Preparing Your Cat For Air Travel

Try and think back to your first time flying. Maybe you were not really scared but the excitement mixed with anxiety might have caused an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. This is pretty much the same for your cat. Cats don't like traveling since they are usually most comfortable in familiar environments.

This makes air travel for cats challenging, more so because you can hardly take test drives as in the case of car road trips. The silver lining, however, is with air travel all you need to ace through it is proper and early planning. We give you all the important tips in planning for plane travel with your cat.

Cat On A Plane

​Take A Trip To The Vet

Air travel can be even more difficult for sensitive cats such that a medical checkup for your cat is high on the list of things you need to do before flying. Have her checked out for any diseases before the travel day for safety as well as to avoid any last minute illnesses that might cut short your trip.

The other reason vet visits are important is to get your cat vaccinated and issued with a certificate for traveling. Some airlines have a time restriction on the certificate where most give 10 days for the completion of your trip after the health certificate is issued. You should, therefore, check up with your airline to confirm if there are any time restrictions as well as any details the certificate should contain.

Be sure to give your cat a rabies vaccine early before the day of travel and if you already have, keep the certificate to hand when traveling. It's also a great idea to make sure your cat is as comfortable as possible by using a flea collar for cats before your trip to kill any unwanted lice and ticks.

Cat At A Vet

​​Cabin vs. Cargo Hold

You will have to decide whether your cat will travel with you in the cabin or fly solo in the cargo hold. Obviously, cabin travel trumps cargo mainly because you have the advantage of monitoring your cat. Chances of her getting lost are also minimized.

However, sometimes this option is out of your hands due to airline rules making cargo hold the only travel option for your cat. No problem, you can still make the best of this by making her as comfortable as possible. Ensure her carrier is properly ventilated and has sufficient cushioning. The size should also be large enough to allow easy stretching, lying down and standing.

Most importantly, label the external sides of the carrier with large signs reading "Live Animal” to make cargo handlers aware of the content of your carrier. While at it, have updated contact information attached to the carrier both inside and out just in case one comes off.

A rule of thumb when your cat is traveling in the cargo section is to go for a tough, hard sided (plastic) carrier as opposed to ones made of fabric. Take a look at cat carrier recommendations here.

​​​Book The Right Flight

As you would expect, airlines have restrictions on the number of pets that get to travel in the cabin. For this reason, booking your flight early gives you the chance to travel close to kitty.

Before booking, ask all the important questions like whether they allow pets or not. Also, find out all the relevant documents you will need for traveling with your cat.

Be ready to pay extra (about $100 ) for bringing your cat to the cabin and if need be, you can pay for extra leg room in case your carrier is large or you have more than one cat. Also, keep in mind that the cat carrier will be considered as one of your carry-ons.

​​Identify Her Plus The Carrier

An airport is a big place and items get lost every day, pets and their carriers are no exception. It goes without saying that you should label your cat carrier for easy identification. This is especially if it is going to travel in the cargo hold.

Identify Your Cat Carrier

While at it, have the cat wearing a collar with updated identification information. This includes your contact information. Instead of using your home phone number, have your cell phone number to make it easier to reach you in case of anything.

A modern alternative to having a collar is pet tracking using a microchip. As opposed to popular belief, pet tracking will not help you track your cat using GPS. That is a whole other tool altogether. Pet tracking contains all the information relating to your cat and has to be scanned first to reveal this. When done right and by a certified vet, pet tracking should be safe for your cat. When getting a microchip for your cat, get the vet to scan it before leaving to ensure it reads correctly.

​Get An Airline Approved Carrier

If you have flown with your cat before, you should probably hold on to your cat carrier because it is airline approved. Different airlines have different rules on the carriers they require. The surest way to find the right carrier is by looking into the airline website or giving them a call. However, generally, most airlines take a similar approach to cabin approved cat carriers. It should be made of a durable material able to contain your cat throughout the plane ride.

