Traveling with Your Cat

Your cat can usually travel with you in the passenger cabin if you follow certain rules of the airline your traveling on.

 Call the airlines far in advance so they can tell you if their quota of animals has been met for your flight.

Most airlines allow a certain amount of cats and small dogs to travel in the passenger cabin. Cats in the passenger cabin must remain in a safe kennel (carrier) that's placed under the seat in front of.

 If you want your cat to fly in the passenger cabin with you, make your reservations as early as possible because airlines restricts the number of pets allowed in the passenger cabin of each flight.

In addition, if you're traveling with your cat, the clerk needs to assign you a seat with enough room for your cat.

The space under the aisle seats can be narrower than the space under the center and window seats. Some airlines don't allow passengers with pets to sit in an exit row.

Therefore, if you don't register early, the flight may be either closed to additional pets, or they may not have a seat left with enough room for your cat.

Check about the airline regulations regarding how many cats are allowed per passenger to bring on board. Usually it's only each passenger is allowed one pet, and if that's the case, have someone bring your second pet.

Check the airline for the maximum dimensions for a carrier in the passenger cabin. Usually these are about 21 inches long, 13 to 16 inches wide and 8 or 9 inches high.

Zippered soft kennels, sometimes called bags, work well in the passenger cabin because they're flexible. 

Make sure soft kennels have lots of cushioning and a secure zipper that your cat can't open. Cats are known to be escape artists.

You may be required to remove your cat from the carrier

Kennels must be ventilated on at least two side. Label your cats kennel with your name, address, and telephone number.

Make sure your cat is wearing a collar, leash, and ID tag.

Most airlines insist that there be enough room in the carrier for the cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Very large cats usually can't travel in the passenger cabin.

Checked baggage

You can also put your cat in a large kennel and fly it as checked baggage for about the same price as a ticket in the passenger cabin. 

When you fly your cat as checked baggage, the cat is placed with your luggage instead of with you. To fly your cat as checked baggage, you need to put your cat in a hard, plastic or metal kennel that's airline approved.

Buy the strongest kennel you can find, and make sure that you label the kennel with your name, address, and telephone number and that your cat is wearing its collar and ID tag.

Ask the airline to confirm your checked baggage space when you make your reservations.This way you can be certain space will be available.

A few airlines have a policy that prohibits them from confirming space, but this doesn't mean they won't have a space for your cat; it just means that they can't guarantee it.

A few airlines require written confirmation as to when your cat last ate and drank. This means you have to write this information down. Most require that you have food and water in the carrier.

Usually, you can duct tape small cans, dishes, or foil packets inside the carrier for your cat. Some carriers have dishes built in that you can fill from the outside. Mark the kennel with a one-inch high "live animal" sign.

Standard cargo

If your cat must travel alone, the airline will accept it as cargo.

Pets flying in a plane's cargo hold risk injury and death. Some airlines restrict pet travel during summer months.
Read Cargo section  DANGERS.

Most airlines have a choice of either standard air cargo or a premium service called counter-to-counter. Counter-to-counter is a much better way to ship your cat.

If you ship your cat as standard cargo, often called freight, it must be at the cargo facility about two to four hours before the plane takes off.

Most cargo facilities are located somewhere other than where you would normally check in for a flight, so allow yourself time to find the cargo facility.

Once your cat reaches its destination, it will be held an additional one to two hours. This lengthens your cat's trip considerably, and causes your cat more stress than is necessary.

doesn't have the same loading priority as baggage, which means it's possible that the weight limits for a flight could be reached before your cat is put on board. If this happens, your cat must wait for a later flight.

Whether or not your cat can fly as standard cargo also depends on the temperature. The temperature at both destinations must be within an acceptable range or the airline won't put your cat on the plan.


Counter-to-counter requires your cat be at the passenger terminal only 30 to 60 minutes prior to the flight's departure. And someone can pick up the cat as soon as the baggage is unloaded after the flight.

Health and security

Airlines won't let your cat on a plane unless it's healthy. Within 10 days of the flight, you must take your cat to the veterinarian and get a health certificate. The airlines will also visually assess your cat before they put it on the plane.

Check the rabies requirements in both your state and the destination state to make sure your cat won't be impounded. (To do this, call the local office of the Department of Agriculture.)

Most airlines will want to x-ray your cat's kennel before putting the cat on the plane. Take the cat out of the kennel. (Make sure it's wearing its collar, leash, and ID tag!) Never allow your cat to run through an x-ray machine.

Most veterinarians advise against tranquilizing cats before putting them on a plane.

Although tranquilizing sounds like a good way to alleviate your cats stress, your cats reaction to medication is unpredictable at high altitudes, which elevates a cat's blood pressure.

If you must fly a cat that's particularly high strung, discuss the matter with your veterinarian. A good alternative to medication for your cat is a spray or wipe-on which contains "cat pheromones".

The night before your trip, leave the carrier open and spray or wipe inside the carrier some "cat calming" pheromones.

The day of your trip, spray the carrier lightly, wait about half hour, and your cat will be ready to go. On my last trip, this was a very successful method of mellowing my cat and keeping her calm the entire day.

For Additional Information:
Pet Airlines
Pet Air/Pet Shipping/Animal Transportation

Providing a list of pet friendly airlines

TheHumane Society of the US: Why Pets Shouldn't Travel By Air
Be aware of the risks, and explore all your options before booking your pet's flight.

TheHumane Society of the US: Traveling Tips for Pets on Planes
If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips.

AirlineAnimal Incident Reports
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is now tracking the numbers of animals that died or were lost or injured during transport. Complete monthly reports are published in DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report.

USDomestic Airlines That Allow Pets
Kennel size and weight requirements, fees.

Petfinder's2011 Most Pet-Friendly North American Airlines's annual review of pet-friendly airlines which outlines the best options for traveling in-cabin with animal companions.
          For an Extensive List of Shelters and Animal Rescue Groups Click here