It is possible for your cat to ride safely on an
airplane if you plan ahead, follow the rules & are prepared to be a
little pushy on your cat's behalf. In addition to federal regulations,
each airline has its own regulations, so check the individual air
carrier's rules before booking a flight for you & your cat. It is ideal
if the cat can ride in the cabin of the airplane with you where he will
never leave your care during the course of the trip. Not all airlines
allow animals to travel in the cabin & others allow no more than two
cats in the cabin per flight on a "first come, first served" basis, so
it is important to make these arrangements far in advance of your
departure date. The cat's carrier must be able to fit under the seat &
the bottom should be lined with an absorbent material in case of
accidents. ("Puppy pads" are made of the same material as disposable
diapers & are excellent for this purpose.) Be prepared to present a
veterinarian-signed health certificate dated no more than ten days
before the scheduled flight. If the cat is riding with you, let the
person sitting next to you know that you have a cat, just in case they
have allergies or phobias.
If your cat cannot travel in the cabin with you, it will
ride in the baggage hold. Although this compartment is pressurized & the
extremes of temperature are regulated, it is still a good idea to travel
during the coolest part of the day in the summer -- the early morning or
late evening. Choose a non-stop flight & request that your cat be
hand-carried to & from the plane. Make sure your USDA-approved shipping
crate is marked with contact persons at both the departure & arrival
sites & has sturdy handles that won't come off during handling. Make
sure all the bolts securing the halves of the carrier are in place &
tightened. Your pet should be wearing an identification tag on an
elastic collar. If the trip is longer than six hours, you will want to
have dry food & ice cubes in untippable dishes in the carrier. Be sure
to talk directly to the freight handling personnel at the airport. Make
the staff check & report back. (Most pet fatalities occur on the ground,
when animals are left in their crates on the hot tarmac or in stifling
Be aware that there are regulations regarding the range
of temperatures when a pet may be shipped. If the temperature on the
ground in your departing, connecting, or arriving city falls outside
these limits, you may run into unexpected delays or cancellations. It is
also wise to avoid peak travel times around holidays when air traffic is
It is generally better not to have your cat tranquilized
before flying. The combination of high altitude & limited oxygen is a
challenge your pet's body is better prepared to meet if he is not
The Air Transport Association has a free booklet, Air
Travel for Your Dog or Cat. It is available by sending a self-addressed,
stamped, business-sized envelope to: ATA, 1301 Pennsylvania Blvd. N.W.,
Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20004.
Some Additional Tips on Airline Travel with Kitty...
These unique ideas on how to keep your cat safe while
flying are published in the book, 277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know
by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble. They are recommendations from Bud
Brownhill of Anaheim, California, the chairman of DO-IT, a pet travel
* Talk to a supervisor when you get to the airport and
tell him you have an extremely valuable pet in terms of dollars -- even
if it's a mixed breed. "Otherwise, some baggage handlers couldn't care
if you were carrying a rock."
* Personalize your cat to the handlers. Put signs on the
crate saying, "Hi! I am a Persian kitten. This is my first trip. Please
handle my crate carefully."
* When you board a plane, tell the pilot that you have a
cat in the hold worth a lot of money -- even if it isn't. Also, tell
them to make sure to turn on the heat & pressurization in the cargo
compartment. "This is done from the cockpit & someone may have forgotten
to give the pilot that information." Cargo compartments can get as hot
as 140 degrees & intense cold can be just as damaging to your cat.
* Put large strips of red or orange fluorescent material
all over the crate "so you can spot it halfway across the airport & your
cat won't get mixed up with anything else." Put arrows or the words
"Top" and "Live Animal" on top of the crate so your cat doesn't fly
* Put your home addresses & phone numbers, plus those of
where you're going, inside & outside the crate, because many people
won't reach into a kennel for fear of being scratched or bitten.
* Watch the ticket clerk attach the destination tags at
the airport. "Make sure it says 'Detroit' if you're going there."
* Make certain your pet is loaded last, especially
during extreme weather conditions. This may also ensure that he is taken
off the plane first.
* Make sure the airline is not carrying dry ice, which
can be deadly if your cat is crated near it.
* Avoid flying at the busiest times, so your cat can get
more personal attention.
* Ask the airline if you can watch your cat being loaded
& unloaded at the cargo hold.
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