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Our Complete Guide On How To Fly Your Cat On A Plane Hassle-Free

The first thing to say about this subject is, yes, you can fly a cat on a plane.

This is incredible news, because your furry friend is a part of the family, right? You wouldn’t want to do a long journey or stay out of town without them.

But should you take your cat on a plane? Is it safe? And what do you need to know before jetting off?

We’ll go through all of this and more. Because, let’s face it, although we love them dearly - traveling with pets is a pain. But it doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re doing.

White cat with blue eyes looking up. Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

Is It Safe For Cats To Fly On Airplanes?

Yes, generally speaking, it is safe for cats to fly on a plane. However, every cat is different and some will tolerate it better than others.

The best thing you can do is consult your vet before traveling to ensure your pet is in good health. Sometimes the stress of flying can cause underlying or known conditions to flare up.

So, it’s best to get them the all clear to travel first.

Can You Fly a Cat On a Plane In the Cabin?

Cats can fly in the cabin or in cargo. Although many people prefer to have Felix ride up front with them, you can opt to put them in hold.

Let’s dissect those options, so you know which option is better for you and your pet.

Traveling in the Cabin

There are obvious benefits to having your cat fly in the cabin with you including:

  • It’s easier to check on them

  • They stay calmer if they can see you

  • They keep you calm

  • Endless playtime

But there are rules to traveling with your cat in the cabin. Unlike when traveling with a large dog on a plane, you can’t buy a seat for your kitty. So they and their carrier should be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

Airlines do have different-sized under-seat storage areas. But you should be fine when searching for the best cat carriers for air travel if you look no bigger than 11 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

Traveling in the Cargo Hold

If you prefer to have your pet stored in the hold, they’re over 20 pounds, or you can’t find a carrier small enough, you can place them in the hold.

In this pressurized, temperature-controlled, pet-friendly environment your cat will be perfectly fine. In fact, some owners believe this to be a less stressful way to travel with your pet - for them and you.

How Much Does it Cost to Fly a Cat On a Plane?

You will need to pay to fly with your cat. Pet flying fees can vary from airline to airline and, because your kitty is classed as your carry-on, they will automatically run you $20-$40.

All told, with the cost of buying your pet’s spot on the plane and having them as a carry-on, you’ll be looking somewhere between $100 - $200.

Do You Have to Take Your Cat Through Airport Security?

Taking your cat through security can be a task. Their carrier will need to go through the X-ray machine but (obviously) they won’t.

This means you will need to carry them through with you. If you’re worried about them not settling down in your arms, think about getting a cat harness & leash. This will allow you to clip on the leash before you get them out of their carrier and walk through the scanner.

If that still sounds like an impossible task with your skittish king or queen, you can request a private screening room. Here a TSA Agent will conduct a private scan of you, your pet, and your bags in the privacy of an enclosed suite.

It’s also worth mentioning at this point that you cannot complete online check-in for your pet. So you will need to queue to check in at the airline desk at the airport.

5 Top Tips For Flying With Your Cat

Traveling with your cat can be an enriching experience. It doesn’t need to fill you both with dread. Here are our top tips for making take-off day a breeze.

  1. Consult your vet prior to travel

  2. Get your cat used to their carrier

  3. Think about getting a soft-sided carrier

  4. Homeify the carrier

  5. Be prepared

1. Consult Your Vet

As we said above, you should speak with your vet and ask them to confirm your cat is fit to fly. You will also need to get a Health Certificate from them to present at check-in confirming this fact to the airline staff.

If you’re traveling overseas you will also need to ensure your cat is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.

While most cats will be perfectly fine during your flight (barring the odd meow), if your feline suffers from severe anxiety you might want to discuss calming medication options. There are many options available, some people have even spoken about the effectiveness of CBD in treating anxiousness in cats. But, again, it’s best to speak with your vet first.

2. Get Your Cat Used to the Carrier

It’s imperative to your cats' stress levels to ensure they are used to their carrier before heading out on any long journey. Here’s a brief breakdown of how to show your cat that their carrier is a cool spot.

  • Leave the carrier open at home with comfy bedding inside.

  • Introduce treats or toys inside the carrier.

  • Associate the carrier with positive experiences by offering treats or play while they’re inside.

  • Practice short car trips for motion acclimation.

  • Keep the carrier in a familiar, safe space.

  • Maintain a calm environment.

3. Think About Soft-Sided Carriers

Soft-sided carriers are just a little more comfortable for your feline friend. The material walls allow them to get up and move around when trying to get comfortable.

Person carrying a cat in a soft-sided carrier. Image by Marek from Pixabay

4. Homeify the Carrier

Continuing some of the themes from point 2. To keep your cat calm during its stay in the carrier, think about adding some home comforts.

Things like their favorite blanket or toy all help remind them of home. In addition, putting calming products like Feliway® Spray on those items may also help mellow them out.

5. Be Prepared

This one probably goes without saying but make sure you take the essentials. Your cat's food and water bowls will help keep feeding time as “normal” as possible.

If you can’t pack those, think about getting some collapsible bowls instead. But take the time before traveling to get your cat used to eating and drinking out of them. Of course, their fave treats are also a must!

Which Airlines Allow Cats on The Plane?

Most airlines will allow you to take your cat in the hold on a flight. But, if you’re thinking of letting them ride shotgun with you, then you’ll want to check out the below airlines:

However, before you start booking your seat for that trip to visit family, you should know that some breeds are banned on certain airlines. So it’s best to do your research before settling.

For example, United Airlines have banned Burmese, Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan, and Persian breeds due to behavioral and health concerns.

But, don’t worry, we’ve linked the pet policies for each in the list above. We’re good to you!

Thinking Of Taking The Car Instead?

So, as you can see, when you prepare right there’s nothing stressful or scary about flying a cat on a plane. Just make sure you train your pet to love their carrier and know the airline rules.

But, we understand that air travel may not be accessible to all cat owners. So, we’ve also outlined everything you need to know about car journeys with your cat.


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