2016 was truly a wonderful year, full of new opportunities and adventures for my husband and I. And although I thrive with change and new challenges, my handsome furry friend doesn’t quite feel the same…
My lovely cat, Bailey, and I were lucky enough to travel several times together, taking him along to a new country, as well as 4 different cities in the past 6 months. But as much as I love my cat, traveling with your pet can be quite difficult and stressful if you don’t come prepared. The first time I had to take Bailey on the plane was a very nerve-racking experience for me. Fortunately enough, we had gotten him used to traveling in the car from a very young age, by bringing him to our country house (situated an hour away from our hometown) on weekends. He quickly got accustomed to it and we never had a problem driving long distances with him. However, taking an airplane and being in transit for a total of 13 hours was a whole new ballgame. If you are a cat owner, you probably already know that they get very anxious when thrown outside of their usual environment. Unlike dogs, being in an unfamiliar territory can easily make them feel distressed. I had zero experience in the matter and no idea how to prepare for such a trip – so I did what anyone else would do in this type of situation… I googled it.
Reading other cat owners’ experiences helped me get a sense of A) how to prepare for the voyage and B) what to expect for the journey ahead. So I thought I would do the same and share my knowledge and tips I learned through my personal experiences with Bailey.
A. HOW TO PREPARE
- When booking your flight
Airlines have vastly different policies when it comes to traveling with pets. Thus, when booking your flight online, you will need to verify certain information with the airline company beforehand:
- Confirm that your pet can travel in the airplane cabin with you. I would personally avoid transporting your pet in the cargo/luggage hold at all cost.
- Verify if your pet is illegible for traveling
- Most airlines have weight and age restrictions for pets to be admitted as a carry-on and some of them do not accept certain breeds of cats and dogs. So make sure to verify these information on the airline’s website prior to booking your ticket.
- Carry-on size
- Verify the airline’s maximum carrier size allowed on board.
- Verify how much the airline charges for your pet to be allowed on the plane.
- Health certificate / Other documents
- Some companies may ask for your pet’s health certificate, vaccination records or other health document depending on your final destination and where you’re departing from. Make sure to visit the airline’s website once again for a clear understanding of these regulations.
- Optional: Visit your veterinarian
- If your pet has never traveled before, you might want to call or visit your veterinarian. Whether it be for a quick checkup or to get a copy of the health certificate mentioned above, you want to make sure nothing is preventing your pet from flying. Also, he might be able to prescribe medication to help with your pet’s anxiety if needed.
- Optional: Try getting a direct flight
- This will obviously cut down on the security checks you will have to go through and diminish the amount of time your pet will have to be in transit for.
- Contact your airline after booking your ticket online
- Most airlines require you to call their reservation service in order to advise them that your pet will be coming on board with you.
- What to pack
- Food, treats and bowls
- Leash / harness
- Medication (if needed)
- Pet pads for your carrier
- In case of any accidents…
- Blanket / toys
- Placing your pet’s blanket in his carrier is a great way to make him feel at home. I personally always bring one of Bailey’s toys with me on the plane. A familiar object helps bring him a sense of ease and comfort.
B. DURING THE Journey
- At the airport
- When traveling with a pet as a carry-on, you often won’t be able to use the self-service check-in kiosk. Therefore, you will very likely be asked to go to the counter to get your tickets.
- Your pet’s travel carrier must go through the luggage x-ray screening device at the airport. Therefore, you will need to attach a harness/leash to your cat or dog during the security procedures. Bailey was a bit nervous during this process as I passed through the metal detector with him in my arms. He held on to me pretty tight, but I put him back in his duffle bag as quickly as possible. He immediately calmed down and felt much more secure.
- At the gate
- Depending on how comfortable your pet is in new environments you might want to restrain from letting him out of his carry-on. Luckily enough for me, Bailey is a very easygoing cat and the few adventures he had on a plane went (overall) very well. He stays calm during most of the trip, besides the interval spent at airport. He gets very nervous in his carry-on, since it keeps shifting from side to side, and usually starts meowing and scratching the door of his duffle bag. So when we arrive at our gate, I always let him out with his harness. He then proceeds to curiously walk around, examining his new surroundings. Seeing as pets can not exit their carrier during the flight, this is the last chance he gets to stretch his legs and walk around.
- During the flight
- After boarding the plane, the flight attendants will ask you to place your pet underneath the seat situated in front of you. Every pet is different, but fortunately enough for me, Bailey is very calm at this point and mainly sleeps the rest of the flight. Don’t tell the stewardess, but I do bring him up on my lap from time to time in order to reassure him and verify everything’s ok.
That’s pretty much it! If your furry friend hates being left behind as much as mine does, then everything should go smoothly on the plane. Also, the more I traveled with Bailey, the more he got accustomed to it and the easier it became.
Hope this helps you prepare for your next adventure with your little companion. Safe travels!