Tips for flying with cats and dogs

Household 4 min read

Traveling sometimes means that pets fly on an airplane to your destination. Flying with pets can be a challenging experience, especially if you travel long distances. These travel tips will help keep everyone safe, happy, and comfortable when taking pets on a plane.

How to fly with your cat or dog

Do your research before getting on the plane

If you’re taking your dog or cat on a plane, you should prepare appropriate paperwork from your vet and check the airline’s rules and regulations before booking. Depending on your destination, particularly international ones, you may need to meet stringent requirements about traveling with or importing pets. The following tips can help you avoid common mistakes and figure out how to fly with your dog or cat as easily as possible.

Research airlines’ pet air travel rules

Before booking your flight, research The Federal Aviation Administration’s pet travel regulations, but note that each airline has different rules. Remember that you will pay extra fees when flying with pets. For small dogs and cats, airlines require that they fit comfortably inside a pet carrier that you can easily stow under the seat in front of you. Most airlines won’t allow you to take pets out of their carriers during the flight. Larger dogs that don’t fit inside the plane must ride in a sturdy pet crate stowed under the plane in the cargo/luggage area.

Some airlines have seasonal and weather rules for bringing pets on a plane. For your pet’s safety, they don’t allow pets to ride in the cargo area if the temperature is too hot or too cold. Some countries require you to quarantine your pets after flying if you plan to travel overseas.

Learn more about the cost of flying with your pet.

Get a clean bill of health from your vet

Before you book your flight, take your pet to the vet for a wellness check-up. Your vet will consider your pet’s overall health, breed/temperament, and age to determine if it can handle pet air travel. Ask your vet for a signed health certificate that proves your pet is properly vaccinated and in good health to travel by plane.

With the change of altitude and loud engines, flying can be a stressful experience for cats and dogs. If your pet is anxious, talk to your vet about prescribing a sedative. The sedative keeps your pet calm and relaxed while riding on the plane. If your pet tends to get motion sickness, discuss the best medication options for plane travel with your vet. Learn about stress relief for pets.

Organize pet documents in advance

When flying with your pet, check with the airlines about required pet medical documents. Most airlines require travel documents months in advance, especially for overseas travel. When traveling, always bring a copy of your pet’s medical and vaccination records in case of an emergency.

Common travel documents include:

  • Vaccination and medical records
  • List of medications with dosage amounts
  • Pet health certificate signed by your vet

Pack a separate bag for your pet

Bring a travel bag with all the necessary pet supplies when flying with your dog or cat. Whether you’re flying with a dog or flying with a cat, line pet carriers with puppy pads just in case of accidents. You might also bring bags to clean up poop in case of any accidents. Remember to pack their favorite toys, blanket, non-spill travel water, food bowls, and special treats.

Other tips for taking a dog or cat on a plane

When flying with pets in the plane’s cabin, a few things to keep in mind to make the trip easier for you, your pet, and the other passengers. You’ll want to consider how your pet will meet its needs, how to keep it calm, and more.

Avoid airsickness

Consider skipping or reducing the size of your pet’s last meal before the trip. While it may seem unpleasant to make them travel on an empty stomach, flying with dogs or cats can cause them to get motion sick. Your pet should travel hungry rather than have an animal throwing up during the flight.

If you can pick your seat on the plane, consider sitting by the window. That minimizes the amount of traffic and disturbances to your pet and can make the travel less stressful and confusing for them.

Practice using a crate

Most pets, even crate-trained ones, aren’t used to being closed in a crate for the length of time that a typical flight requires. Before you try flying with cats or dogs, spend some time getting them used to being in the crate for longer periods. If your pet isn’t crate trained, get the crate as soon as possible once you know you’ll be flying with your pet and spend ample time practicing. Use treats, toys, and other rewards to create a positive association with being in the crate.

Make your pet feel comfortable in the crate

Consider making their crate comfortable when bringing pets on a plane. Adding cushions or toys can help them stay comfortable and stress-free.

Create a post-flight plan for flying with your cat or dog

If you’re traveling with a pet, consider what happens once the flight is over. Take the time to walk or exercise your pet and give them some reassuring attention. If you leave the airport by car, ensure you have what you need to keep your pet safe in the car. If you’re booking a hotel rather than staying with friends and family, make sure you’re staying in a pet-friendly hotel so your dog or cat can have a pleasant time once the plane lands. Apps and websites devoted to pet travel can provide further resources for helping your pet enjoy its trip with you. Learn more about the best apps for traveling with your pet.

Remember that no matter how good a job you do preparing your pet for air travel, flying with pets can be stressful. Be patient once the flight is over. Remember that they might temporarily exhibit problematic behaviors due to anxiety. Bring any paperwork your pet would need in case of an injury, illness, or other problem while you’re traveling.

Learn more about pet insurance and how pet insurance works.

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