traveling-with-petsWhen we see passengers in airports carrying their dogs or cats in a carry-on purse or mesh bag, we often smile and hardly think another thing about it.  However, traveling with pets is a challenging task that requires plenty of forethought, planning and preparation. Pick up these helpful tips before you and your pet sail into the skies, so that you can make the trip simple and stress-free for him and for you.

Put ID tags on your pet. Just as you would do this to your luggage, it is important not only to make sure your cat or dog has the proper ID, but also that the carrier he is in is also labeled.

Get him microchipped.  In case of an emergency, make sure that your pet is microchipped so that he can be traced if lost, and his medical records will be available. That way if something happens to you, he can still receive the proper care, no matter where you are traveling.

Clip the cat or dog’s toenails before.  Animals tend to fidget when they are nervous, or if there are large crowds, loud noises and sudden changes to their environment.  This might cause your cat or dog to start scratching himself, or clawing at the carrier. Avoid damage and trauma by keeping their nails capped or trimmed.

Prepping before the flight. To help prepare your cat or dog to get in the carrier and endure a plane ride, first make sure you give him ample time romping around and exercising with you in the hours before the trip. Take them on a long walk/run or have a fair amount of playtime before you depart. This will help tire them out, relax them and expel any energy that could be channeled into anxiety on the plane.

Feeding on the flight. Do not feed the cat or dog immediately before the flight. Though you do not want your pet to be hungry, running the risk of having upset stomachs, nausea, vomiting, etc. will be far more difficult to handle.  Give them little sips of water here and there beforehand, and during the flight.  Before you make your journey, consult with your vet about how and when you should feed your pet if the flight is longer than 4-5 hours.

Bring essential pet care items on board.

These should include:

  • A calming collar for turbulence or anything that might upset them
  • Cat or dog treats (to soothe and comfort them)
  • A familiar toy, or rag from home (which will provide a familiar smell and sense of peace on the journey.)
  • Antibacterial wipes/ointment (in case the pet gets scratched or hurt in any way during the trip.)
  • Water and food (so you do not have to rely on airlines to provide any of these.)
  • A waste scooper/bag

DO NOT ship brachycephalic dog breeds or Exotic Shorthair and Persian cats in cargo chambers. These animals have shortened nasal cavities that make it very challenging to get sufficient oxygen or to regulate their body temperature when in extreme climates and high altitudes.  Exposing brachycephalic animals to the conditions of a cargo shipping room can be very dangerous.

Book only direct flights.  Taking off and landing in a plane can cause pressure for the ears and chests, and the roaring is overwhelming for pets (who can hear frequencies humans do not). Try to keep your pet’s stress level to a minimum by only booking straight-forward, direct flights.

Approve the luggage standards. Make sure the pet carrier is approved by the airline requirements before boarding your plane.  The last thing you will want to do is have to put your pet in an unfamiliar carrier when traveling is already jarring enough for them.   When you do purchase a suitable carrier, introduce it to your pet about a month before your journey, so that it will be a familiar and safe space for him. 

Notify the crew members (and captain if possible).   If the staff on board the aircraft are aware that you have an animal in tow, they may be able to offer you special help should the need arise. Doing so may afford you that extra empty seat in the back, or a few extra hand towels and water bottles.

Bring photo ID. Keep a picture of your cat or dog easily accessible in your wallet or on your phone, so that you could identify him as your own if need be, or help authorities find him if the pet were to be misplaced.

Examine your pet upon arrival. When you land, be sure to check your pet to make sure he is all right, and does not need any medical attention.