have strange laws you should look out for.
As for your cat, you will need to do a little bit of preparation. First, you’ll need to fit a halter and leash and familiarize both yourself and your cat with walking him or her like a dog. It will be awkward at first, but you can do it.
In addition to halter and leash training, you will have to train your cat to enter and exit the carrier at your command, because it would be incredibly inconvenient to have a disobedient cat in the middle of a busy airport, especially during airport security.
Because your cat cannot go through the conveyor belt metal detector in the carrier, you will have to walk your cat through the walk-through metal detector with you.
Once you’ve undergone that obedience training, you will have to do a few test-runs in your car (if you have one). Pretend the doorway of your car is airport security and see if your cat is obedient enough to promptly get in the carrier so you can hoist it into the back seat.
Never trained a cat before? It’s hard, but it can be done.
Once there, you can determine how comfortable your cat is with traveling in a carrier in a moving vehicle. Drive slow and pay attention to how your cat sounds in the carrier.
Schedule a vet appointment to get any vaccinations your cat may need, depending on where your destination is. Also, your veterinarian will be able to provide the vaccination records and health certificate I mentioned above. Your vet may also recommend a microchip to help you track your cat in case he or she runs away, as cats are won’t to do.
You can also ask you veterinarian whether you should feed your cat before the flight or not. On one hand, feeding your cat just before the flight can be a good idea because it will keep him or her from becoming restless. On the other hand, your cat may be prone to nausea and could vomit in his or her carrier during the flight or need to use the bathroom.
Your cat might use the bathroom on the flight in any case, so it’s a good idea to line the carrier with absorbent pads in case of accidents.
You can also ask your veterinarian if you should give your cat a sedative to keep him or her calm during the flight. If your veterinarian decides your cat needs a sedative, he or she will determine what type of sedative to give your cat, as there are many that work at different intervals.
While going through security, you’ll need to walk your cat through security outside of the carrier, because cats can’t go through x-ray machines.
Once on the plane, be sure to place the carrier firmly and stably underneath the chair in front of you. Check with your cat periodically throughout the flight. Once at your destination, you can finally let him or her out.