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How to Travel With a Cat on a Plane — 8 Tips and Tricks

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

cat inside an airplane

Whether for business, pleasure, or relocation, sometimes traveling on a plane with a pet cat cannot be avoided. Unfortunately, the experience can be stressful for everyone involved, including your kitty. Therefore, it is important to do everything that you can to make the plane trip as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. Here are a few tips and tricks that you can use when traveling on a plane with your feline family member is with you.

The 8 Tips to Travel with Cats on Planes:

1. Pack a Special Bag

Time Requirements 1–2 hours
Required Equipment Varies
Difficulty Moderate

One important thing that you can do to make traveling with your cat on a plane easier is to pack a special bag that contains nothing but gear that your kitty can use during your trip. Spend a few minutes making a list of things that you think that your cat will need and want while they are contained in their kennel, traveling by vehicle to and from the plane and while on the plane itself.

These things can include:
  • A familiar smelling t-shirt from home (something that you or a family member wears)
  • Nausea medicine and tranquilizers prescribed by your veterinarian
  • A bottle of Pedialyte or similar product in case of dehydration
  • A favorite toy from home
  • An extra blanket

The bag that you pack should be customized to suit your cat’s specific needs and care requirements. It should stay with you at all times throughout your trip so you have easy access to the goods inside whenever necessary.

young bengal cat playing an interactive toy
Image Credit: Evdokimova, Shutterstock

2. Talk to Someone in Person When Booking

Time Requirements 30 minutes or less
Required Equipment None
Difficulty Easy

It is important to call and talk to a customer service representative personally when booking travel for your cat. This will enable you to communicate any special needs that your kitty has and to find out exactly what all your travel options are. Chances are that there are travel options available that are not offered or easily findable on the airline’s website.

Talking to someone in person will also enable you to find out exactly what the kennel size requirements are, what kinds of tags and markings should be put on the kennel, and how early you will need to be at the airport for a smooth transition onto the plane.


3. Practice at Home

Time Requirements Multiple days
Required Equipment Kennel, treats
Difficulty Moderate

It is a good idea to get your kitty ready for traveling on a plane before your trip is scheduled, especially if you have never traveled anywhere together before. Practicing the act of getting your cat in their kennel and driving them to the airport will help get them used to the experience and make the process less stressful for them when the time finally comes to actually fly.

Start by placing your kitty’s kennel in the living room and then using treats to get your cat to go to the kennel and get in. This can take several days, as your cat likely won’t want anything to do with the kennel. Once your kitty starts feeling safe with the kennel in view, they should start coming closer and closer to get the treats that you have to offer. Eventually, you should be able to throw a treat into the kennel and have your cat follow it inside.

Once your cat is comfortable entering the kennel to get a treat, start closing the kennel door when they go inside and then take them for a drive around the block. Bring them back inside, let them out of the kennel so they know that they are safe, and then go on about your business like usual. Repeat this process multiple times before heading to the airport to fly, and travel day should be much less stressful for everyone involved.

cat inside plastic carrier
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

4.  Alert Other Transportation Services

Time Requirements 30 minutes or less
Required Equipment A phone
Difficulty Easy

If you will be utilizing a transportation service to or from the airport, it is important to let that service know that you will be traveling with a cat. Whether you’ll be using Uber, a taxi, or a shuttle system, letting the service know about your kitty ahead of time will prepare the driver for the experience. They will make sure that the atmosphere is calm and relaxed and that there is plenty of room for a kennel to sit by your side while you ride. They may be able to provide special services or features, such as a portable fan to help keep your cat cool while in the vehicle.


5.  Keep Treats on Hand

Time Requirements Minimal
Required Equipment Cat treats
Difficulty Easy

Making sure there are plenty of treats readily available in your pocket will help keep your cat happy while you’re hanging out in the airport waiting to board your plane. Any time your cat shows signs of distress, you can be there to offer them their favorite treat and remind them that they are not alone during the adventure.

Treats can also help keep your kitty quiet while traveling in the cabin of the plane. Make sure the treats you choose are small and easy to eat so they don’t end up piling up or crumbling and making a mess in the kennel. Maybe pick one that your cat loves but doesn’t get often, like real bacon. Just cook a couple of pieces of bacon until crispy, then crumble the bacon into little bits before putting it all into a small plastic baggie. Then, pop the bag in your pocket before you leave for your flight.

cat eating treats with its tongue sticking out
Image Credit: Daria Bondina, Shutterstock

6.  Limit Feeding Beforehand

Time Requirements None
Required Equipment None
Difficulty Physically easy but could be mentally difficult

Nobody likes to deprive their cats of food, but sometimes it is in the best interest of the feline. For example, if your kitty eats a meal before you get on a plane, it could upset their tummy and create digestive issues. Diarrhea and vomiting could result, which will only create a huge uncomfortable mess inside the kennel.

By having them skip a meal before the plane trip, you can avoid them having possible digestive problems and ensure a more pleasant experience for your cat the whole time that they are traveling in their kennel. You can give your cat a full meal as soon as you land.


7.  Invest in a Harness and Leash

Time Requirements 30 minutes to buy, days to practice
Required Equipment Cat-sized harness, leash
Difficulty Moderate

There may be a time when you must take your cat out of their kennel, like when you go through the security checkpoint at the airport. You could hold your kitty and hope that they don’t wriggle free due to fright, or you could outfit them with a properly fitted harness and leash to ensure that they can’t run away from you whenever they are out of their kennel.

Putting a harness and leash on your cat will also enable you to take them out of their kennel so you can cuddle and provide them with comfort. This will be helpful when you are sitting in the airport waiting to board your plane if your kitty is crying and meowing. Taking them out of their kennel should quiet them down and make the situation more manageable.

cat wearing blue harness
Image Credit: ignartonosbg, Pixabay

8.  Create a Home in the Carrier

Time Requirements About an hour
Required Equipment Kennel, bedding, toys, pheromones
Difficulty Moderate

To optimize your cat’s comfort while traveling on a plane, you can make their kennel feel like a home away from home. Start by covering a piece of bedding with one of your t-shirts that haven’t yet been washed (you can always wash it when you get to your destination!), and then put the bedding in the kennel so it covers about ¾ of the floor area.

This will make the space smell just like you so your cat always feels like you are nearby. Next, tie a couple of your cat’s favorite toys to pieces of short string, then hang the string from the top slits in the kennel. This will give your kitty something to play with or at least help take their mind off their situation. Spraying the interior of the kennel with pheromones can also help calm your furry friend and make their travel experience a little less stressful.

Conclusion

Traveling with your cat doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With the help of these tips and tricks, you should be able to get through the flying experience with minimal stress and few disruptions. Prepare yourself for the trip for days beforehand both mentally and physically. Work closely with your veterinarian, and take possible problems and emergencies into account. Happy travels!


Featured Image Credit: Photo-Spirit, Shutterstock

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