Whether you’re going on vacation, moving, or visiting family, sometimes traveling by air with your cat is necessary. In this article, we’ll go over how to travel with a cat on a plane. It may sound a little chaotic, but we have some tips and tricks to help it go smoothly. We cover everything from preventing your fur baby from meowing to how cats go to the bathroom on a plane.
Ready to learn more? Wheels up!
Do All Airlines Allow Cats on a Plane?
Most airlines allow you to travel with a cat on a plane. They typically allow for a cat to be in an approved carrier that can be placed under the seat in front of you. It’s an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) policy that animals must stay in the carrier at all times.
Airlines within the United States that allow cats or small dogs in the cabin include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Allegiant Air, JetBlue, and Frontier Airlines. Each has its own policies and fees, but all require an FAA-approved carrier. Most airlines based outside of the U.S. also allow cats in the cabin. Keep in mind that there may be a limit to the number of animals allowed in the cabin, so booking your pet’s ticket as early as possible can help increase the chances of their being room.
Cabin vs. Cargo Hold Flights for Cats
Cats can be carried on into the cabin of the plane like a small piece of luggage. However, they may transport pets in the cargo hold if you use a transport service. Unlike the baggage area, the cargo hold is typically pressurized and temperature-controlled similar to the cabin.
You’ve likely heard stories of missing, injured, or even killed pets from excessively hot or cold temperatures, ventilation issues, or poor handling when being loaded. While these stories are scary, it’s important to do your research and talk to your airline about how pet-friendly they are. Still, this is why most people elect to bring their cats into the airplane cabin with them.
How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Meowing on a Plane?
When cats meow on airplanes, it’s typically because they’re afraid, uncomfortable, or simply tired of being in a carrier. There are several ways to get your cat to stop meowing on a plane.
For starters, ensure it has a comfortable carrier. Purchase the FAA-approved carrier before the trip and practice having your pet go inside for short periods. Training it to like the carrier prior to travel will prevent meowing on the plane. You may also want to put a blanket or something for your cat to snuggle up with inside. And include a toy that it can play with when restless.
On the day you fly, be sure to remain calm. Travel can sometimes make people anxious, especially when taking pets along. And if you’re nervous, your cat will sense that and may also become stressed and start meowing.
A good way to prevent unnecessary stress is to arrive at the airport early so you’re not in a rush. Give yourself plenty of time to get through security checks and make things as smooth as possible for you and your cat. Keeping your cat calm the entire travel day will help prevent meowing on the airplane and disrupting other passengers.
If you anticipate or know your cat gets nervous traveling, you can talk to your vet about getting them anti-anxiety medication to help smooth their day.
How Do Cats Go to the Bathroom on a Plane?
Before flying with your feline, consider how cats go to the bathroom on a plane. Ideally, book a direct flight when possible so you have as little travel time as possible. However, layovers can also provide a bathroom break if your cat needs it. Some airports have pet relief areas for this.
Regardless of your flight itinerary, try not to feed your cat within four hours of the flight. Food should be digested within that time frame, and hopefully, your pet will relieve itself one last time before traveling. In addition, food in the stomach could cause motion sickness, so an empty stomach while flying is better.
If you think your cat will have a problem holding its urine on the plane, you could try a cat diaper. But we recommend trying them out before traveling, as some cats may not appreciate wearing something on their bottom section.
Pro Tip: See our guide to travel-friendly litter boxes.
Tips for Traveling With a Cat on a Plane
These tips for how to travel with a cat on a plane can help your pet. And if you remain calm and patient, your cat may just become an easy travel companion.
Know the Airline’s Pet Policy
Check your airline’s pet policy before you get to the airport. And remember, if you’re traveling on different airlines throughout your itinerary, each may have unique rules. For example, make sure your cat carrier is the correct size. Some airlines also require a fee to be paid at the airport upon check-in. The more you know the policies, the easier the travel day will be for you and your cat.
Have Any Necessary Paperwork Along
Have any necessary paperwork along for your cat. This may include a ticket and a health certificate, particularly if you’re traveling internationally. Again, each airline has its own rules. Reviewing the airline pet policy prior to travel is critical.
Bring All of Your Cat’s Essentials
Keep your cat happy while traveling on a plane by bringing its essentials. For example, put a toy or two in the carrier. If your cat starts to get restless during the flight, you can bend down and play with the toy to occupy it for a while. Also, pack food, treats, and a travel litter pan in case you have unexpected delays or layovers.
Arrive Early So You’re Not Rushed
We can’t stress early arrival enough when it comes to taking a cat on a plane. Get to the airport at least a half hour before you normally would for a flight. This gives you time to check in and go through security with your cat. This also allows you to get situated in your seat before takeoff without feeling rushed. Having a pet carrier by your feet for an entire flight isn’t always comfortable, so giving yourself some extra time to get situated will help.
Check On Your Cat Periodically During the Flight
Bend down to check on your cat periodically during the flight. Pet it and give it some scratches. This can help relax your cat and let it know you’re paying attention. You can also tease it with a toy for a while inside the carrier if it needs some distraction.
Respect Other Passengers
When traveling with a cat on a plane, be sure to respect other passengers. Some may be allergic to cats, or some may not be animal lovers like you are. It’s best to keep your cat to yourself and as low-key as possible so other passengers barely know it’s there. In addition, since your pet isn’t allowed out of the carrier, keeping attention away from it will prevent it from wanting to get out.
Do Cats’ Ears Hurt on Planes?
Cats can likely experience some ear pain, similar to humans, but it’s not a problem for them to fly. Cabins and most cargo holds are pressurized, and cats likely have the same experience as we do.
Is It OK to Sedate My Cat on a Plane?
While anti-anxiety medications can help a cat remain more calm, it’s not recommended to sedate your cat during air travel. Sedation is a risk and could increase the chance of heart and respiratory problems. It shouldn’t be used during transportation except under special circumstances and under the supervision of a veterinarian.
There are several problems with sedation, including unknown and inconclusive results at elevation. Cabins and cargo holds are typically pressurized at 6,000-8,000 feet, which may change how sedatives work on your pet. Sedatives also make balance difficult, and may confuse your cat more than help. They may also not be able to react to movements caused by turbulence.
Be Prepared the Next Time You Travel With Your Cat on a Plane
Being overprepared when traveling on a plane with a cat is good practice. Keeping your pet comfortable on the flight will make your trip a success. And you’re more likely to travel again with your cat if you have methods in place to help things run smoothly.
Have you traveled on a plane with your cat? How did it go? Share your story in the comments below.
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