Pets have become more and more a part of the family. Many people want their pet to be with them as often as possible, whether they’re at home or on the go. If you are planning to travel with your pet, though, you really need to be aware of the rules. You also want your pet to be as comfortable as possible throughout the process. That’s where tips for flying with a dog or cat come into play.
Here’s a look at what pet parents can expect should they decide to fly with their dog or cat. You’ll learn what you need to do to keep your pet happy and calm during travel, and you’ll find out some specifics about airline regulations as they pertain to bringing an animal on a flight.
The Best Tips For Flying With A Dog Or Cat: Talk To Your Vet
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to make sure your pet, whether it’s a dog or a cat, will be at ease before, during, and after the flight. In order for this to happen, you’ll need to take your pet to the vet’s office well before that flight leaves the ground.
More than likely, the airline will require that you show a health certificate. You’ll need to prove that your dog or cat is up-to-date on all vaccinations – especially their rabies shot. Take a close look at airline regulations regarding pet travel before you book your flight.
Your vet will know if your pet is healthy enough to get on a flight and whether your pet has the right temperament to deal with what could be a stressful experience. You and your vet need to discuss ways to reduce potential anxiety, including whether medication might be a good idea.1,2
How To Keep Your Dog As Comfortable As Possible
There’s a chance the airline will require your dog to be in a crate or pet carrier in order to be able to get on the flight. If this is the case, you’ll want to get the dog used to the crate well in advance. Put some treats or a favorite toy in the crate so your pup is used to it by the time you head to the airport.3
Here are a few other tips for flying with a dog to keep them at ease and (hopefully) more comfortable.
- When you book your flight with the airline, try to make it nonstop if you can. If you can’t avoid a layover, make sure it’s as short as possible. This will help keep stress to a minimum.
- If you have a small dog, they might be able to stay with you in the main cabin. But there’s a chance your dog may have to travel in the cargo hold section of the plane. The cargo hold can be a dangerous place, so avoid this option if at all possible. If you can’t, try to book your flight early in the morning or late in the evening. That will reduce the risk that your pet will get too hot.4
- Give your dog a chew toy for the flight. Just as pressure can build in a human’s ears during airplane takeoffs and landings, the same is true for your pup. Chewing might help.
- Be sure to give your dog a potty break as close to boarding as you can. Some airports have specific areas for pet relief.5
How To Make An Airline Flight Smooth For Your Cat
Every airline requires cats to be in a pet carrier. Go to your pet store and buy a carrier specifically designed for air travel. It will have softer sides that make it easier to fit under an airline seat. When you get on the plane, make sure you comply with flight attendant instructions regarding where to put the pet carrier. It will need to fit underneath the seat in front of you.
Like a crate for a dog, you’ll want your cat to get used to the carrier long before the flight. Keep it accessible, and make it an inviting environment. Toys and treats will help make it a place your feline friend wants to visit.6
Here are a few things you can do that may help make your cat (and you) more comfortable when flying
- In order to keep your pet from experiencing nausea, don’t feed your cat breakfast the morning of the flight.
- Cover the bottom of the pet carrier with puppy pads just in case your pet needs to do some “business” during the flight.
- Have some latex gloves and paper towels ready just in case you need to clean up a mess.
- Remember to keep a small bottle of water on hand to keep your cat from becoming dehydrated. Also have some cat food or treats available.7
You’ll also need to take some precautions before the flight to make sure your pet is able to get on board. Put a harness on your cat when going through security. You can send the carrier through the x-ray machine, but your cat can’t be inside of it. You’ll need to hold your pet in your arms as you’re screened. The harness will help ensure your cat doesn’t get away if they become frightened.8
Can You Take An Emotional Support Animal With You During Air Travel?
A lot of people will bring a service animal with them when they travel. You’ve probably seen a dog helping someone who has vision issues, or someone who is hard of hearing. In some cases, however, people with emotional issues are able to bring a dog or cat with them for support.
While this is allowed under the Air Carrier Access Act, people who wish to travel with an emotional support animal may need to produce documentation before the animal can board. Among other things, this documentation must show that you have a mental or emotional disability verified by a licensed healthcare professional, and that you are under the care of that professional.9
You must contact your airline to ensure you’ll be able to bring an emotional support animal on your flight.
Will Airlines Continue To Allow Emotional Support Animals?
While a service animal has to undergo a great deal of training to perform their task, an emotional support animal does not. They simply help the person stay calm and provide comfort. Service animals are trained to maintain their composure in a crowded setting, such as an airport or a plane. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can easily become upset or agitated in that type of environment.10
Unfortunately, certain unscrupulous people have tried to falsely label their pets as emotional support animals in order to save money on the cost of a ticket for their pet. In addition, there have been an increasing amount of incidents involving attacks on other passengers and other issues. 11
As a result, the U.S. Transportation Department may soon rule that pets who provide emotional support are not service animals.12 This is another reason why it’s so important to contact the airline first before trying to board a flight with a pet you consider to be an emotional support animal.
Stay On The Safe Side When It Comes to Pet Travel
If you want to travel with your pet, the first thing you’ll want to do is take the steps necessary to make them as comfortable as possible. If you can, avoid having your beloved companion placed in the cargo hold. They are not a piece of checked baggage. You’ll likely worry about them throughout the duration of your flight, and it could be a miserable experience for your pet.
Being as well informed as possible before you travel will help ensure your peace of mind and your pet’s comfort. That way, every member of the family will be able to enjoy their vacation, whether they have two legs or four.