Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 27, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Air travel is challenging enough for humans these days, and the thought of having to fly with a cat adds an additional layer of stress. However, sometimes, it may be unavoidable. You may be moving across country, or you may be leaving on an extended absence and even leaving your cat with a trusted cat sitter may not work out for you. If you must travel with your cat, it’s important to be prepared.

The 6 Tips to Fly Safely With Your Cat

1. Check with your airline

Try to book nonstop flights, and make sure that your cat can travel in the cabin with you. Avoid transporting your cat in the cargo hold at all costs – there are simply too many things that can go wrong. Find out what kind of paperwork your airline requires. Confirm the exact dimensions of the space underneath the seat on the aircraft you’ll be flying on as this will determine whether your carrier will fit and be allowed in the cabin. If you’re flying internationally, find out whether your cat will need to be quarantined at the destination. Reconfirm all arrangements with your airline two weeks prior to your flight, and again the day before your flight.

Woman on the phone with scottish fold kitten on the couch
Image Credit: Bondar Illia, Shutterstock

2. Health certificates

Most airlines will require a health certificate. Health certificates need to be issued by a licensed, federally accredited veterinarian. This certificate basically states that your pet is healthy to travel and is not showing signs of a disease that could be passed to other animals or to people. Certain vaccinations (usually rabies) must be up to date for a health certificate to be issued. Some airlines require an acclimation certificate, which states that your cat can be exposed to certain temperatures while traveling.

3. Find the right carrier and harness and get your cat used to it

Make sure the carrier you choose fits under the seat – different airlines will have different size requirements. The Sleepypod Air’s innovative design addresses this issue by providing size versatility through flexibility. The unique design allows the carrier to contract to fit under the seat during takeoff and landing. Once the plane is in the air, the carrier can easily be expanded so that your cat can have the largest possible space underneath the seat. And of course, the Sleepypod Air also maintains the same strict safety standards as all of Sleepypod’s carriers and was put through the same safety testing that continues to position Sleepypod among one of the safest pet product manufacturers on the market.

Get your cat used to the carrier well in advance of your trip. Once your act accepts the carrier, take her on “practice” car rides. You may even want to take her to the airport so she can get used to the sights and sounds and unfamiliar loud noises.

You’re also going to want to get your cat used to a harness, since that will be your safest way to get your cat through security.

4. Going through security with your cat

Keep your own accessories to a minimum so you can focus on your cat. Your cat’s carrier will need to go through the security scanner, but your cat cannot, so you will need to carry her through the human scanning device. She should be wearing a secure harness with a leash to prevent escape. Even the most mellow cat may become startled by all the activity at the checkpoint and might dash out of your arms. Your best option is to ask for a private screening room. If the TSA attendant won’t comply, ask for a supervisor. Even in a private screening room, it is best to have a harness and leash on your cat.

5. Tranquilizers and sedatives

Discuss the use of tranquilizers or sedatives with your veterinarian. If you and your vet decide to use tranquilizers, give a “test pill” well before your trip so you can see how your cat will react.

Spray the carrier with Feliway spray 15 minutes prior to travel. Holistic remedies such as Stress Stopper or Rescue Remedy can also be helpful.

6. Litter, food and water

Traveling on an empty stomach will reduce the risk of nausea, so you may want to withhold breakfast on travel day. Carry some of your cat’s food with you, even if you don’t anticipate a long flight. Have a small bowl available for water. Line the carrier with pee pads and carry extra pads with you.

Man shopping in supermarket reading cat food label product information
Image Credit: LADO, Shutterstock

For more information about Sleepypod’s carriers, and to purchase, please visit their website.

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