How To Travel With A Cat On A Plane

How To Travel With A Cat On A Plane

There may be a time when you have a cat and you might have to fly with them for some reason such as a move to a new state or even going as far as a new country.

The thing is how would you go about doing this exactly? Well, in order to do this you are going to need a couple of things and there is some planning that you need to do as well to make the trip as comfortable as possible for them.

Can You Fly With A Cat?

First of all you need to figure out if your cat is even allowed to fly in the first place especially if you are flying internationally.

Domestic flights in North America you will have a relatively easy time figuring this out which you can do just by going to their website or calling the airline but some countries have really strict rabies laws and it could take you many months to fly with them.

If you want more information on this complicated process you can go to my article here “Moving Overseas With Cats: What You Should Know“.

How Much Does it Cost To Fly With A Cat?

To fly with your cat domestically and internationally it will cost roughly between $35 to $200 dollars and usually its each way. A lot of airlines in the USA will usually charge around $125 dollars for an in cabin cat but you can get cheaper prices on JetBlue and Southwest Airlines.

If you are flying them in the cargo it will usually cost more ranging around $200 dollars each way.

You might also need to go to the veterinarian and you will need to buy a cat carrier which add to this cost.

Pet Policies Based on Airlines

A lot of airlines have different rules when flying with cats. Here are some of them and what they allow and don’t allow.

Delta Airlines
You are allowed to bring pets and it will cost you between 75-200 dollars each way. You cannot put more than one cat in the same carrier unless it is a cat with a litter of at least 10 weeks old or if they are two cats of the same species and sizes between of two weeks and six months old.

Generally if they are very small and can easily move around it should be fine to have two cats in the same carrier. Two cats are allowed in first class and domestic business class and four cats are allowed to travel in the main cabin.

JetBlue Airlines
You can fly up to four cats and they cannot exceed 20 pounds (including the carrier) in weight. To fly domestic and internationally will cost you 100 dollars to bring them with you.

US Airways
The cost to fly with this airline will be about 125 dollars each way and they have slightly strict rules about flying internationally with cats. You can’t fly with them to Europe, South America, Jamaica, the Middle East, Hawaii and Barbados.

American Airlines
Cats at least eight weeks old are allowed when traveling within Puerto Rico, Alaska, St. Thomas and St. Croix. You can have up to seven cats per flight. Two in first class and five in coach or business.

This airline will also allow you to put two cats in the same carrier assuming they fit. You also wont be allow to fly with them if you are taking them to Hawaii, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay. The flight will cost you around 125 dollars.

Hawaiian Airlines
If you want to fly internationally this is not the airline to go with as they don’t allow this with any pet of any kind. You can however fly with your cats to the United States or within Hawaii for around 35 to 175 dollars.

Your cat and the carrier combined also cannot exceed 25 pounds and your cats have to be at least eight weeks old. You can also have up to two cats in the same carrier as long as they are eight weeks and six months and don’t exceed the 25 pound rule.

Southwest Airlines
You can bring up to six vaccinated cats on your trip with you for 95 dollars and they can be as young as eight weeks old. You can fly with them in the United States but you will not be able to fly internationally with them on this airline. You can also put two cats in the same carrier if this is something you need to do.

Alaska Air
You can only bring one pet carrier in the cabin on this airline. However, you can put up to two cats inside of one as well. If you need to bring more than one carrier you will have to put them in the main cabin. To travel with this airline with your cat it will cost you 100 dollars.

Spirit Airlines
It will cost you around 110 dollars to fly your cat around the United States Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. You can bring a total of eight pets that are at least 8 weeks old and are fully weaned.

You can also put two cats in the same carrier if they are the same species and they can both fit in the carrier. The combined weight of the cats and the carrier cannot exceed 40 pounds.

Virgin America Airlines
The cost of flying with Virgin America is 100 dollars each way. You can bring your cat but they have to be at least 8 weeks old, they have to be weaned and the combined weight of the cat and the carrier cannot go over 20 pounds.

