Be careful if you’re planning to fly with your favorite feline take particularly extra precautions to take care of their welfare. Otherwise, as discussed earlier this week, your cat could go missing.

Diligence counts in making sure the cat is safe for the plane ride, but also safe upon arrival in your new home, especially if it’s in another country or Hawaii.

According to the Air Transport Association (ATA), over 500,000 animals are shipped via the air every year. Approximately one percent of the shipments encounter problems including transport in unapproved kennels, missed flights, lost pets, and animals’ deaths. Some musts to do before traveling with your cat include:

  • Chip, tag and bell your cat before you travel.
  • Thoroughly research the airline’s pet policy and charges.
  • Reserve your seat as early as possible if your cat is flying in the cabin. Most airlines limit the number of pets on each flight.
  • Check in with your vet before you fly. You’ll need a health certificate and vaccination records. You may want to sedate your cat for the trip, but most vets recommend against it (tranquilizers and sedatives can affect the temperature regulation of the body and cause other adverse effects), so a quick conference with your vet can help you determine what’s best for your cat.
  • Your cat carrier must meet airline regulations and be FDA and FAA approved. Acclimate your cat to the carrier before the flight and make sure she can move within it comfortably.

PetTravel.com has a host of information about traveling with pets, including news releases about the changing world of international pet travel, what is a pet passport and why it is important, why you should microchip your pe before traveling , changes to pet travel to Europe and or Hawaii,  Quarantine and Entry Requirements for various countries, Transiting a country with your pet, How to keep pets safe  when traveling in cargo, how to clear airport security with a pet, and many others.

Cats, or any animals traveling internationally should have a pet microchip that meets ISO standards 11784/11785. This is a 15 digit non-encrypted microchip that operates at 134.2kHz.

The microchip number should appear on all Veterinary and Vaccination Certificates, and be the same number as on those certificates. The microchip should meet the ISO standards or the owner must provide a compatible reader

The USDA says that your animal must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling with the airlines.

Which flights are easier on your pet?

Whenever possible, book a direct, nonstop flight and avoid holiday or weekend travel. Consider schedules that minimize temperature extremes. For example, try to avoid travel during excessively hot or cold periods.

You and the airlines must follow IATA regulations on the size of crate for your pet. The crate must be sturdy, properly ventilated and large enough that the animal may freely stand, turn around, and lie down.

The kennel must close securely with a mechanism that requires no special tools to operate. IATA compliant pet cargo crates are available in 7 sizes in the Pet Travel Store at the airport or airline’s website. Remember to check with the airline when in doubt, because the USDA assigns full responsibility for accepting the proper kennel to the airline. Crate must be provided with spacers to ensure ventilation openings are not blocked by adjoining kennels or cargo.

When your pet travels, the kennel should:

  • Clearly display your name and address
  • Use arrows or other markings (Live Animal Stickers) indicating the top of the kennel
  • Include food and water dishes (both empty) secured inside the kennel and accessible from outside
  • Show a food and water schedule and, if any food is necessary, include an ample supply in a bag attached to the outside of the kennel
  • Contain no more than one adult dog or cat; or no more than two puppies or kittens, younger than six months and under 20lbs. each
  • Contain crate pet pads
  • Display labels on top and on at least one side with the words LIVE ANIMALS printed in 1-inch high letters. You can find them in our crate accessory kits.

According to pet travel.com, at the time you book your trip, call the reservations number of the airline and tell them that you will be traveling with an animal. You cannot book your pet’reservation online. Be sure to reconfirm with the airline 24-48 hours before departure that you will be bringing an animal.

If you are shipping your pet as cargo and will be accompanying your pet on the same flight, notice of 24-48 hours should also be given to the airline. This is important, since each airplane can transport only a limited number of animals.

According to  petfriendly.com, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to decide if they will allow you to travel with your pet in the passenger cabin. If a commercial airline does allow you to bring your pet into the cabin, your pet container is considered to be carry-on baggage. Your pet container must be small enough to fit underneath the seat (generally about 10x15x20 inches and weighing less than 40 pounds). To find out about this option, call the airline well in advance of your flight, because there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin area.

Another option available for pet owners not willing to brave the experience of flying commercially with an animal companion is flying on a chartered plane. Many charter services allow animals, regardless of size, to fly in the cabin as passengers close to their owners.

Other options include charter service. One service, pet airways, caters to animals. Your Pet is not luggage. On the airlines, your pet is shipped in cargo. On Pet Airways, your pet travels in the main cabin, transported with care and love. It’s like Pet Daycare in the sky. Google pet charter services to see what is available in the area of your departure and of your destination.

Of course, if it isn’t necessary to fly with your cat, don’t. Think of driving as another alternative.  Of course that is not an option for international re-location. If relocating internationally, check with the country of entry because there may be requirements for proof of vaccination and long periods of quarantine. Even travel from the 49 USA states to Hawaii have strict guidelines for bringing in animals to the island.

Some diligence and leg-work before-hand could save some heart ache and confusion upon landing.

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About the Author

BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

3 Responses to Diligence Counts When Flying Or Relocating With Your Cat

  1. […] need to fly with your cats, you owe it to yourself to read B.J. Bangs’ oustanding article Due Diligence Counts When Flying or Relocating with Your Cat. The article is packed with great information and links to resources that will help keep your cat […]

  2. Excellent information and lots to think about should i TRAVEL WITH MY POOCHES AT ANY TIME IN THE FUTURE.

  3. B.J., this excellent and will share at http://www.facebook.com/catwisdom101
    I’ve only travelled twice with cats. Once they were in cargo (never again!) and once in the cabin when I moved from Toronto to NY landing at Newark. I had to buy an extra seat for the second cat. Large airports are a nightmare. If at all possible choose smaller airports and I’d recommend placing a old t-shirt smelling of the pet’s guardian in the carrier and spraying some Feliway. Makes them feel more secure.

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Catpersonable BJ Bangs



At Paws for Reflection, we're serious about cats, writing about cat health, cat rescue and cat news. We delve into why cats are the absolute best soul mates. We spring in a little humor with lots of travel tips, photos and a few feline tales, making Paws for Reflection a must stop for cat information on the cat crazed Internet. BJ is an award-winning blogger/journalist, communications professional and photographer.

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