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 or moving cities, even countries. They vary based on factors, but for the most helpful we can be, these are our top tips for flying with your pets:  

Remember to bring the basics 

It can be easy to forget the basics when we’re stressing out packing for ourselves and for our pets. Dogs and cats are similar, but cats will need an extra portable box or bag for cat litter. 

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 take off/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. 

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

July 21st, 2022

About the author

Nikki Lyka

Nikki Lyka is a reviewer and writer at Rank-It.ca 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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