Frontier Airlines
You can bring up to 10 cats on this airline which is pretty nice. Best of all the price is only 75 dollars. You can also put up to two cats in the same carrier and they have to be at least 8 weeks old.

Research Health Requirements Before Flying

Before you get on a plane with your cat you really need to know if they are even healthy enough to be able to in the first place.

Some breeds such as snub-nosed brachycephalic cats even mixed, for instance Persian, Burmese and Himalayan, are not allowed on American Airlines because of the higher likelihood of respiratory distress at high altitudes.

You might also need to get a health certificate before boarding your cat on the plane. This is usually required if you are flying to another country other than the USA.

Cabin vs Cargo

Cabin

If you want a generally easier experience bringing your cat on a plane this is the way to go. Flying with your cat this way is generally cheaper as well. As long as the carrier you have is small enough to fit under the seat and your cat is around 20 pounds or under you should be able to do this.

The only caveat to flying this way is if you have multiple pets with you. You will have to check with your airline to see how many you can bring in the cabin with you.

Cargo

You can fly with your cat in the cabin but you could also put them inside of the cargo area which is pressurized and temperature-controlled. There are shipping times when flying this way so you really want to check with your airline for details.

Some animals right groups like “The Humane Society of the United States” recommends that you do not fly your pets this way. Some airlines also do not have this option so this is also something you want to check with if this is something you want to do or have many pets.

Carrier Train Your Cat Before Flying

This is really important to do because your cat will probably freak out being in one of these so imagine what they will do if they are on the plane. Some cats are however better than others with this and you might not have a problem at all.

If they do happen to not like the carrier let them get used to being inside of it then when they are ready try driving them around until they feel OK with being in one and traveling in general. The unfortunate thing is they may never get used to either which can cause you a lot of problems in the long run while on the flight.

Cat Carrier Requirements

When you are about to fly with your cat for the first time it is an absolute must to have a cat carrier or you wont be able to fly. You not only need a cat carrier but there are certain requirements you need to follow in order for your cat to board.

Generally speaking the carrier needs to be large enough to where your pet can stand, sit and fully turn around while in the carrier. Airlines also suggest that you line the carrier with bedding or absorbent material.

They also need to be leak proof and have ventilation on at least two sides. You should also have identification on the carrier as well just in case you pet happens to go missing on you and they need to be in the carrier at all times.

Your airline also may reject your cat carrier if it is in bad shape. If it has cracks, rips or tears they may not allow your pet to fly with you until you get a better one.

If they are flying in the cabin with you the carrier also needs to be small enough to where it can fit under your seat.

If the carrier does not follow these guidelines you probably wont be able to board. If you want a recommendation on an airplane approved cat carrier I would go with the “Sherpa Delta Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag (click here fro the chewy.com link)“. It comes in many sizes and its very cheap for what you get.

If you want more of a selection of carriers that would work well on an airplane go to my article about that here “Best Airline Approved Pet Carriers In Cabin“.

Cat Carrier Size Requirements By Airline

Jet Blue
Carry-ons cannot exceed 17″L x 12.5″W x 8.5″H. The combined weight of the cat and the carrier also cannot exceed 20 pounds.

Delta Airlines
To know the exact sizing that you will need it depends on the aircraft your are flying with. You will need to contact the reservations desk for more information.

United Airlines
United Airlines have rules for both soft and hard sided carriers.

Hard-Sided Carriers: You will need a carrier that does not exceed 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high.

Soft-Sided Carriers: You will Need a carrier that doesn’t exceed 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm).

American Airlines
American Airlines also has rules based on soft and hard sided carriers.

Hard-Sided Carriers: You will need a carrier that doesn’t exceed 19″ x 13″ x 9″.

Soft-Sided Carriers: There aren’t specific sizing requirements but they are allowed if they are around the same size as the hard sided carrier standards, water repellent, have padding and nylon mesh.

Alaskan Airlines
Alaskan airlines has requirements for both hard and soft sided carriers.

Hard-Sided Carriers: You cannot have a carrier that exceeds 17″ x 11″ x 7.5″.