The carrier should also be well ventilated for the sake of your cat’s safety. In fact, it is advised you not travel with flat nosed animals for long hours since they have a hard time breathing as it is. This is directed to all you Persian and Himalayan cat owners. Have a properly ventilated carrier and if your cat is flat nosed, avoid long flights.

Speaking of flight hours, try and avoid midday flights in summer as they could be too hot and uncomfortable for your cat. Some airlines require your carrier to open both at the top and side for cabin travel as well as have a soft removable bottom pad.

Cat backpacks make a great alternative to a traditional cat carrier and many are also airline approved.

​​Pack The Essentials

This goes without saying, you should travel prepared in order to keep your cat as comfortable as possible and by keeping to routine feeding time and grooming. Carry dry food and snacks to make sure she stays well fed throughout the trip. Keep a water bottle close as well, to keep her well hydrated throughout the ride. With feeding comes the responsibility of handling cat waste. For this reason, pack a couple of waste bags to contain the cat waste until you get to a place where you can dispose of it. You should also pack a suitable cat leash and harness so you can stretch your cat's legs when required. 

As you would expect, there will be no stopovers for your cat to stretch out or urinate. Even worse, a litter box may be too bulky to carry in the cabin hold. In such a case, you can invest in pee pads for your cat and have one placed at the corner of her carrier.

Keep her well-groomed before leaving the house since chances are, you will not get lots of opportunities to do so on the plane. Speaking of grooming, have her nails well trimmed before your flight to minimize any chances of her breaking free from the carrier.

Woman Holding Cat In Carrier On Airplane

Get Kitty Accustomed To Flying

This is not easy. Well, unless you own a private jet and you can afford frequent test drives for your cat. No? You will have to settle for the next best thing, car rides. By taking your cat on frequent test drives before the flight date you build her tolerance for traveling. You also get her accustomed to being in a carrier and away from a familiar environment.

In the spirit of getting her accustomed to flying, make sure she is well prepared for the noisy airport environment. A good way of handling this is by keeping the radio on when doing the test drives. It doesn’t have to be too loud, just enough to resemble a busy airport.

Accustomise Your Cat To Flying

​Keep Your Cat Calm Through The Flight

The trick to keeping your cat calm is to make her as comfortable as possible.  Other than keeping her carrier well ventilated and padded, make her carrier feel as close to home as possible. How? Easy. Cats have a great sense of smell. Put one of your shirts in the carrier as well as her usual beddings to give the carrier a familiar scent.

If all fails, you can count on medication to keep your cat calm. I know this is not what any pet parent wants to do to precious kitty but, sedation is nothing to worry about. It will keep a hyperactive cat calm throughout the flight. Just make sure you consult your vet first, especially on the doses required.

​Have A Safe Journey

If there is one thing you can take from this entire guide, it is the importance of comfort when traveling with your cat. A happy cat means a happy owner which leads to a safe journey. So, take necessary steps to keeping your cat calm and happy.

Cat Peeking From Traveling Bag

​However, if you really don’t have a choice, make sure you take into consideration the tips above. One last thing before I go, don't be afraid to hold or pet your cat when traveling. It helps in keeping her calm. Well, unless she is a bad kitty and she might attempt to make a run for it. That said, we wish you and kitty a safe flight. Ciao!

Cats are much more than just furry animals that hog the bed at night. Nor are they just temperamental and mischievous little things that makes us wonder who is the pet and who is the owner. Cats, for many of us, are a member of the family. And, like the rest of the family, they are going to need to be taken to the vet from time to time – or maybe you just want to bring them along on a family vacation. For these situations, you’re going to want to make sure you have a cat carrier.

