Flying with Your Cat: 15 Essential Tips and Guidelines Before You Go

Written by Micky Moran
Updated: November 23, 2023
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Cats have a reputation for being independent, freely roaming wherever they want. Despite their desire to explore on their terms, getting them to travel with you is much more difficult. Even the calmest and most well-trained cats sometimes struggle to go in a carrier, and the flight adds more significant stress. Flying with your cat doesn’t have to be an unpredictable or demanding experience. With some preparation, getting to your next destination is a smooth process.

Booking A Ticket

With wider seats in the middle, sitting in the center row also means your cat doesn’t have new passengers walking right next to the carrier.

©Hideyuki KAMON / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

1. Check Airline Restrictions On Flying With Pets

It would be best if you followed every rule and regulation when you got on a plane with your cat. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), each airline can make rules for passenger cabins. While these rules vary from airline to airline, the FAA states that the carrier must follow the same guidelines as carry-on baggage regarding size and storage.  

2. Find Out The Cost Of Flying With A Cat

When you book your seat, the charge for bringing your cat to the passenger cabin depends on the airline. While one airline requires a payment for each leg of the trip, the cost ranges from $100 to $200 per flight. Some airlines don’t allow pets under eight weeks old to fly, while others will let you buy the seat next to you for their travel. Check with the airline when you book for the specific cost.

3. Choose A Middle Seat On Your Flight

With these restrictions in mind, booking your flight becomes a little easier. Middle seats offer the most significant space to slide your carrier underneath, making it about 6 inches wider than your other options. If you can choose your seat before your flight, a middle seat offers your carrier’s best fit while flying with your cat.

Getting Ready Before Your Flight

Examination of cat ear in veterinary clinic using an otoscope. Problems and ear pain in animals

Ensure your vet says your cat has a clean bill of health before you leave.

©megaflopp/Shutterstock.com

4. Make Sure Your Cat Is Healthy Enough To Fly

Before you take your cat on a flight, ensure they have no health issues that could worsen the trip. Some flights require cats to have current immunizations with proof before flying because of liability reasons, making an impromptu trip to the vet a necessity. Vet offices can provide your pet with a certificate of good health to verify that they can safely board the plane without posing a risk to other passengers.

5. Practice Getting In And Out Of Carrier Ahead Of Time

Cats like to have extra space, but using a carrier during flight is a requirement. While it is hard for any cat to get comfortable, finding a relaxing way to help them in and out of it makes a big difference. When you leave for your flight with all your luggage ready, the last thing you want to do is struggle to get your cat out the door. A few practice runs ensure that the routine is easier to handle on the day of travel.

6. Speak With Their Vet About Meditation

When you plan to travel, speak with your veterinarian to find ways to help your cat be more comfortable during travel. Some cats do well with anxiety medication or sedatives that allow them to fly stress-free. These medications are completely safe with correct use, helping your cat bypass an otherwise tricky experience while resting.

Packing For The Flight

©marneejill / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

7. Add An Absorbent Pad To Their Carrier

No matter the flight length, your cat might need to urinate, and you don’t want them to sit in a wet carrier for the entire flight. Using an absorbent pad in the bottom of their carrier gives them a place to relieve themselves while keeping the rest of the space clean.

8. Bring Cleaning Supplies For Your Carrier

Having a way to clean your carrier is essential during travel. Unless your cat is already used to traveling, nausea and vomiting lead to much bigger messes. Paper towels, latex gloves, and storage bags allow you to clean up messes without imposing on other passengers.

9. Pack Their Favorite Toys

Having something familiar in unfamiliar surroundings is the easiest way to make your cat feel at home in circumstances that differ from his routine. If he has toys from home, this unknown territory might be more tolerable, helping them calm during the flight.

10. Pack All Food, Water, And Medication That They Need During The Trip

As crucial as your luggage is, packing your cat’s supplies is necessary. Make sure you have their food, food bowls, and fresh water. If your cat takes medication, have it accessible during the flight if it coincides with their regimen.

11. Don’t Feed Them Breakfast On The Morning Of Your Flight

If you plan to fly in the morning, wait to give your cat their morning meal. Turbulence, changes in elevation, and stress make many cats feel queasy. If your cat is on a feeding schedule, consider booking travel around that meal to give them time to digest before leaving.

12. Use Pheromone Spray

Even with every accommodation, your cat knows the difference between the comfort of home and an unfamiliar space. Some people swear by feline pheromone spray, which you spray onto the carrier a few minutes before you get them into it. This spray makes them feel calmer. Cats sometimes respond well to using a harness, giving them a little extra weight for comfort.

At The Airport

Fall Back one hour. Daylight Saving Time, Black clock on wood, autumn trees background

When you arrive early, you have more time for further adjustments you must make for your cat.

©Rawf8/iStock via Getty Images

13. Arrive Early

Getting to the airport early ensures you can get where you need to be with plenty of time to spare. If you plan to allow your cat to fly with cargo, you need time to get to that airport terminal ahead of your flight. Cat carriers need to go through an X-ray machine to pass security while you take it through a metal detector, so you also need time to get it back in the carrier. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a program to speed up the process of going through the line for people who want a smoother security experience.

14. Don’t Put Their Carrier On The Floor

They might be afraid when your cat is in the airport or airplane. After all, they are in a carrier with nowhere to run and hide. Putting them on the floor puts them at the feet of any person or animal they pass by, making them more stressed. Keep your cat on your lap or next to you while sitting.

15. Don’t Go In Areas Of Airport With Other Dogs Or Cats

airline approved pet carrier

No matter how many other animals are around, your cat will feel more comfortable without their added stress.

©Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock.com

Busy airports might not have much space to work with but avoid other animals as best as you can as you walk to your gate. Even cats with the best behavior become agitated when an animal gets too close, making the rest of the travel a bit harder on you and them. Having their toys or treats available could help them calm down after these interactions.

What If You Still Can’t Fly With Your Cat?

If you fly with your cat and find that these solutions don’t improve your experience or theirs, you might need to make arrangements to keep them home. While they may still experience anxiety from their separation, finding someone you trust to care for your pet in your home makes traveling easier. Check local boarding kennels to find someone to care for your pet professionally.

Summary of the 15 Tips and Tricks for Flying With Your Cat

#Tips
1Check with the airline’s restrictions for flying with cats.
2Find out the airline’s charges for bringing your cat on the plane.
3Select a middle seat during booking for more room to put your carrier.
4Bring any of the typical medication, food, and water they need during the day to eat during travel if possible.
5Practice getting your cat in and out of the carrier to speed up the process.
6Bring your cat to the vet to ensure it is healthy enough to fly.
7Put an absorbent pad into the cat carrier.
8Pack cleaning supplies for the carrier in the event of an emergency.
9Bring along your cat’s favorite toys.
10Bring any of the typical medication, food, and water that they need during the day so they can eat during travel if possible.
11Abstain from feeding your cat a meal too close to the flight.
12Spray the carrier with pheromone spray.
13Arrive at the airport early.
14Don’t put their carrier on the floor.
15Avoid areas in the airport with other animals.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Denis Valakhanovich


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About the Author

Micky Moran is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering mammals, travel, marine life, and geography. He has been writing and researching animals and nature for over 5 years. A resident of Arizona, he enjoys spending time with family, going on adventures across the United States with his wife and kids by his side.

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