Soft-Sided Carriers: You cannot have a carrier that is larger than 17″ x 11″ x 9.5″.

Southwest Airlines
You need a cat carrier that doesn’t exceed 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.

Virgin Airlines
You need to contact Virgin Airlines to get the exact requirements.

Can You Put Two Cats In One Carrier?

This really depends on your airline and how big your cats are but a lot of them actually allow you to do this. Delta’s policy for example is if your cats are very small and can easily move around they should be allowed to be in the same carrier or if you have a cat with a litter that is 10 weeks old they will also be allowed in the same carrier.

If they are bigger cats you wont be allowed to bring them on the flight unless they are all in their own separate carriers.

How To Fly With Multiple Cats

If you have very small cats such as kittens and they can fit into one carrier you can bring them in the cabin with you. This is something you are going to have to check with however since the rules are different with each airline.

If you have multiple cats on the larger side and they are in separate carriers you will most likely have to put them in the cargo space since you only have so much room to put them.

Flying With Cats In The Cabin

I think one of the most important things when flying with your cat in cabin is keeping them quiet. The last thing anyone around you wants is to deal with on an 8 hour flight dealing with a meowing/yowling cat the whole way. If you have a really noisy cat and need to solve this problem you can go to my article here “How To Keep a Cat Quiet on a Plane“.

You also want to make sure they don’t defecate in the carrier so you are left with an odor problem the passengers around you also have to deal with on the plane. To avoid this happening give them only one small meal before the flight and don’t give them too much water to avoid urinating as well.

One last tip I would say is to get a soft cat carrier as hard carriers tend to be harder to fit under your seat.

Moving Through Security

Your cat carrier is going to have to be scanned through security and it has to be done without your cat inside of it. As a result it might be a good idea to have them wear a harness so it’s a little easier taking them out and avoiding them running off on you. This might be tricky if you have a scaredy cat on your hands.

To make this process a lot faster you might want to get a TSA PreCheck membership where you can use quicker lines and you don’t have to take your shoes and light jacket off.

Cats On Long Flights

Flying with a cat on a really long trip can be tricky mainly because of the bathroom issue. If you are on a flight that is over 15 hours that is a really long time without going to the bathroom. To avoid stinking up the cabin it might be wise to train your cat to use the toilet so when they do have to go they can just use the one on the airplane.

Should I Sedate My Cat When On The Plane?

If you are going to sedate your cat on a flight make sure whatever you are going to use doesn’t mess with their blood pressure or there ability to regulate body heat because this can be really dangerous and could possibly kill your pet.

They can also cause heart and respiratory problems when used on the plane as well. This is especially true for snub nosed cats like the Persian for example.

In fact most airlines will not allow sedated pets because of this reason. Natural herbal sedatives might be ok with your airline but you really want to ask your veterinarian first if it is safe or not. I have and article that you can read that is all about sedatives here “How To Sedate Your Cat For Travel: The Ultimate Guide“.

Loud Cat On Plane?

You might have this problem where you get on the plane and you cat starts meowing a lot. If you want to avoid this issue you have to get them used to traveling. If you do this it will be much less likely that they will do this.

If you tried to do this already then you might want to give them some type of sedative. This is something you want to ask your veterinarian about because as I said before giving your cat medication can mess with the way they regulate body heat and can alter their blood pressure which could potentially kill them.

It also helps to cover the carrier so they don’t see what is going on. If you want more information on this problem you can read my article about it here “How To Keep A Cat Quiet On A Plane“.

Can I Buy A Seat For My Cat On A Plane?

As far as I know there is no airline that will allow you to do this so you will have to sit in a carrier under your seat.

Tips For Flying With A Cat

  • Do research before flying
  • Consider health risks before flying with your cat
  • Attach a collar Id even if they are micro-chipped
  • Have all of your cats documents in hand
  • Have everything prepared a month beforehand

Conclusion

As long as you consider everything I said here you shouldn’t have too many problems if any at all when going on a plane with your cat.