What is a Cat Carrier? (1) (2) (3)

As the name would suggest, a cat carrier is something that you use to transport your cat (or other small animals like small dogs, guinea pigs, ferrets, tiny pigs and the like) from one place to another. There are several different types of cat carriers that you could choose from. These include:

Homemade Carriers: A homemade carrier is basically anything that you grab from around the house and put your cat in. Some people will use a cardboard box, laundry basket, and even a tote bag or pillow case. These carriers (especially the pillow case and tote bag) aren’t safe for your cat because they could get hurt or escape when you are taking them from point A to point B.

 

Cardboard Carriers: A cardboard carrier is primarily given to people who just adopted a kitten. These carriers are typically designed for temporary transport and are not recommended for long-term use because they can get damaged, either by general wear and tear, or the cat may scratch a hole into the carrier. Also, these carriers are basically useless if they get wet, whether it is because of the weather or because the cat urinated or spilled their water.

 

Soft Sided Carrier: A soft sided carrier is going to be made from either nylon or ballistic nylon. The carrier will be lightweight and are usually pretty easy to carry, even with the cat in tow. There are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind if you decide to go the soft carrier route:

 

These carriers are very popular for travel but they are best suited for cats who travel well and remain calm. If a feisty or anxious cat is in one of these carriers, they could easily tear a hole in the nylon material and possibly escape. If you’re driving, this could be a very dangerous situation to be in. Not only that, but if your cat is determined to get out, they could catch their nail in the material which would lead to a vet visit.

 

When choosing a soft carrier, you want to make sure that it is going to be large enough for your cat to comfortably move around in it. If you plan on going on long trips, you will also want to add another several inches so that you can include a food dish and water dish, too.

 

With that said, cats prefer small spaces, so you don’t want to get them a massive cat carrier. We’ll talk more about how to choose the appropriate size a little later.

 

Soft carriers are going to be easier to clean than a cardboard carrier, but it is important that you choose a soft carrier that has something in the bottom to prevent the carrier from sagging while you’re carrying it. In most cases, the carrier will have lightweight framework that will prevent this.

 

Hard-Sided Carrier: A hard sided carrier is going to provide you with the best support for transporting your cat. They will also be more durable and easy to clean. It’s important to note that if you are flying with an airline approved hard carrier, they may not fit under your seat very well, but if something should fall onto the case, your cat will be safe.

 

Hard sided carriers will have a steel wire or steel mesh door that is going to be much more durable than plastic and any hardware on the case should be metal.

 

The handle for your carrier should be stout enough for you to comfortably carry your cat, but it should also be strong enough to support the weight of the carrier and the cat.

How to Find the Right Size Carrier For Your Cat (4)

When you know what kind of cat carrier you want to go with, you need to make sure that you are choosing the correct size for them. But how do you do that? It’s actually pretty simple and it only requires a bit of measuring.

For the first measurement, you will want to measure your cat from the base of their tail to the tip of their nose. You will want to make sure they are standing when you do this. Once you have that measurement, you will want to add four inches. This will be the length of the carrier.

For the second measurement, you will want to measure the top of their head (when standing) to the floor. After you found this measurement, you will want to add four inches. This will be the height of the carrier.

In a properly sized carrier, your cat will be able to stand up comfortably and will be able to peer out at the world without having to duck their head. They should also have enough space inside the crate for them to turn around comfortably and be able to lay down with their paws extended.

Airline Regulations For Cat Carriers (5) (6)

If you plan on going on a plane with your cat, you have to make sure that your desired airline even allows for pet travelers, but you will also want to be mindful of the regulations set in place for the cat carrier you use. Some airline companies will have varying requirements and what may work with one company may not work with the next.

However, most airline’s will allow only one pet carrier per passenger, and one pet per carrier. There may be an exception for small puppies, but there is a limit of a maximum of up to three pets per flight.

For the pet themselves, most airlines require that the pet is no longer than 18 inches and does not exceed 12 pounds in weight. Of course, this could be different for each airline. Basic requirements for the cat carrier includes:

The carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

The carrier must have a waterproof bottom (also invest in good pee pads)

The carrier must have adequate ventilation – at least two sides should have ventilation.

