Whether you're relocating with your job or simply don't wish to leave your cat behind while you take an extended vacation, there are times when you may need to take your cat along on a flight with you. Figuring out the specifics of bringing your cat along on a plane with you might be left until the last minute, but if possible you should plan how you wish to transport your feline friend in advance. Should you have a trip by plane coming up in the not-too-distant future on which you will be taking your cat, here is what you need to do in order to bring your pet along with you when you fly.
Contact the airline that you will be flying with in order to make sure in advance what their policies are in regards to bringing pets on the plane. Depending on the airline's policies, you may need to bring along documentation that shows that your cat's shots are up-to-date, or you may have to bring your cat in a specific type of carrier. Some airlines may even have restrictions on the time of the year that you can travel with pets. Should you be transferring to another flight before you reach your destination, make sure that you know the pet policies for that flight's airline as well (assuming that the connecting flight is run by another airline.)
Decide how you wish to travel with your cat once you have ensured that the airlines you will be using allow pets to travel with their owners. Many airlines will allow pet owners to either check smaller pets such as cats as cargo or to bring them on as a carry-on; restrictions and additional costs may apply in both cases. Special reservations may need to be made for your cat if you are able to bring it as a carry-on.
Check to make sure that your cat carrier meets the standards of the airline and that it is in good condition. Your cat will need enough room to be able to stand up and move around somewhat in the carrier, and will have to have room to eat and drink within the carrier as well. Mark the carrier very clearly with both your name and your cat's name. Should your cat have any special needs, then you may wish to mark them directly on the carrier as well. Line the carrier with paper towels or newspaper before putting your cat in, so as to take care of any accidents or sickness that may occur during the flight.
Get to the airport and check in for your flight early. When checking your cat in, make sure that you provide the airline staff with specific instructions for the feeding and care of your pet (as well as food, water, and any medicine or other items that your cat will need.) Airline staff are required by the USDA to provide food and water for your pet within a few hours of it being checked in; even if your flight is supposed to be short, make sure that they have food and water available in case the plane is delayed.
Keep your cat in its carrier during the entire flight (as well as your time in the airport.) Most likely your cat will be awake throughout the flight; many vets are hesitant to provide tranquilizers for cats unless absolutely necessary because of the effects that the drugs can have on smaller animals. After landing, you may need to pet and calm down your cat if it didn't take well to flying, so be prepared for the possibility of having an upset animal to take care of.
Ideally you should only bring your cat along on a flight with you when you don't have another viable option; many cats don't travel well, and adding the possibility of turbulance can make that worse. Take comfort in knowing that if you do need to fly with your cat you'll be able to, however, and make sure that you make preparations for flying with your cat well in advance of the actual departure date.