Helpful Tips On How To Travel With A Cat On A Plane

A friend of mine recently returned from a long plane-ride and asked me to write this article. Her ride became rather stressful when a cat, traveling with the owner, started yowling nonstop, and continued this tirade for the whole trip.

My friend felt that people with cats needed to learn how to travel with a cat on a plane. Shortly after takeoff, the poor kitty commenced this loud and continuous wailing.

With this unpleasant noise pervading the plane, not just the cat but everyone on the plane acquired a degree of stress. The unpleasant experience could have been avoided if the cat’s “parent” had understood how to calm her cat before the flight.

Orange cat, yelling

Any time you travel with your cat you need to make sure kitty has received some warning and prep experience beforehand. This particular post will focus on air travel, but do prepare your kitty if you are making any kind of trip.

If in a car, get kitty used to the car and to short trips before heading out on a long run. Get the cat used to the carrier, as using this device might become the best way to keep track of the cat on the trip. Of course, on an airline, a carrier becomes essential.

So, how do you prepare for a long airplane trip with your kitty? Here are some pointers to consider:

Do These Things Before Traveling

Unless you have traveled with your cat and have an idea what kind of traveler he will be, you’d better be well-prepared so you can keep your kitty from being anxious all the way to terrified. If you know ahead of time what to expect, your trip will go much more smoothly.

First Step: Choose A Comfortable, Secure Carrier

Cat in airline cat carrier

You must make sure the carrier you choose will not allow kitty to escape. Stress can motivate a cat a great deal to try to escape from a situation he does not like. Make sure he cannot open the door or squeeze through the slats.

If you purchase a carrier that includes a seat belt attachment, you have added a safety measure. Now you can buckle your cat up to make sure kitty does not escape.

Always call the airline ahead of time to find out what kind of cat carrier or crate they will allow, and the standard dimensions established by the airlines for an acceptable crate.

Make Sure To Have All Supplies And ID In Order

orange kitten in collar and leash

Does your cat take regular medication? Make sure to have a sufficient supply on hand to last for the duration of your trip. Ask your vet if you need calming medication to keep kitty calm. If you can, have the vet microchip your kitty, so if he’s lost you have a chance to get him back.

Have an ID on the collar, and you might also consider a harness and leash. When you go through security, you will have to remove kitty from the carrier, and having harness and leash will make sure he doesn’t escape to the wilds of the airport.

Are all kitty’s vaccinations up-to-date? Be sure to take the necessary proof of these. Also, if you are traveling out of the country, be sure to check the regulations for bringing a pet into the new country.

Essential Supplies Include Food, Water, And Litterbox

Note that it’s wise not to feed your cat within 4 to 5 hours of departure time. The meal could cause vomiting or diarrhea if kitty becomes too upset by the trip.

collapsible travel water dish for cats

Do pack sufficient food and water for kitty. He may not need food during the trip, as his appetite might not prove the best, but he will need it when you finally reach your destination. For sure, he needs water that can be given to him on the trip.

Also, make sure you pack a small litterbox that he is used to using, as it may become a very necessary piece of equipment.

While you’re packing, include some of kitty’s favorite treats.

Make sure to bring cleaning supplies in case of “accidents” during the trip.

Carrier Supplies Include Favorite Bedding And Toys

Remember to pack a blanket or garment in the carrier that smells like home, and all his familiar surroundings. Such an item may help keep him calmer. Also, pack his favorite toy.

These items may make the trip more comfortable and may also help kitty to adjust faster to the new destination, once your travel is over.

Train Kitty To Like The Carrier Before Leaving Home

Cat in open carrier, ready to go

If you can create positive associations for kitty before traveling, it can help a great deal, but it cannot be done overnight. Start several weeks in advance.

Leave the carrier out in a warm place with a soft, comfortable blanket inside. Encourage cat to spend time in there, and reward him with a treat when he does.

Place kitty in the carrier for increasingly longer time periods, perhaps taking him in the car for short trips to someplace he will enjoy. Hopefully, this will make him more accepting of the carrier.