The carrier must use zippers to secure your pet in the carrying case.

You must keep your pet enclosed in the carrier at all times.

The carrier must be made of a hard material like hard plastic, metal, or wood.

The carrier’s door must be made of metal and have a metal locking mechanism.

You should have two water dishes attached to the carrier and should be accessible from outside.

In order to find the right carrier for your pet, you will want to measure your cat. When they are standing, measure from the tip of the head down to the floor, then add about 4 inches. This will indicate the height of the carrier. Next, measure the tip of the cat’s nose to the base of the tail, then add 4 inches. This will indicate the length of the carrier.

How to Use a Cat Carrier (7) (8) (9)

Every cat owner knows that cats have a mind of their own and they aren’t always going to be cooperative. While many cats love to be in enclosed places (seriously, what is with their fascination with boxes?), when they are locked into a carrying case, it’s like they go crazy and they will fight tooth and (sharp) nail to get out.

You can make the task of loading the cat into the carrier a little easier for both of you by acclimating your cat to the carrier way before they actually need to be in it. How do you do that, you ask?

To do this, you will want to leave the carrier out and easily accessible. Cats are suspicious and when the crate comes out of nowhere, they feel like something bad is going to happen – like a visit to the vet. By leaving the carrier out and open, she will be more likely to go in, explore, and not be so afraid of it.

You can do other things that will help your cat feel less afraid of the carrier, such as:

Leave the carrier in their favorite place with the door open. If you put the carrier just anywhere, chances are the cat may not even pay it any mind. However, when it is in their favorite spot (likely a spot that gets a lot of sun), their curiosity will be piqued.

 

Put a favorite blanket and toy in the carrier. The blanket will help your cat to feel comfortable, not just because of the softness of the blanket itself, but the familiar scents will help them feel like the carrier is “theirs.”

 

When your cat is relaxed inside the carrier, practice closing the door. With the door closed, give the cat a treat and then open the door and let the cat out.

How to Get a Reluctant Cat Inside the Carrier (10)

Unfortunately, no matter what you try to do, your cat just may not want anything to do with the carrier. The problem is you are still going to have to get them inside without hurting them and getting scratched up in the process. But how?

Use a towel or blanket that your cat sleeps on and put it inside the carrier.

 

If you do not have a two-door carrier, put the carrier on the end with the open door facing up.

If you do have a two-door carrier, open the top door.

 

Pick up your cat and hold their back paws in one hand while using the other hand to support the chest.

 

Gently place the cat’s backend into the crate first so they aren’t able to see where he is going.

 

If your cat puts up a fight, you can wrap him in said blanket or towel and then place him in using step 4.

Traveling With Your Cat (11) (12)

When you are transporting your cat, you want to avoid feeding them up to an hour before you leave. This will reduce the possibility of your cat getting sick. You will also want to cover the carrier so the motion outside the vehicle doesn’t make them nauseous and sick.

Another important tip is to avoid putting your cat on the ground if there are dogs around, but also if the area is overly crowded with people. All the commotion could cause your kitty to feel distressed and become anxious.

Before going on long trips in the car, consider taking your cat on short jaunts, like around the block or just up and down the street (make sure you buckle the carrier securely in the backseat!). This will help your cat get used to the movement of the car. As soon as you get him back into the house, be sure to give him a treat for being good.

If you have tried traveling with your cat before and they get sick or they just cannot relax, you will want to talk to your vet to see if they can give your cat some kind of medication so that the trip isn’t so stressful for them.

Tips to Keep In Mind When Traveling with Your Cat (13) (14)

If you’ve never traveled with your cat before, it’s going to be a new experience for both you and your feline friend. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for you trip:

Before leaving on your trip, make sure your cat has been examined by the vet to ensure they are in good health. You will also want to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines and they’ve been microchipped just in case they do get away from you.

