flying with pets tips

The Best Tips for Flying With Your Pet (Cats and Small Dogs)

Flying with pets: A full guide

When it comes to flying with our pets, we want what is best for them and with minimal stress for everyone involved. We’ve compiled the top tips when it comes to flying with your pets that are taken from personal experience and other articles that are top tips for flying with your cat or dog, whether it’s for moving or travel.  

The top tips for travelling by air with your pet 

There are an endless number of tips available online for flying with pets, whether you’re simply travelling, moving cities, countries, or even over to different continents. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what the best options are when it comes down to it, and these are our top tips for flying with your pets to make your journey easier on yourself and your pets:  

Remember to bring the basics 

It can be surprisingly easy to forget the basics when we’re stressing out packing for ourselves and for our pets. Dogs and cats are similar but obviously require different very important basic items when out of the house.

For travelling with dogs, keep these in mind for packing: 

  • Portable and/or small food and water dishes: We really like this COMSUN collapsible food and water dish for pets. It’s affordable, easy to carry, and practical.
  • Treats and their usual food, to keep any accidents or upset stomach at a minimum. 
  • Doggy bags. 
  • Medications or anti-anxiety meds given beforehand if they’re needed and recommended by your vet. 
  • Airline approved kennel or carrier. 
  • Identifications and collars/leashes. 
  • Vaccination records and other important paperwork you might need for the airlines or immigration if you’re leaving the country. 
  • Check the local laws for allowed breeds if you have a bully breed or a Rottweiler, etc. as some countries and even states or provinces may have laws against them entering. 

When travelling with cats, the list is similar but including: 

  • Cat litter box with some extra litter, a scoop, and cleaning supplies such as small spot sprays or towels – just in case of any accidents. 
  • Medications and pre-emptive anxiety medication if recommended by your vet before flying. 
  • Airline approved carrier. 
  • Identifications, collars, harnesses, and any papers needed for the city/country you’re going to. 

 Anxious pets 

Anxious or nervous pets are generally better handled when they’re on the ground, though when it comes to life decisions such as relocating – flying is the only option. With proper training, patience, and time spent beforehand, you can help ease the worry of your best friend and keep them calm during the whole experience. 

For dogs and cats both, it’s important to recognize signs of distress: 

Some signs of your pets being stressed out can be subtle, especially when it comes to cats. They’re masters of hiding that they’re distressed or in pain. 

Excessive licking, pawing, yawning, or pacing around can be signs of stress. Dogs can ‘shake themselves off’ often, as if they’re wet. Obvious signs are the more vocal variety like crying, or barking, and visible physical traits such as shivering. 

For cats, this can be hissing, spitting, hair raised, ears back, and their tail is down. They might also try to hide somewhere. 

Tips to ease anxious pets 

Tips to ease nervous and anxious pets are similar between both cats and dogs. 

  • Spray some Feliway calming spray for your cat (if your vet recommends it) on their carrier cushion or blanket before the flight and be sure to test that it doesn’t have any ill effects on your cat in general beforehand. You don’t want any upset stomach, vomiting, or other stresses the day of. For dogs, you can use Adaptil, which is the canine version of Feliway, as long as your vet approves it. 
  • Practice getting them accustomed to their carrier before flying in the first place so that they associate it with positives instead of negatives. Airport security will make you take your cat out of its carrier while you hold it through the security scan, and then you will have to place it back into its carrier. It’s much easier for everyone if that’s an easy task ahead of time. 
  • If you can, a luggage cart can be helpful for maneuvering and keeping them calmer with a smoother ride. You can cover their carrier and keep a minimal field of view so that they aren’t overwhelmed with people, sounds, and other stressors.

How to prepare a cat for a flight? 

Depending on the temperament of your cat, preparing your cat for a flight might be very easy or extremely difficult. Not all cats need medication before a flight, but some may. Talk to your vet beforehand to see all available options. 

Decide first whether your cat will be in the cargo area or in the cabin with you. There are restrictions on size and weight for cabins. Most owners prefer to take their pets in the cabin as it is much less stress for everyone involved, including your furry friend. Be sure to bring some cat litter and a place for them to use it, water, food, treats, and everything they need to be comfy in their carrier. 

 How to prepare a dog for a flight? 

Preparing your dog for a flight is like cats. Make sure that they’re comfortable, they might need calming medication, and most do a lot better when they’re riding in the cabin with you. 

 Can cats use the bathroom on a plane?  

Generally, it’s best to have your cat use their litter box before you board the plane to minimize any needs to use the bathroom. If you’re on a long-haul flight, then yes that shouldn’t be any issue letting your cat use their bathroom space. If your pet is flying in-cabin, most airlines don’t allow them to leave their carrier during the flight or use the airplane’s bathroom, however, that may change from one airline to the next, as well as depending on the crew you’re flying with. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but as general rule, it’s not allowed to take your pet outside their carrier during a flight. 

Can my dog sit on my lap during a flight? 

It depends on the airline, but many will allow you to hold your pet carrier on your lap and some will allow you to let your dog sit on your lap outside of their carrier as well while there isn’t any turbulence or on takeoff/landing.  

