How to Prepare Your Cat for Air Travel What You Need to Know

Going on a trip is stressful enough, but if you’re planning on flying with your kitty there’s a lot to do before the big day. If you’re wondering “how to prepare your cat for air travel”, you’re in the right place.

Before putting them in the carrier, you need to make sure that you get all their vaccinations, medical records, ID tags, airline travel kit ready. Not only that, but you need to know what to do if your cat gets loud on the plane or starts meowing excessively.

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After all, most passengers don’t want to be cooped up on a long plane ride with an obnoxious cat. I’m sure that you don’t want to have to deal with it either.

Traveling With Cats On A Plane

There are several pet-friendly airlines like Southwest, JetBlue, etc that allow your pets to fly with you. However, you want to make sure that your pet is actually ready to fly.

It’s totally safe to fly with cats, as long as they are flying within the cabin. However, there are a lot of things that you need to do to prepare your cat for the big day.

I’ll share some things that you need to take into consideration to help ensure that your flight is as smooth as possible.

What to Do Before Your Trip

Just like humans, cats can feel stress and anxiety when traveling. When you remove her from her familiar environment, it throws her into a loop.

If you follow these easy steps, you will be able to rest assured that you’ve done everything on your part to make the trip as successful as possible.

How to Prepare Your Cat for Air Travel

Vet Visit

Air travel is totally different than traveling with your cat in the car. You want to ensure that all her vaccinations are up to date and don’t forget to get a complete health certificate. Not all airlines require a one, but you will want to check with the airlines before flying. You may also want to discuss the following with your veterinarian:

  • Getting a microchip for your cat, just in case she gets lost. If your cat already has one, make sure that the microchip can still be read.
  • Get a full check-up to make sure that your kitty is in good health and doesn’t have any illnesses.
  • If she has any medications, ask your veterinarian if you should take them with you and if can continue to medicate them on the day of your travel.
  • If you feel like your cat is not going to behave well on the plane, you might want to talk to your vet about using sedatives to help your cat relax on the long flight.

Purchase An Airline Approved Carrier

If you have never traveled by plane with your cat before, you’ll need to make sure that you purchase an airline-approved pet carrier. Search the website’s pet policy page as it will give you the exact dimensions you’ll need.

I’d recommend purchasing something like this airline approved carrier the Premium Luxury Tote Expandable Pet Carrier.

It’s a soft sided carrier with plenty of room for your cat and tons of ventilation to prevent her from getting too hot during the long flight. Make sure that you purchase it at least a month before you fly out.

You need to give her plenty of time to get used to the carrier.

Get Your Cat Used to Her Carrier

As soon as get the carrier, start getting your cat time to get used to it. You’ll want to give your cat at least a month to get used to the scent and familiarity of the carrier. During this time, try getting her to spend time inside the carrier.

  • Put her favorite blanket inside to help fill it with her scent.
  • Feed her beside the carrier and eventually inside it, to help her have a positive association with it.
  • Leave the door open all the time and place it in her favorite room or by her scratching post. This will help her explore the inside at her own will.

Giving her enough time to get used to it before the flight will ensure that she’ll be much quieter because she’s in a secure and safe environment.

Take Them On Car Rides In The Carrier

Once she’s used the carrier inside the house, it’s time to take her for rides in it. Start with small short rides around the block. This article will help you keep her calm in the vehicle if she seems to freak out on you.

  • Secure the carrier with a seat belt.
  • Avoid taking her to the vet in her new carrier, otherwise, she’ll associate it with a bad experience.
  • Give her a treat at the end of the road trip, if she doesn’t misbehave (no crying, whining, scratching, hissing and etc)
  • Do this two weeks before you take her to the airport.

Acclimate them to Loud Noises

Get them acclimated to different noises. They are getting ready to go to a noisy airport and plane ride. If she’s not accustomed to loud noises, it will be extremely terrifying for her.

  • Start taking her for walks in busy and loud places. (this will get her used to walking with a harness)
  • Get her used to being around a crowd of people.
  • Use positive reinforcement training with treats to help her learn this behavior.

Trim Your Cat’s Nails and Groom Them

Make sure that your cat’s nails are trimmed before flying. You don’t want her scratching up the interior of the carrier. You also don’t want her scratching you if you’re trying to comfort her during the flight.

Book Your Flight and Read The Pet Policy

Read the pet policy of the airline you’ll be flying with. Every airline is different and you don’t want to be caught off guard when you arrive at the airport.

