Taking your cat on a plane can be a very stressful experience for your pet, but it doesn’t have to be, if you follow all the necessary steps and prepare for the trip as well as you can. There are two ways of traveling with a cat by plane – in the cabin and in the cargo hold. Of course, your best option is to bring the cat with you in the cabin, but sometimes that just won’t be allowed. Either way, there are tips that can help you deal with this kind of a trip.
First of all, if your cat is traveling with you in the cabin, you will need an airline-approved pet-carrier, or a cargo crate if your pet is going to be in the cargo. In both cases, try to find the most secured bag or crate with good zippers or doors that won’t let your cat get out if the bag is dropped or something else happens. You really don’t want to chase your cat around the airport or the airplane.
Secondly, you will need to get your cat used to the pet-carrier. Try to use it a few times before the flight to show your cat that she will be let out of it eventually and that everything will be alright if she’s patient. Take her for a short trip outside your home, somewhere you won’t be taking her outside, or visit somebody she likes to see. Don’t take her to the vet, or pressure her into anything unpleasant during this time of adaptation.
Make the pet-carrier something pleasant. Put some toys that you know your cat loves inside but avoid putting treats because you won’t be able to give her any food while on the flight. But even if your cat starts getting inside the carrier on her own, don’t use it as a day crate.
2. Booking a flight
When you’re booking a flight, make sure you get every detail about how your cat will be travelling and what is it that you need. Obviously, you will have to choose an airline that allows cats on the flights. Make sure to get the information about whether your pet will be traveling with you in the cabin, or in the cargo hold. Moreover, arrange everything so that your cat isn’t lost and you don’t encounter any problems – get a locator with your seat number for the crate, make sure you have your cat’s documentation on you as well as on the pet-carrier.
3. Food, water and medication
Cats shouldn’t be given any food the night before the flight, but if you have to feed it, make sure it’s at least five hours prior to the flight. Water is allowed, however, you should also stop giving your cat water an hour before the flight. On longer flights, or if your cat is traveling with cargo, a sip of water towards the end of the flight is advisable. When it comes to meds, if your cat is taking them, make sure to schedule them around the flight so as to make to the most convenient. Avoid using tranquilizers if you possibly can, but if you feel you need to use them, consult your vet.
4. Litter box habits
If your cat is well trained to use the litter box, there shouldn’t be any problems for you on the flight. Cats are quite capable of holding the evacuation for 24-48 hours which is plenty of time to keep them calm on the plane. If you think your cat will get stressed out and is likely to urinate in the carrier, you can put a few layers of blanket on the floor of the carrier so that it absorbs the liquid.
5. At the airport
Prepare for the airport as the most stressful part of the journey as you will be asked to take your cat out of the carrier and hold it as you pass through the metal detector. You should by no means leave your cat in the carrier and through the X-ray machine. It is not allowed and it’s highly dangerous for the animal. This is the part where you should be extra careful. Hold our cat tightly as they tend to be very slippery when they are scared. She may escape and make it an impossible mission to catch her. You could put a leash on her, just in case, during that short time so it’s easier to stop her from escaping. Also, make sure your pet has an ID collar.
6. On the plane
You will be asked to slide your cat’s carrier under the seat in front of you. It is best to keep it down there, especially during the takeoff and landing when it’s obligatory. However, during the flight, you can check on your pet every now and then. Just make sure not to excite her too much or make her believe she would be let out. If necessary, you can even put a cloth over the carrier so that your cat doesn’t see what’s going on around her and gets less stressed out by the whole experience.
7. Follow up
Finally, when you land and you take your cat outside the airplane, make sure to keep it in the carrier or crate until you get to your final destination. Don’t make the mistake of letting her out at the airport or anywhere she could easily escape. She is still stressed out during this time and you need to let her relax a little before you let her out.