Everything About Cat Airline Travel You Need to Know

For a cat, airline travel is extremely stressful. Prevent anxiety and stress in your cat by following a few simple guidelines. Each airline has specific rules on traveling with your cat, so make sure you know if your cat will be stored in the baggage area or if you can keep your cat and cat carrier with you on the flight.

Veterinary Approval Is Usually Required

While a cat sits in his cat carrier waiting to be placed in the baggage compartment, he may be exposed to outside elements. Many airlines refuse to take responsibility for a cat becoming chilled or overheated. Therefore, they require pet owners to supply a letter from their veterinarian, called an acclimation certificate, stating the cat is healthy and able to withstand temperature extremes.

Some airlines will request proof of recent vaccinations, including rabies, before boarding your pet. If you are traveling out of the country, make sure you've checked to see if your animal will face a quarantine when you reach your destination. Quarantines are stressful on both pet owners and their cat.

Choosing a Cat Airline Carrier

Airlines all require cat crates for air travel. Your cat carrier should be large enough for a cat to move around. Once you've boarded your cat, airline personnel will not allow you to take the cat from the carrier if the cat is with you. Make sure the cat has room to move and that there is room for a food and water dish. The water dish should be one that is filled from the outside. While the cat is flying, you will not be able to open the cage door.

Other features to watch for:

  • Area for writing your name and contact information in case the cat carrier is lost
  • Door lock pins must be found above and below the door
  • Excellent air ventilation
  • IATA approved model
  • Live animal stickers must be placed on the cat carrier
  • Room for an absorbent pee pad
  • Sturdy carrying handles

Typical Cat on Airline Travel Rules

Every airline offers their own rules and regulations, so it's important to check with them before you fly. Typically, you are allowed to bring your pet as a carry-on piece if your flight is less than six hours. The cat carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat while the cat rides in the airplane.

United Airlines requires cats flying to be at least six months of age. Small cats and dogs are accepted as carry-on baggage. Larger pets must be checked and placed into the cargo area. The require a veterinary letter if the temperature is 84 degrees or if the temperature will dip below 45 degrees.

If you are traveling with USAirways, the airline may refuse to board pets if the outside temperature is above 84 degrees or below 45 degrees. Only those cats with current acclimation certificates will be allowed.

Finally, make sure you put a name tag on your cat's collar. Airlines do make mistakes, so having the cat with identification is the best way to prevent accidental loss of your pet.