Once upon a time there was a little cat who needed to travel from Denver, CO to Dallas, TX. There was much discussion on how she should travel.
“Which would be better” the Sorcerer Eric asked, “flying upon an aeroplane, or driving overland?”
“Tis difficult to decide,” replied the fairequine Delic. “Flying costs more in gold press latinum, but traveling by car requires more time as Dallas is 14 hours to and hence from Denver.”
“Upon my magical consideration,” replied the sorcerer, “flying shall be best.”
Flying a Cat
Fairy tales aside, we did need to transport Texi to Texas and we did decide, upon careful consideration, that flying was the most appropriate option. While we had never flown with a cat before, we discovered that it is quite possible, though definitely a bit stressful.
We had heard that many airlines required pet health certificates from the vet in order to board the plane. We did not think that American Airlines did, but we took Texi to the vet within 10 days of the flight just in case. We were never asked to present the certificate. We did, however, get her a clean bill of health and secure a prescription for kitty drugs to keep her calm during the flight.
Texi has never enjoyed being transported and this time was no exception. Despite taking a double dose of the drugs, she never did completely zonk out.
Things you Need to Know to Fly a Cat
- You can choose to take your cat as a carry-on. The pet carrier counts as your personal item that travels beneath the seat in front of you, so plan accordingly.
- Buy a soft sided pet carrier as there are rules about the size of the carrier. The soft sided gives a more flexible option and will likely fit under the seat while giving your cat more room to move around.
- Visit the vet within 10 days of flying to secure a health certificate. Many airlines required this, though it did not turn out to be necessary for us.
- Book your flight online to save phone booking fees, but after you do that, you will need to call to add your pet to your flight information. Some airlines only allow a certain number of pets on board each flight so you need to make sure that your pet will be welcome.
- Be prepared to pay a pet fee. We were a little frustrated that Texi cost more to fly then we did. We chose to fly American Airlines because they offered 1 free checked bag (with Eric’s status as a credit card carrier) and offered a direct flight to Dallas. Their pet fee was $125. In comparison, the 1 way ticket for me cost only $95.
- Know that you can ask for a private TSA security screening. You will need to remove your cat from her carrier to go through security. The carrier will have to go through the X-ray machine, but your cat should not. We were concerned that (despite the drugs) Texi may squirm enough that she could get away if we removed her from the carrier. Visions of her dashing through DIA were not exciting. So, we requested a private screening. I was able to take her into a small enclosed room where she could not get away. The TSA representatives took the carrier out and ran it through the X-ray and then returned it to me. This whole process is easier if you are not traveling by yourself. Eric had to take care of all of my bags while this was occurring.
- Take advantage of the family restrooms which are available at airports. We used two at DIA and one in DFW to let Texi out of the bag for short moments so she didn’t go stir crazy. It allowed us to let her relax a little while doing the waiting thing at the airports.
- Don’t worry too much about the noise the cat will make. Due to the general white noise on an airplane and the fact that the carrier is under the seat, it is difficult to hear it. We also covered the carrier with Eric’s fleece just to make sure. We’re not sure anyone on the airplane even noticed we were carrying a cat.
- Beware that takeoff and especially landing may be difficult. We guessed that Texi had pain in her ears much as everyone does when going up and down in the airplane. She was mostly OK on the way up, but landing was a different story. She freaked out a bit and ended up pawing and biting at the top of her carrier, potentially trying to get out. We had to hold it closed (velcro may not be the best option). It was difficult for about 10 to 15 minutes, though she calmed once we were back on solid ground.
Overall, the entire ordeal went smoothly. We were grateful that our plane ran on time and we did get Texi to Texas in an orderly fashion. She even seemed to feel comfortable in her new home rather quickly.