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How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Cat in 2023?

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

cat in pet carrier waiting at the airport with owner

Whether you’re planning a move to a new household or bringing a cat home from a breeder in another state, shipping your cat may be the only reasonable option. There are several options for transporting a pet: by air, car, or a pet transporting company. In most of these situations, we can’t be there ourselves and need someone who is either able to drop the cat off at the airport or pick them up in a specific location.

Cats are a valued member of the family, so you’ll want to pick a mode of transportation that is safe and reliable. Planning cat transportation isn’t always easy, but there are ways to make it more affordable and less stressful. Depending on the options you choose, shipping a cat can cost between $125 and $5,000. Here are the details:

The Importance of Shipping Cats Safely

The most important part of shipping a cat is that it gets done safely with no issues throughout the entire process. From drop-off to pick-up, making the trip as stress-free, quick, and comfortable as possible is the ultimate goal.

Hiring a stranger or a company to arrange the shipment can make pet owners pretty nervous. After all, nobody is going to love and care for your pet in the same way you do. You have to ensure that they have plenty of food and water, are stocked on pee pads in case of accidents, and have all the proper documentation for the trip. Planning ahead of time is crucial if you want everything to run smoothly and have your cat delivered in good health.

cat inside plastic carrier
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

How Much Does Shipping a Cat Cost?

Understand that the price for shipping a cat is going to vary depending on the mode of transportation you choose, any services you hire, and the time or miles to the destination.

Shipping Cats Via Airline

All airlines have similar pet policies, although some are slightly different. There are two ways to ship your cat via airline. You can have a friend or hire someone to fly with them in the cabin, or you can pay to have them placed in the cargo area and arrange for somebody or a service to pick them up.

On average, airlines charge $125 for a one-way, in-cabin trip per pet. This is one of the cheaper options but isn’t always ideal since you can’t always find someone to travel with them. That leaves you with the option to have them shipped inside the plane’s cargo area.

The price for shipping a pet in the cargo area of a plane can vary and is usually priced on a case-to-case basis. The breed and size of your pet, along with the distance, can all affect the cost. The cost of flying one small cat domestically will likely cost you between $200 and $300. This doesn’t include the cost of hiring someone to pick them up from the airport.

cat in a cabin
Image Credit: Photo Spirit, Shutterstock

Ground Transportation Services

If you’re shipping a pet within the continental United States, then ground transportation is another option to consider. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some airlines are tightening down on their pet policies, meaning that you have fewer shipping options.

The price for ground transportation is mostly dependent on the length of the journey. When looking at one popular pet shipping company called PetRelocation, shorter trips start around $2,200 to $2,400. Trips that take over 10 hours might cost as much as $5,000 and higher. Again, these are general prices that could be higher or lower based on the company, starting location, and the final destination.

Additional Costs to Anticipate

Veterinarian Health Certificates

Depending on where you’re shipping the cat to, you might need to take your cat to the vet for a health screening and paperwork. From there, some places might require government approval or an endorsement before traveling. Depending on the tests and screenings that your veterinarian has to provide, this could be as low as $40 or as high as $120 per pet.

persian cat vet check up
Image Credit: didesign021, Shutterstock

Import Permits

Some countries only allow pets to enter if they have an import permit. As you can probably guess, getting these official government approvals could be a bit expensive. For example, bringing a cat into Australia would cost a permit fee of $480. These prices change depending on the country but expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars for one.

Customs Clearance

Cats arriving at their final destination have to go through a series of clearance steps when traveling internationally. The fees often include taxes, tariffs, and other fees specific to that country. Thankfully, most airlines are happy to share the fees with you when you book the flight for your cat. If you can’t find them there, check out the destination country’s government websites. These are usually low in price, costing anywhere from $50 to $100.

DIY vs. Hiring Professionals

Saving money won’t be a problem if you can hire close family or friends instead of professional pet shippers. You won’t have to pay outrageous fees. Plus, you’ll feel a lot better when you can rely on somebody that you already trust. Even if you can’t find someone to fly or drive your cat, it saves you money to have someone you know to pick them up.

cute cat in backpack
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

How Far Should Cats Get Shipped?

Do your best to keep travel time to a minimum when shipping a cat. Unfortunately, you don’t always know who is going to be taking care of your cat during the trip. If something were to happen and the workers forgot to feed or water them, then you’d want them to reach their destination in as little time as possible. This doesn’t always happen, but you can always prepare for the worst.

Thankfully, most major airlines put a time restriction on flights for animals. The max flight time for pets traveling with major airlines is around 12 hours. If you are shipping them via ground transportation, we suggest working with a company that specializes in shipping pets and has many excellent customer reviews. These companies often know what your pet needs during the trip and can take better care of them.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Pet Shipments?

Every pet insurance company and its policies are different. While some plans and companies might cover accidents during a trip, others don’t. If you don’t already have pet insurance, it would be wise to purchase a pet transport insurance plan. These are often sold at a low monthly cost of around $20 per month.

If working with a pet shipping company, they almost always have insurance available through them. This might cost $100 to $200 per trip, but it is worth it to know you’ll be covered in case anything happens. Whichever type you plan to buy, make sure that you thoroughly read through their plans and are aware of everything that is and isn’t covered.

Cat in purple carrier
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

What To Do to Make Your Cat Comfortable During Shipping

Cats do not travel well, and they’re more than likely already going to be stressed. It’s important to make your cat as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

What Makes Cats Most Comfortable?

Start by finding a good kennel that is sturdy and escape-proof while still meeting all the requirements of the airline or shipping company. You may need to provide food, water, dishes, pee pads, toys, and some sort of bedding to make them feel cozy during the move.

Always take your pet to the vet before any type of travel to obtain a health certificate. This lets others know your cat is in good health and will make you feel more confident about sending them.

In some cases, you might need to sedate your cat if they are anxious or don’t travel well. However, some airlines discourage this because the changes in altitude could change the way the medication affects your cat.

Not everybody has the luxury of scheduling the shipment based on the weather, but you should look into it if you can. You don’t want it to be too hot or cold while your cat travels. Temperatures between 45°F and 85°F are ideal for traveling pets.


Even if it isn’t ideal, sometimes the best option for transporting your cat is to ship them. We can’t always take them on long car rides with us or accompany them on a plane. Thankfully, there are several options that are guaranteed to deliver your cat to its final destination safely. The more research you do, the better prepared you are and the more money you can possibly save. Shipping a cat doesn’t have to be expensive, but it is sometimes worth the extra cost for some peace of mind.

Featured Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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