Be sure to let them know that you’ll be flying with a cat. You’ll be expected to pay a pet fare for your feline friend the day you check in with your reservations, so make sure you take some extra cash with you.

Check Your Cat’s ID Collar

No one wants their cat to get lost or misplaced. Make sure that your kitty has an ID collar with the following:

  • Your contact information (name, cell phone number, and address)
  • Their name
  • Rabies vaccination status

Remove any designer collars or charms that can snag any part of her carrier.

Put A Label On Your Cat’s Carrier

Even if your cat is not flying in the cargo hold, it’s never a bad idea to put a label on it. Write down any pertinent information such as your destination, the hotel’s name you’ll be staying at, with the phone number and address.

  • Attach the label to the outside of the carrier, just in case it gets lost.
  • Prepare the label in advance so you don’t miss anything when you’re in a hurry on the day of your travel.

Prepare Your Cat Travel Pack

Your cat should travel on an empty stomach to ensure that she doesn’t vomit or poop during the flight. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a travel pack with cat food, cat litter tray, toys and other things you may need while in flight.

Having this Deluxe Pet Airline Travel Kit will ensure that you’ll have everything you need during and after the flight until you arrive at your final destination or the hotel.

Don’t forget to call in advance to make sure you find the hotels that take cats.

Keep Your Normal Routine

On the day of travel, try to keep the same routine that your kitty is used to. Cat’s hate change and if her routine changes, it could cause her to become anxious and stressed.

Feed Your Cat 4-6 Hours Before The Flight

You’ll need to feed her 4-6 hours before the flight to make sure that she flies on an empty stomach. You may need to adjust her eating routine a month before the flight.

If you leave her food out for her to eat whenever she wants, you may want to get an automatic feeder. You can still give her water up to 1 hour before the flight.

Don’t Forget Her Medications

If the vet said to continue administering her medications on the day of the trip, make sure you give it to her before getting to the airport. You don’t want to give your cat medications or tranquilize them while at the airport.

Secure The Carrier In The Car

Double check the carrier and make sure that it is properly secured. Put your kitty in the carrier and it’s time to head to the airport.

All the practice that you’ve been doing should make her more comfortable on the day of the trip. Don’t forget to put her favorite bedding and a piece of your clothing inside the carrier.

This will help make it more comfortable for her and less likely for her to freak out.

Airport Pre-Check

Once you arrive at the airport, it’s going to be loud and a lot going on. Hopefully, all that practice and test runs of getting your cat accustomed to loud noises pay off.

Arrive Early

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to check in and pay the pet fare. You’ll be required to run the carrier through the X-ray and that could take some time.

Some airlines like Southwest will only allow a certain number of pets per flight, and it’s based on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Don’t Forget The Harness

You’re going to have to take your cat out of the carrier during the pre-check screening, so make sure they have a harness in case they try to run away.

Plus, you’ll want a harness that she can use while you’re on vacation. Your cat doesn’t always want to be cooped up in the carrier.

Visit the Animal Relief Before Boarding The Plane

Take your kitty to the animal relief center to make sure that she does her business before boarding the plane. If you have trouble finding it, you can ask an airport employee and they’ll be able to direct you to it.

Flying With A Cat In Cabin

Once you’ve boarded the plane and found your seat, place the cat carrier under the seat directly in front of you. I’d personally try sitting by the window so your cat doesn’t have to sit too close to the aisle.

If your cat is starting to feel uncomfortable, try talking to her softly. You can even a portion of the carrier to stick your hand in there and pet her. Just don’t take her out as that is NOT allowed on airplanes.

How to Prepare Your Cat for A Long Flight

Most cats will be fine staying in the carrier under 6 hours. If your trip is longer than that, you’ll want to take your cat out of the cat carrier periodically to get a drink of water and use the litter box.

Hopefully, you’ve book a flight that has several layovers. During the layover take her out of the carrier and walk her on her harness.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re going on a long flight or a short flight, these steps will help ensure that she’s ready for the trip.

You’ll feel better because you’ve done everything possible to make the trip as smooth as possible.

The most important thing when flying with pets is to get everything prepared in advance. If you wait till the day you fly out, that’s when mistakes happen.

You will end up forgetting something important and your trip will be a nightmare.

Related Articles On Flying With Cats

Can I Bring Cat Food On A Plane

Flying With A Cat On Southwest

What Vaccinations Do Cats Need to Fly?

Cat Breeds That Like to Travel