Cat Travel: Flying With Cats

Airline Travel Tips for Cats

White cat in suitcase
Image taken by Mayte Torres / Getty Images

Does your cat travel, and are you interested in flying with your cats? Pedigreed kitties do it all the time to reach cat shows. But do your research ahead of time.

Airline Travel Tips for Cats

Be sure to call airlines ahead of time to find out the latest pet requirements. You will need a health certificate including proof of vaccination from your veterinarian. Small pets that fit into carriers sized to slide under the seat can travel as carry-on luggage.

There is an added charge and a limit to the numbers that can be in the cabin at one time. It's usually a first-come, first-served deal so make this request early.

You'd also need to prepare kitty in advance for the trip, to be sure she’s comfortable for the length of the flight inside a crate. Start crate training a few weeks in advance. Be sure all your contact information is on the carrier AND on the pet. I don't recommend tranquilizers because that can cause problems at high altitudes with slowed heart rate and respiration, so it's best if the cat doesn't get upset about confinement.

Some carriers such as Southwest and Jet Blue only accept pets as carryon, but others will also take pets as “extra baggage” or cargo during certain times of the year. If you cannot take Kitty as carryon, be sure to insist on "extra baggage" so that the cat is in the pressurized temperature controlled part of the plane.

Different airlines have different policies and the American Kennel Club has some links to great travel tips and basics from different carriers.

Continental has a special program called QuickPak for same day airport-to-airport cargo transport designed for pets--but remember, "cargo" means in the belly of the plane.

Travelers can also “earn miles” with their PetPass program, sort of a frequent flier program for animals. Pet Air specializes in pet transport, also in the belly of the plane. Jet Blue now allows pets to earn frequent flier points. For each leg of the trip, pets will earn two True Blue points each way--the same their human counterpart would earn for a short trip. The airline gives one free round-trip flight for every 100 points earned for those signed up for its free True Blue program. The airline allows a max of four pets per flight (most other carriers limit this number to only one or two pets). The furry traveler must weighing 20 pounds or less with their carrier.

Pet Airways offers air travel specifically for pets (not people) but only flies to certain destinations. Check for airline pet travel information to find the latest requirements and options for your pet travels using commercial carriers. Airlines change policies frequently so the special programs may no longer be in effect or new ones may have been created.

Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats deserve happy howl-adays, too?