Which Canadian airlines allow pets in the cabin? 

All Canadian airlines, except for Swoop, allow pets in the cabin. There are differing size limits, though most are similar.

Differences between flying in-cabin vs checked baggage/cargo


  • As long as your pet can fit comfortably in their carrier and it can fit underneath the seat in front of you, your pet can fly in-cabin with you.
  • Airlines have their own measurements on what is acceptable for in-cabin flying.


  • Your pet will fly in a special pressurized cargo hold below the plane and not in the cabin with you. Larger dogs and other animals that can’t fly in cabin will be placed here.


Air Canada

  • Can bring cat or dog into the cabin provided they can stand, sit, turn around, and lie down in its carrier under the seat in front of you.
  • Let the airline know in advance of your flight as sometimes space is limited.
  • You cannot bring your pet on board into the cabin if:
    • You are an unaccompanied minor
    • Seated in a bulkhead or exit row
    • Premium Economy class layout has no room for safe stowing of pets
    • Require the use of any medical device that needs to be stowed under the seat
    • Are travelling Business Class in a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft
  • Costs within Canada and Canada/USA (excluding Hawaii) are $50 CAD per one-way travel / $100 for International
  • Your pet’s carrier will count as one standard carry-on item within the cabin.
  • Your pet must stay in their closed carrier for the duration of the flight.
  • Maximum carrier sizes:
    • Hard shell carrier: 9-inches height, 15.5-inches width, 21.5-inches length
    • Soft-sided carrier: 10.5-inches height, 15.5-inches width, 21.5-inches length

Flying with your pet in the Baggage/Cargo Compartment

Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge allows you to fly your pet in the pressurized cargo compartment, along with any Air Canada Express flight operated by Jazz. If your itinerary includes a flight that is marketed by Air Canada but you have to fly through other airline carriers you may not be able to fly with your pet. You will have to talk to Air Canada depending on your flight itinerary and make sure that you can fly with your pet.

Other restrictions

Only one small cat or dog is allowed per passenger.

Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old and fully weaned.

You will need to arrive a full 30-minutes before your regular check-in time to speak with an agent and make sure that everything is properly sorted out before boarding and flying.


West Jet

  • Space for pets cannot be booked online, you do need to call the airline in advance.
  • A pet kennel fee applies for pets flying either in the cabin or in cargo, and it does count as one piece of carry-on baggage.
  • Pets must be able to stand, sit, turn around, and lay down in their carrier and it must fit under the seat in front of you.
  • If you are travelling with a cat and your flight neighbour has any severe allergies, you may be asked to move towards the rear of the plane into a different seat, in compliance with the Canadian Transportation Agency’s buffer zone between pets and a disabling allergy.
  • Birds, cats, dogs, and rabbits are allowed on West Jet flights.
  • One pet is allowed per guest.
  • Carriers must be soft-sided and are under or meet these size requirements:
    • 16 inches Length x 8.5 inches Height x 10 inches Width
  • Must be airline approved, leak-proof, well-ventilated. It cannot be a duffel bag, gym bag, or any other kind of carrier where your pet can stick their head out of the carrier.

Working Dogs/Service Dogs

Working and service dogs require documentation, and they must be checked in, in advance to ensure that everything goes smoothly on boarding and flying.

Other Regulations/ Conditions

  • Pets must not travel with an unaccompanied minor
  • Pets are not allowed on flights operated by code-share and interline partners
  • Pets that are younger than 8 weeks are not allowed on board
  • Fees and other information are available depending on your flights and are given when calling West Jet directly


Swoop Airlines

  • Swoop Airlines does not currently accept pets or specialty animals for travel, in the cabin or in the cargo hold.
  • They do accept service dogs that are fully trained and certified, in the cabin at no extra charge. You must contact Swoop airlines 48 hours before your flight to ensure that there is space.


Do’s and Don’ts for flying with your pets


  • Make sure to feed your pet hours before the flight, and that they have used the bathroom before you even get to the airport (or if they relieve themselves at the airport in designated areas) Same with water and any treats or medicine they might need.
  • Have everything prepared beforehand and always plan well ahead so that you aren’t stressed, and in turn riling up and stressing out your pets.
  • If you can book non-stop – absolutely do so. It will be less stressful all around and ensure the least amount of problems for you and your pets.


  • Don’t stress out. Your pets will notice and will become stressed themselves.
  • Don’t fly during any holidays if you can help it. They can be stressful enough in general, and your pet can get far more overstimulated and overwhelmed than us as humans can. Too much noise, people, and scents/lights, etc. can be too much.
  • Don’t forget potty time before your flights and right afterwards.


Our Methodology 

For this article, we compiled the best tips online from pet owners and have taken from personal experience to bring the most comprehensive guide to pet owners that are going to be flying or are planning to in the future.  

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Updated date

November 9th, 2022

About the author

Nikki Lyka

Nikki Lyka is a reviewer and writer at that’s written about a variety of subjects from the best fantasy novels to travel guides and blogs. When she isn’t researching and typing up a storm, she’s generally found winding down with tea, video games, practicing aerial hoop, photography, and reading good horror novels.
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