Traveling with your cat can be an enjoyable adventure and provide you with many tales (or tails) to tell. It can also bring on those “Oh no! Now what?” moments. Planning and preparation will usually prevent the “oh no!” from happening. But sometimes, you just can’t cover all the bases no matter how well you’ve planned.
So, let’s talk about flying with your cat. Now this, in itself, can become quite the adventure. Over the years we have had the opportunity to fly around the country to compete in cat shows. These are weekend shows that are held all across the country. Some are large shows with many competitive entries. For us on the West Coast, some of the biggest shows are on the East Coast, in the South, or the Midwest, which means flying the friendly skies. Cats seem to have two emotions about traveling. They either hate it or couldn’t care less about it. We have had both types.
Not all airlines allow in-cabin travel, so first you find those that do. There is a charge for your cat and, unlike the parent that can hold their baby in their lap for the flight, your cat has to ride under the seat in front of you! So when you book your tickets round trip, make sure you also pay and get your return ticket for the cat, too. Most airlines restrict how many in-cabin pets on each flight and you don’t want to have to worry about that return space. Ideally, you also want to fly non-stop. If that’s not possible, look for stops that don’t include a plane change. If you have to do a plane change, be sure to allow enough time to get to the gate. They always seem to be at the other end or in the next terminal.
Now comes the fun stuff: traveling with kitty. It is important that your cat feels safe and has a safe place to be. For our cats, the carrier, the show cage, and pop-up tent are safe zones.
How many times have you brought out your carrier to the living room only to spend hours looking for your cat, finally catching it and trying to stuff it in and get to where you are going? All the while your cat is showing its distress by meowing and carrying on. This reaction is caused by a cat not being accustomed to its carrier.
Compare that to bringing out the carrier and having your cat climb inside and curl up. Cats want a safe place and ours have learned that they are protected and secure when inside the carriers.
The photo of the upside-down sleeping cat in his carrier was taken on a Monday after flying to the East Coast on Friday, spending the weekend at a show and then flying back to the West Coast Sunday night. Even with all that time traveling in that carrier and able to nap anywhere in the house, this is where he chose to nap.
So what happens when you have checked your luggage, have your carry-on bag and your cat in the carrier, and you come to the security checkpoint? No, the carrier and cat do not get to ride on the conveyor belt into the screening machine and out the other side and down the noisy rollers.
This is where you attach a leash to the harness or walking vest that your cat is wearing for the trip. Please notice we did not say collar, we said harness or vest. A collar slips on a cat and it slips off even faster, leaving you with a leash and an empty collar. Your cat was last seen leaping over the luggage and headed towards a window with an outside view.
We carry the cat in our arms through the detector, let the nice TSA agent wand the cat, and then back in the carrier and off to the boarding gate. One time an agent made us walk the cat through the detector.
All right, we are finally at the gate, and final check-in and boarding pass in hand. Then the dreaded announcement comes, a three-hour delay! You quickly do the math, the drive to the airport, parking, check-in, waiting to board. That is a lot of hours in the carrier and we still have a three-hour flight. Poor kitty!
Unlike most carry-on bags, which are for people comfort, ours was packed ready for kitty comfort! First, out comes the rolled up pop-up tent. Then the watertight folding litter box and water bowl go in, and then the cat is ready for the wait. Of course, this will also attract every child and pet lover in the area who are also waiting, but it sure helps to pass the time.
Finally, it is time to board. Always ask about pre-boarding, as it makes it a bit quicker and easier to get into your seat and get the cat carrier under the seat in front of you. Yes, I did say under the seat.
During the flights we have had different experiences with different airlines, from keeping the cat and carrier under the seat the entire flight, to allowing the carrier up on a vacant seat after take off. Each flight was different, as was each fight attendant.
After landing, getting the baggage, renting the car, finding the hotel and getting into the room, one last thing before you let kitty out to jump on the beds and climb the floor-to-ceiling curtains. Please check under the beds for anything that shouldn’t be there and check the bathroom for any openings that allow access inside the walls. If you don’t, your cat will!
And remember, in just 48 hours you are going to do this whole adventure over again for your return trip.
The safety and comfort of your pet is the bottom line. From the carrier, to the harness/vest, to the travel shelters, to the litter boxes and bowls, having the right product for your cat and for the trip makes all the difference.
All the products mentioned in this article are from a company whose motto is, “For traveling pets and their people.” Sturdi Products is just one of many companies who make products to assist with pet travel. Find one you and your pet will enjoy, and you will find out just how much easier and less stressful your adventures will be. And don’t forget, these are great products to have for natural disasters, emergencies and evacuations.