Flying With A Cat On Southwest What You Need to Know

Flying with a cat on Southwest and not sure what you need to do? Traveling with a cat on a plane can be challenging. Every airline is different and has specific rules and regulations you need to abide by.

Southwest only accepts small cats and dogs that will fit in carriers under the cabin seat. Pets are subject to a $95 non-refundable pet fee. They do not allow any pets to fly in the cargo area, due to extreme temperatures.

If you’re getting ready to take your feline friend on a trip, here’s everything you need to know about flying the friendly skies with Southwest airlines.

Does Southwest Allow Pets On Board?

Southwest allows small vaccinated domesticated dogs and cats in an airline approved carrier to any location on a domestic U.S flight. They are not allowed to fly on international flights or any itinerary that includes international flights.

Customers are only allowed to travel with one pet carrier per person. Your carrier can have no more than two cats inside.

You won’t be able to board early unless you qualify for pre-boarding.

How to Go Through Security With A Pet

When you go through security, you’ll be asked to hold the pet and walk through the security. The pet carrier will be x-rayed along with your other personal items.

All pet carriers are subject to be searched by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees and other airline personnel.

Pre-Flight Potty Breaks

All airports have at least one “animal relief area” where you can take your cat to relieve herself before you board the plane.

If you can’t fight the relief areas, ask a Southwest airlines employee and they will point you in the right direction.

How Many Pets Are Allowed?

Their pet policy clearly states that they will only allow six pet carriers per scheduled flight. To ensure that your pet is able to board, you’ll want to make sure that you get to the airport as early as possible.

They operate on the first come first serve basis. The sooner you can check-in the better chance you’ll have of ensuring that your kitty can board the plane.

How Much Does It Cost to Fly A Pet On Southwest?

Expect to pay a $95 pet fare each way for each carrier. You will set up your reservation in advance to have your cat travel with you, by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).

All pet fares subject to change at any time. You will be expected to pay for the pet fare at the airport ticket counter on the day you check the pet in.

If you decide not to travel or your pet doesn’t go with you, you can choose to rebook your flight or contact them to get a refund for the pet fare.

Unlike other airlines like JetBlue, they do not offer any rewards for traveling with your pet.

Pet Crates and Strollers

There is no charge for checking a pet stroller/crate. They fall under the free baggage allowance.

Does Southwest Charge for Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are not considered pets, therefore, you don’t have to pay a pet fare. You can still carry on a pet if you have an emotional support animal.

What Classifies As An Emotional Support Animal?

It is an animal that provides support for an individual with a mental health-related disability.


  • Required documentation that is less than a year old of the date of travel. (a letterhead from a licensed medical professional regarding your disability
  • The date the physician acquired their medical license
  • Must be either a cat or a dog
  • One emotional support animal per customer
  • Must be in a carrier at all times during the flight and on a leash while in the airport and boarding the plane.

You can print out all the instructions you’ll need to travel with an emotional support animal by downloading this PDF.

Making Your Reservation

When you book a reservation, let them know in advance that you’ll be traveling with an emotional support animal.

If the airlines can’t accommodate you with a single seat, you may be required to purchase an additional ticket or rebook your flight for a later date. Contact 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) to find out what you need before booking your flight with an emotional support animal.


Like any other pet onboard, your support animal must be stowed under the seat at all times. If your pet is too large to fit under the seat, they must wear a leash at all times.

A leashed pet can sit at your feet on the aircraft floor or can sit on your lap. They can not be any larger than a two-year-old child.

They Can Not:

  • Be left out in the aircraft aisle
  • Sit in an aircraft seat by themselves
  • Use the tray table
  • Extend beyond your seat and bother others

International Travel

Emotional support animals are allowed to travel both domestic and international flights. Make sure you do your due diligence as some international destinations have their own country-specific regulations for pets.

As the pet owner, you’ll be responsible for abiding and complying with the countries specific laws and requirements.

Can I Buy A Seat for My Cat On Southwest?

You will only be allowed to purchase an extra seat in the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask is not available for your pet.

If you feel like your situation is an emergency, you can ask customer service and they will inform you if it is or not.

Southwest Pet Policy Weight Limit

Unlike other airlines, Southwest does not have a weight limit on the weight of your pet. The caveat is that they must be able to fit comfortably under the seat.

Southwest Approved Pet Carriers

Acceptable does sell their own pet carrier, and it is (17” long x 9.5” high x 10” wide), however, you can find better deals on Amazon.

If you purchase your own carrier elsewhere the maximum dimensions should be 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide. Your cat or dog must be able to stand up and move around the carrier without any issues.

The feline must be completely inside the carrier at all times, with no part of them sticking out, not even their tail.

You can board with either soft-sided or hard-sided carriers, as long as they are well-ventilated and leak proof.

Your pet carrier must be in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for cabin safety.

Pet carriers are classified as either a personal item or a carry on item. This means you won’t be able to have both a carrier and a personal item or carry on item.

Requirements and restrictions

  • Pets must be secured safely in a pet carrier at all times and during the entire flight.
  • You can only have two species of the same kind inside one carrier.
  • Pets must travel with adults and not permitted to travel with minors.
  • You may not sit in an exit row or a seat without under-seat stowage.
  • Your cat or dog must be at least eight (8) weeks old to fly.
  • Southwest assumes no liability for the wellbeing, safety or damage to your pet or pet strollers.
  • You will not be allowed to carry pet remains in the cabin of the aircraft.

Disruptive Behavior

If you’re thinking about flying with your cat, it’s important to make sure they have flown before and has a good temperament.

If your pet is disruptive, they may deny you to board. Some behaviors they would classify as disruptive behavior is:

  • Scratching, excessive whining
  • Lunging, biting or growling
  • Urinating or defecating in the cabin area

If your pet is subject to experiencing a lot of stress, you may want to check with your veterinarian about a sedative. You won’t be allowed to remove your pet from the carrier during the flight, so comforting them is not an option.

Shipping Pets In The Cargo Hold

Unlike other airlines like United, Southwest does not allow any pets to be transported in the cargo. Personally, I think this is an awesome rule, I would never want my pet to be travel in the cargo area.

There are too many risks and I wouldn’t be able to watch them closely throughout the duration of the flight.

What About A Health Certificate?

Southwest does not require a health certificate or any other documentation to travel with your pets. I still think it’s a great idea to have your cat’s medical records with you.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have proper identification for your cat. You want to make sure that your cat is protected if they do happen to get lost while traveling.

Southwest Pet Planning Checklist

  • Have an airline approved pet carrier
  • Reserve your spot for your pet by calling 800-I-FLY-SWA (800-435-9792)
  • Arrive at the airport early, it’s the first-come-first-serve basis and they only allow 6 pets per flight
  • Pay the pet fare at the ticket gate
  • Board the plane and enjoy the flight with your cat

Cat Travels Southwest Airlines

Flying with a cat can be challenging, watch this video to see how easy it can be fly with a cat on Southwest.

Bottom Line

It’s extremely easy to fly with a small cat or dog on Southwest. Pay the $95 one way pet fee and make sure that you make your reservation in advance. Have a harness for your cat and make sure that your pet carrier fits under the seat.

Then you can sit back and enjoy the flight with your feline friend.

Related Articles On Flying With Cats

How to Prepare Your Cat for Air Travel

How to Travel With A Cat On A Plane

Can I Bring Cat Food On A Plane

References and Further Reading:

Southwest – Pet Frequently Asked Questions