This past Christmas break, I decided to attempt the heroic or rather stupid feet of flying with my cat. I have only had her since September and did not want to board her for the length of stay my flight was (in reality it was too expensive). We survived the trip here is my story and my advice if you want to travel with your small animal.
(All this advice is for carrying on a small pet not putting a larger pet through cargo.)
Before you go, you must call your airlines. They have animal reservations but only a handful per flight. So if you don’t get a reservation in on time they might not have a place for your beloved animal. You will also want to double check your airlines carrying case dimensions. I bought a soft case carrier from Petsmart that was meant for airplane travel, however, I found these cases to be pretty big and did not leave my much room to fit her under the seat. Put a lining of “potty pads” in the bottom of the case (this actually saved me a lot of trouble on the way back home). Also to give my precious cat some comfort I put her Snuggy (it was mine till she stole it) inside the case as well. I believe this helped her feel comfortable but also stopped the plane vibrations from hitting her too hard. *Side note you sign an agreement that you will not take your pet out from underneath the seat after take off.*
I decided not to give her a tranquilizer. I wasn’t certain how she would react to everything but for the most part she is a pretty calm cat. However, I was not aware of the fact that one of my flights going would be canceled and I would have possibly had to keep her in her carrying case for almost 24 hours (unless leaving security and paying for a cat hotel…which some airports have). I found that the DFW airport has animal relief rooms inside the terminals, however, these are primarily for dogs. I suggest for cat owners to sneak into the family assist bathrooms (they have their own private rooms) to let your cat free for a bit, if you need too. If you do use the family assist bathrooms be careful that your cat doesn’t climb into decorative walls under the sink….it may be rough getting them out (I may be talking from experience).
Have a litter box set up at your destination before you arrive if possible. Most cats do not like to go when traveling but try and offer them the opportunity incase. Also my vet told me to bring a few familiar things with me to allow her to have some comfort. I brought a lot of her toys and I do believe it helped her adjust. She is a pretty chilled cat but she shocked me by how easily she adjusted.
One of my biggest worries was that she would get sick from the stress of travel. Cats do not bounce back as easily as dogs do. So I kept an eye on her and often just gave her some extra love and attention while I visited my family. Even know that it has been about a week since we have been home I have kept an eye on her to be sure she is drinking and eating water. She is still adjusting being back home. Things are much more quiet at my place than at my my parents during Christmas.
While traveling, my cat did shake and scratch and meow (her meows are pretty quiet). It stressed me out but on the way home I met another person who was carrying on their cat and he told me that his cat also did that but was fine in the long run. However, I did not like how sad the traveling made her. Though she bounced back quickly, she still has some post traumatic stress syndrome. If I move a suitcase or even some times put my shoes on she goes and hides. She also spent about 3 days just sleeping.
When traveling with your pet be sure to meet all airline requirements. Make your pet as comfortable as possible. Remember they do not understand what is going on and you are uprooting them from the place where they feel most comfortable. Plan ahead and try to set up some comfort at your destination prior to arriving (like a littler box). Give your pet time to adjust. If you are traveling with your cat, it might take some time for them to feel comfortable. Dogs are attached to you but cats are attached to their environment. Don’t be scared or worry to ask questions from the people at the airport, you’ll learn a lot (I learned a lot even from other passengers). Finally, be patient with your cat/pet and yourself, they will need to recoup from their travel ordeal.
If you have any questions about flying/traveling with your pet feel free to ask.