Is Shipping Cats by Air Safe or Traumatic?

Many airlines allow shipping cats on the plane. Some will let you bring them in the cabin, if kept in a cage by your feet, but usually they'll be placed in the cargo. It is important to consider weather, a proper and airline approved cat carrier, as well as the cat's personality and sense of safety before, during and after the trip.

Itinerary and Weather

Check with the airline well ahead of time to determine the temperature in the cargo hold. A cat may not be safe if traveling in extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures, depending on the travel itinerary. When transporting a cat, it is best to use a non-stop flight because temperature dangers happen most when a plane is grounded. Each leg of the trip should be short enough for the cat to be able to survive without easy access to food and water. You should put food and water in the cat carrier if the water won't spill and create a discomfort for the cat. If the plane will be grounded during the itinerary, make arrangements with the airline to be able to care for your cat during the break and offer fresh food and water and lots of affection.

Carriers for Shipping Cats on Flights

Each airline may have specific guidelines about an airline approved cat carrier. In every instance, your cat should be able to fully stand up and fully turn around in their carrier. The carrier should be sturdy and hard enough to protect the cat should the carrier hit any other luggage. The carrier should be rigid enough to not collapse in case other heavy luggage is placed on it.

Health, Comfort and Security

Travel can be traumatic for cats but you can help decrease the stress on your animal before, during and after cat flying. Before the trip, get your cat accustomed to the carrier. Put a favorite blanket and something that has familiar smells on it in the carrier. Put toys and treats in the carrier and give the cat time to get used to the carrier a few days before travel. Keep other routines intact before travel including regular feeding times and regular litter box cleaning. Maintain a space for the cat that is not disturbed by luggage and rearranging as you prepare for travel. Make sure you take the cat to the vet for a health check and the proper paperwork no more than 10 days before travel.

On the day of travel, be sure that your cat gets a lot of attention from you. Exercise is particularly important on travel days to help decrease anxiety and restlessness. Provide food and water an hour before departure and then access to the litter box. Put a familiar blanket and favorite toys and treats in the carrier. Mark the carrier with your name and contact information in case the airline staff need to contact you for any reason.

After the Trip

Take your cat to the vet after the trip to ensure that the cat's health is still at its best. Spend extra time with your cat after the trip providing affection and play. Get routines back to normal as soon as possible.