As the holiday season approaches many of us will be traveling all over to visit loved ones. If you are thinking of scheduling a flight, you may also be thinking about what to bring- including your cat.
There are also a variety of items that need to be prepared when traveling with your cat. Please see our article, How to Travel with a Cat for other needed items to gather and pack such as veterinarian paperwork and proof of cat ownership.
Cats do travel quite well on airplanes and there are several options available to consider when preparing for air travel. It is important to know about your options so you can make a well informed decision for you and your kitty.
When you decide what airline you will be traveling on, call their booking agents or a basic 1-800 number; you will need to speak with a person in this circumstance. If your flight is not able to be changed you can buy your ticket online before calling, however it is highly suggested that you call and speak with an agent before booking your flight.
Each airline has their own standards that may vary, but each airplane is only allowed a certain number of animals per flight. Helper animals who aid handicapped passengers have priority over pets. On the airplane, pets can ride with you in the main cabin or below the main cabin in a pressurized deck. If you book your flight early enough you may be able to have a choice, but if your flight does not have enough notice you may have to settle for whatever opening is available.
Either way you have to have an airline approved cat carrier; each airline has specific rules listed on their website. Once you have confirmed your flight, print out 2 copies of your itinerary; keep one with you at all times and one with your cat carrier. In case of any separation, you can prove your cat belongs on the same flight as you and flight attendants will know exactly where your kitty should be at all times.
If your cat will be traveling in the cabin with you, you will have to bring your cat and carrier to the check-in counter; You cannot online check-in your cat. Once you get to the counter, you will need to check-in yourself and any luggage. Your cat is considered a carry-on so you will put the carrier on the counter.
The attendant will want you to hold your cat while they check the carrier inside and out. Depending on the attendant, they may ask to hold your cat and check them out that way, but most will just check for a collar, tag and overall health condition (which is usually just a pet in a few areas).
After getting your boarding pass and a tag for the cat’s carrier, your next destination will be security. In security, you have to take off your shoes and put any other carry-ons in a tray to be X-rayed. Do this as soon as you get there because they will also want to check out your cat carrier.
It should fit into the X-ray machine so they will ask you to take your cat out and hold them in your arms while you walk through the metal detector. The cat carrier will go through like your luggage carry-on and come out on the other side of the metal detector.
Hopefully, you will be able to walk through with the cat once and not have to worry about your cat stressing out from being outside their carrier in such a busy place for longer than needed. Once you get on the plane, it is important to keep your cat in the carrier at all times and keep the carrier on the ground.
Although you may be concerned about kitty, this place is the most safe place for your cat as well as other passengers on the plane. A good suggestion might be to slip your shoe off and let your cat smell your toe through the carrier so kitty doesn’t feel alone and scared.
If your cat is traveling under the main cabin in the pressurized storage area, don’t worry, kitty will be safe. This is the most common place for pets to travel and the airline staff knows exactly what to do. Your cat carrier will be strapped in place so it will not move during take-off, turbulence or landing.
In many airlines, a flight attendant will be present on that level to care for any animals. It is equally pressurized and oxygenation just as the main cabin. The temperature is also regulated so your cat’s comfort will be very similar to your own. However, keeping your cat with you on the plane is the best choice.
If you choose to have your cat medicated, it will just be another place to nap. Un-medicated, it will be a little uneasy for them at first just as your own first flight would be. Airline staff suggest travel below the main cabin is often the most safe place to be on the plane since the carrier will not be strapped down in the main cabin. If your cat will be traveling in this way, you need to take your cat to check-in at the counter just as you would for carrying-on your cat.
The attendant will still want to inspect the carrier and your cat as previously described except you will leave your cat and carrier with the attendant and continue onto security by yourself. Once you leave the attendant’s counter, your cat will have a personal escort to the plane and be strapped in individually.
If you are unable to find space on your flight for your cat and cannot change your plans around the availability of pet space, you still have options. There are airline flights that are willing to fly your pet even if you are not on the same plane. You will have to check your cat in and pick kitty up on time of course.
There are also airlines that strictly fly pets such as Pet Airways that can hold up to fifty animals. Another option would be to put your cat on a bus or train a day or two before your flight leaves so you can be there in time to pick them up when they arrive. In a time when our pets mean more to us now than ever, there are an amazing number of ways to transport your kitty and so many people who are willing to help.