Can You Take a Cat on a Plane? How to Do It Safely

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 25% of US households own a cat.

When those households go on vacation, they have a decision to make: to take a cat on a plane, or not to take a cat on a plane? Flying with a cat isn’t as simple as buying an extra ticket and showing up the day of the flight.

In making that decision, cat owners need to consider whether their cat will fly in the cabin or cargo, how to make sure their cat is safe, and what to do with their cat when they arrive. We’re discussing all of that and more in this quick guide to traveling with a cat.

cats in plane

Should You Take Your Cat on a Plane in the Cabin or Cargo?

Taking your cat in the cabin is the more affordable option. Your cat is also more likely to feel safe and happy if they travel as your carry-on luggage.

In order to qualify for this option, your cat carrier will have to fit comfortably under the seat in front of you. That limits the size of the cat permitted to travel in the cabin to about 20 pounds.

Different airlines have different rules and regulations, though. Check with your airline for costs, size limitations, and whether a cat carrier counts as carry-on luggage.

Alternatively, cats can travel cargo. When a cat travels cargo, they travel in the pressurized, temperature-controlled compartment below the plane.

Although this is the more expensive option, it’s sometimes the only option. That depends on the size of your cat and whether or not you’ll also be traveling on the aircraft.

Safety When Flying with a Cat

Before deciding to take a cat on a plane, it’s important to have them thoroughly examined by a veterinarian. Some cats shouldn’t fly due to potential respiratory problems (i.e. cats with short faces and nasal passages). Your cat may also have health issues that would make it riskier for them to travel on a plane.

If your cat has to travel cargo, there are some precautions you’ll want to take. Try to take as few transfers as possible to minimize the number of times your cat has to be loaded and unloaded. You should also avoid traveling when it’s very hot or very cold.

Try to get your cat accustomed to the cat carrier well before the flight. This will make them feel more comfortable when it comes time to board. Line the carrier with absorbent pads and brings extras.

What to Do When You Arrive

The first thing you’ll want to do when you arrive is head to the cargo desk to locate your kitty. Once you have them, make sure to let them outside to take care of any business and clean up any business that might be on the absorbent sheets.

If you’re traveling with your pet, getting there is only half the battle. The other half is finding a place to stay that allows pets. Fortunately, there are plenty of pet friendly hotels to choose from.

More About Your Cat

Deciding whether to take a cat on a plane when you travel? Consider where on the plane they can fly, whether it’s safe for them to fly, and where you’re going to stay with them upon arrival. It’s not impossible to fly with your cat, it’s just a little extra work.

And for more information about your favorite pet, be sure to check out our dedicated cat section.