 

If you are going on a road trip, you will want to make sure your car is in good working condition as well. You may not realize it but a preventative check will save you and your cat a lot of headaches because you will be less likely to break down.

 

Make sure you have the best cat carrier for your cat. You want to make sure your cat, their blanket, water and food dishes will fit comfortably inside the carrier. You also want to make sure the carrier has plenty of ventilation so they have fresh air, too.

 

While you are driving, you want to try to be as calm as you can. If you get too excited, one way or another, your cat will pick up on this and they too will get excited or agitated.

 

If you have multiple cats, avoid trying to put them both into a single crate. Not only will it be heavier for you to carry once you arrive to your destination, but the cats need their own space. The only acceptable time to put multiple cats into one carrier is if they are small kittens.

 

Always make sure that your car is at a good temperature. If it’s cold outside, crank up the heat so that the cats can feel it in the back. If it’s hot, put a light colored sheet over part of the crate and turn on the air conditioning. Also, you should never leave your pets alone in a hot car! Windows up and no air conditioning is a very dangerous situation for any living thing!

How to Clean and Maintain Your Cat Carrier (15) (16)

For the most part, cats are pretty good at keeping themselves nice and clean. So it would make sense that a dirty cat carrier is not the best situation for your kitty. A clean carrier is going to help keep your cat comfortable, but also keep the car from stinking.

If you have a hard sided carrier, you will want to remove the blanket and put it in the laundry to get washed. When the blanket has been dried, put it back in your cat’s bed so they can get their scent on it. For the carrier, you will want to wipe it out with warm sudsy water made from a mild soap. You’ll want to make sure you get out any crumbs from food and other things. You’ll then want to rinse the carrier thoroughly and then let it air dry (or wipe it down with a towel) before putting everything back in.

If you have a soft carrier, you will want to remove everything from the inside and run it through the wash. This includes the padded portion of the carrier – just make sure you read the care instructions on this part for temperature settings and drying instructions.

With an empty carrier, you will want to fill a sink or bathtub with warm sudsy water (again, using a mild detergent) and dip the carrier into the solution. Wipe the interior of the carrier down with a sponge and then rinse the carrier with clean water. Finally, lay the carrier in the sun so it can dry thoroughly.

Throughout the course of using the carrier, it will get some wear and tear. After each trip, you will want to look over the carrier to ensure everything is in good order, such as:

Soft Carriers:

Zippers work easily and do not get stuck

The handles are firmly attached to the carrier

No loose threads, especially around the mesh which could allow your cat to escape

There aren’t any holes in the pad or the carrier itself

Hard Carriers:

Make sure there are no cracks anywhere on the walls or floor of the carrier

Check the hardware to ensure everything is good and tight – if not, tighten as necessary

Check the hinges and locks on the door(s) to ensure they work properly

Conclusion

Traveling is a wonderful experience for the whole family! However, if you have a cat, you may be hesitant to travel because you don’t want to put your kitty in a kennel or find a house sitter. Instead of foregoing traveling all together, why not bring your kitty along? A cat carrier will let you pack your furry friend up and bring them along with you! Not only can you use the cat carrier to travel, but it will also be very handy when you have to take your cat to the vet.

Many people will skip spending money on a cat carrier and opt for a box with some holes, or a basket. But neither of these options are going to be very safe or comfortable for your kitty to travel in. That’s why it is important that you have the best cat carrier that your money can buy. The best part is, cat carriers aren’t very expensive! Head on over to our buying guide to see for yourself!

In our guide, we provide you with five reviews on cat carriers that we believe are worth looking at. There are a few hard sided carriers and a few soft sided, so you can decide which will work best for your needs. We also provide you with a list of important features you should look for when choosing the best cat carrier, just in case you want to keep looking!

Leave us a comment and tell us what you want a cat carrier for. Will it be for travel or just going to the vet? We’d love to hear from you!

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