Flying with Your Cat (or other pets)

One of my kitties!

One of my kitties!

Guest blog by Holly Graham


Moving from the east coast to the west coast I could not imagine driving with two kittens. The best option for me and my kitties was to fly.

We started our journey by checking the website of the airline we were going to fly with (we flew Southwest Airlines) to see what the regulations and rules are, what paperwork we needed, and what types of carriers are accepted. You can also find out the dimensions of the seats, to ensure proper carrier size.

You must call ahead of time when booking your flight to make reservations for bringing your pet. There is an extra fee per carrier; the limit is two animals per carrier, and one carrier per person. You are not allowed to book a second seat, just so you can bring two carriers. Also a minor cannot bring a pet carrier, it must be an adult.

Take your pets to the vet, make sure they are up to date on shots, and you receive any necessary paperwork. Southwest does not require vet records, but just to be on the safe side, we got one anyways.

Vets do not like sedating cats, as they do not do so well with sedation, so generally they will give you a prescription for an antihistamine that will help relax your cat. We found that it worked wonderfully with our kittens.

We booked a non-stop flight between Baltimore, Maryland and San Diego, California, as I did not want to deal with the hassle of trying to get to connecting flights with the cats, or traumatize them by taking them through busy airports any more than necessary. If you have to have stop overs, make sure that you plan the time accordingly with your vet so you know if/when you should give them more medication to keep them calm.

Make sure that you have the proper carrier. If possible, get a soft-sided carrier. This will allow you to get one slightly bigger than the dimensions of the under seat storage, since it will squish a little.

A carrier is considered either your carry-on or your personal item, so you can only bring one other carry-on, which means you may have to check bags.

When going through security, I was required to take the cats out of the carrier, and walk through the checkpoint. The carrier had to go through the x-ray machine just like any other carry-on bags do. Be prepared for that.

If you have only one animal, or your two animals are really well behaved, great! I have nervous cats, so I got a guest pass for my husband so we each carried one cat through the checkpoint and I didn’t have to figure out how to juggle them and safely arrive on the other side.

Some airlines I’m sure are pretty strict about giving out guest passes. They normally are reserved for someone who is disabled and needs an escort to help them to the gate. Don’t depend on being able to secure a guest pass for help getting your animals to the gate. In this case call ahead and see if the airline will issue you one.

Don’t stress too much. I had a wonderful experience with Southwest, and what I thought might be an issue, or take a while, ended up being very nice and easy with no problems at all.

I apologized ahead of time to my seatmates on the plane about any problems my kitties may cause, since I’d never flown with them before. When I had taken them in the carrier just 15 minutes to the vet’s office, they were always pretty vocal. I was complimented on how quiet my cats were; in fact they didn’t even realize I had kitties, because they were so nice and quiet.

I did bring a towel to place over the carrier, as it was the only thing available, but a light sheet may have been better heat wise. This helped my kitties feel more secure.

Thinking ahead, since I was traveling by myself, I arranged to have two people come to pick me up at the airport in San Diego. This way I had help getting my checked luggage. I didn’t want to have to worry about how to get to my luggage in the crush of people, and somehow keep my kitties safe.

All in all I had a wonderful experience traveling with my kitties, and I would feel confident flying with them again if the need ever arises.

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