What To Do To Keep Kitty Calm During The Trip

Cats are territorial, which means they have an established area in and around your home that they claim as theirs. Their desire involves staying in this area forever. They don’t care to travel. Therefore, leaving their home and established turf for any length of time can be very stressful to a cat.

Even if your cat seems quite laid-back and calm, such a change as leaving what is familiar to travel on an airplane ranks ‘way down on the list of things kitty finds pleasing. Even the cat with minimal stress can react to this new experience.

Feliway pheromone spray

One thing you can try as a way to lower stress is to get a pheromone spray and use it within the carrier. Synthetic pheromones are similar to what kitty deposits when he rubs against objects. By spraying the inside of the carrier, you are giving kitty the message that it’s a safe place.

To keep kitty’s experience (and therefore your own) as pleasant as possible, follow this regimen: First, visit your vet. The vet considers the cat’s age, demeanor, and overall health in order to give you a recommendation as to whether sedation is needed.

If your vet recommends a prescription medication designed to calm the cat, it becomes a wise idea to try it at home before you travel. If your cat tolerates it and does not have undesirable side effects, then it’s safe to use.

There are a number of supplements and medications used for reducing anxiety during travel. Your vet will give suggestions as to what might be best for your kitty. When you find one that works, by all means use it. You may save kitty, yourself, and fellow passengers a miserable journey.

An Airplane Trip From A Cat’s Point Of View

Now, I want you readers to imagine for a short time that you are a cat. What would an airplane trip be like for this little creature?

Let’s see what the cat has to say:

I am a cat. I am a small, furred animal who believes that one’s territory is the most important part of belonging to a place. I have been adopted by a large creature called a “human,” and now share the being’s home. In this place, I have marked out the area that is my territory.

I know my human well and have become quite attached to this huge creature. However, my life preferences are much different. Traveling on an airplane does not make the list. Nonetheless, even though domestication has become my choice, I could be considered a prisoner.

If my human wants my company on a long journey, I must comply. To travel, my human puts me in a little carrier, barely big enough to contain me…certainly not large enough for much movement. I don’t care for it, but while I travel, it becomes my “shell,” my security.

In the carrier, I am carried by my human to a place where huge beasts with wings like birds stand waiting. Then, the human carries me up some stairs and INSIDE one of these huge birds. I try to escape, but I cannot do so, and then this giant bird EATS me. It’s awful! I can’t stand it!

My human and I settle into a place. In my carrier, I rest on the floor of the beast, where I can just see a part of my human. It’s hard to see her face, without really contorting my kitty body. Then, the creature that has devoured us starts to move. Now all I can do is crouch in terror.

What will happen next? Will the creature destroy me, carrier and all? I can’t stand it! I start yowling at the top of my voice, crying for help; for escape; crying so I can hear my own voice and therefore know that I still live and breathe.

I cry until I am hoarse, and yet the terror continues. Then, it’s as if something or someone has heard me cry. The creature stops moving, my human arises and picks me up, and takes me out of that monster’s belly. What a relief! I do not understand what’s happened, but somehow my human has saved me. Why did I have to go through that in the first place?


orange & white cat sleeping in suitcase

If you have to travel by plane with your lovely kitty, please remember that, no matter how attached kitty is to you, and how calm she acts, taking her on a long plane ride will stress her out for sure. Why put her through such terror?

Find the proper sedative for her, and give it to her before you travel. Let her trip be calm and mellow. With good kitty drugs, she won’t care that she’s inside some huge monster. She will curl up in the carrier and take a long snooze.

Don’t put her through the trauma of a plane ride without some medication to ease her stress. A quiet, sleeping cat will prove much easier on the rest of the passengers on the plane as well. At times, such trips become necessary, but they don’t have to create terror for your poor cat.

Perhaps someone should suggest to airline companies that they equip their stewardesses with a good supply of ear plugs. Then, if a yowling animal or a crying baby disrupts the quiet of the flight, the stewardess can pass them out.

References I used for this post:

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