Airlines that Allow Flying with a Cat

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated January 16, 2024

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A cat flying.

Flying with a cat has its unique challenges — as much as felines are loved for their quirky behavior and aloofness, they’re also known to be quite skittish and fickle in new environments. Below is a guide to get your kitty through the airport and onto their next flight, or better yet, into the hands of their trusted transporter.

Are There Airlines That Allow Flying with a Cat?

Since cats are relatively small animals, most popular commercial airlines allow passengers to bring them onboard in-cabin. The general rule is that a pet flying in-cabin must be small enough to fit under the seat (less than 20 pounds) and remain in its carrier for the duration of the flight.

Can Your Cat Fly Solo?

Yes, But They Don’t Have To!

If you can’t accompany your feline friend on their flight, or they’re too large to fit under your seat, you may be able to check them in as “cargo.” Your pet will be placed in the plane’s cargo area below the main cabin. However, this option does bear a few downsides — it can be costly and present greater risks to your pet’s health. Cat’s ears can be sensitive to pressure changes, so veterinarians recommend flying with a cat in-cabin instead of cargo.

Hawaiian, American and Alaska are the only domestic airlines that airship pets in the cargo area.

Luckily, another emerging option is now available for small pets flying solo — air nannies. These professional pet chaperones accompany your cat from take-off to landing. Though they’re not widely available at all pet shipping companies yet, you can hire your Mary Poppins of the pet world through an online marketplace like CitizenShipper. A diverse range of transporters check for pet transport opportunities daily on CitizenShipper, waiting to offer their services.

Key Steps to Prepare for Flying With a Cat

1. Plan a Vet Visit

Once you’ve arranged your pet’s travel plans, schedule an appointment with their veterinarian. Leave as much time as possible to compile necessary health documents and update vaccinations required by your airline and new destination.

Most airlines’ pet policies require a health certificate provided by a veterinarian, proving your pet is fit to fly.

Laws regarding vaccinations and medical records vary on a state-by-state basis. A great tool to determine the laws of your specific destination is the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website.

2. Ease Your Pet Into Traveling

Most cats are sensitive to changes in environment and prone to motion sickness. It’s easy to see why they might not be purring at the thought of a long ride. Although it may take time for your cat to adjust to traveling long distances, one thing is for sure — alleviating as many stressors as possible will create a smoother journey. A positive trip is possible!

VCA Animal Hospitals advise that you refrain from feeding your feline friend 5 hours before travel. An empty stomach will minimize nausea and vomiting. On the other hand, be sure your kitty has access to plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Riding in a carrier may not be their favorite thing at first. To create a positive association with your cat’s carrier:

  1. Introduce them weeks before take-off time.
  2. Line the carrier with your kitty’s favorite toys, blankets or an old t-shirt that smells like home.
  3. Entice them inside it with a treat or two!

To acclimate your cat to the feeling of movement:

  1. Take them on a few short car rides before the day of departure.
  2. Start with 5-minute rides around your neighborhood and build up to longer drives as they become more comfortable.
  3. If you feel anything stands out about your cat’s behavior, jot down some notes to give to their veterinarian and future transporter.

3. Pick Out a Proper Carrier

Picking out a suitable carrier is essential to maximize your pet’s safety and comfort. An organization called The International Air Transport Association (IATA) creates policies to ensure safe air travel for both people and pets. Airlines use the IATA’s standards for pet carriers to model their own requirements. To summarize, your cat will need to have enough room to stand, sit up and lie down comfortably for the duration of the flight.

4. Know What to Expect at Airport Security Checkpoints

Like your luggage, your cat’s carrier must undergo the screening process at the airport’s security checkpoint. You’ll need to harness your cat and carry them in your arms through the walk-through scanner. The airport is already a bustling and stressful environment. Your cat may feel vulnerable and scared due to the unfamiliar scenery and sounds, so having a clear plan in mind will minimize both of your uneasy nerves.

Here’s a step-by-step way to avoid scrambling at the conveyor belt:

  1. Prepare yourself first — remove your shoes, then take your electronics (laptops or tablets) and toiletries out of your bags and place them in bins. Add any remaining luggage to the X-ray machine conveyor belt as well.
  2. Next, carefully remove your cat from the carrier and send the carrier through the X-ray machine. Calmly walk through the security area where TSA agents direct you, cat in arms.
  3. Once you see the carrier and your belongings on the other side, secure your cat in the carrier first. Once they are safe, collect the rest of your bags and head toward your terminal.

Carefully select a crate for cat transportation.

Domestic Airlines’ Policies on Flying with a Cat



United Airlines charges a $125 fee each way for traveling with your pet within the United States. There is also a $125 fee for each layover/connection of more than four hours.


Cats must be at least eight weeks old to fly. A health certificate is encouraged within 28 days of the flight.

In-Cabin Carrier

Soft-sided carriers must be 18” x 11” x 11” or smaller and hard-sided carriers cannot exceed 17.5” x 12” x 7.5.”

Cargo Shipping Policies

United no longer accepts cargo reservations for pets, except under special circumstances.



American Airlines charges a $125 pet fee within and between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Additional layover fees may apply.


Cats must also be at least eight weeks old to fly.

In-Cabin Carrier

Soft-sided carriers cannot exceed 18” x 11” x 11” (length + width + height). Hard-sided carriers can be no larger than 19” x 13” x 9.”

Cargo Shipping Policies

  • Contact Reservations at least 48 hours before travel.
  • Check in at the ticket counter with your official orders.
  • Allow extra check-in time (at least 2 hours and no more than 4 hours before your flight)
  • Complete a checklist with an agent.
  • Provide a health certificate.
  • Fees may apply if your flight contains a layover/connection of more than four hours.
  • Prices for cargo shipping will vary depending on trip details and the size of your pet (the amount will be confirmed upon booking).



Delta Airlines charges $95 each way to bring your pet as a carry-on on the flight (if booked after February 28, 2022). When you arrive at the airport, you will need to head to the Special Service Counter to check in with your pet to pay the required pet fee. Remember to allow extra time for the check-in process. Layover fees may apply.

Note: For travel to Hawaii, pets are not permitted to travel in the cabin.


Cats must be at least ten weeks old to fly.

In-Cabin Carrier

Soft-sided kennels are acceptable with maximum dimensions of 18” x 11” x 11.” Hard-sided kennels are also accepted but cannot exceed 19” x 13” x 9.” During check in a Delta agent will ensure your pet and kennel meet the requirements for your trip.

Cargo Shipping Policies

Unfortunately Delta has recently embargoed all pet shipments due to COVID-19.



Southwest Airlines charges a $95 fee each way for pets brought on the plane as a carry-on. Layover fees may apply.

Age & Health

Cats must be eight weeks old to fly.

In-Cabin Carrier

Soft or hard-sided carriers are both accepted, with maximum dimensions of 18.5” x 8.5” x 13.5.”

Cargo Shipping Policies

Southwest does not allow pets in the cargo area.

Budget Airlines’ Policies on Flying with a Cat



Spirit Airlines charges $125 each way as a carry-on pet fee.


Cats must be at least eight weeks old to fly

In-Cabin Carrier

The carrier must not exceed 18″x14″x9,” and the total weight of your cat and their carrier cannot exceed 40 pounds.

Cargo Shipping Policies

Spirit does not allow pets to fly in cargo.



Alaska Airlines charges $100 each way of travel for carry-on pets. Voluntary layovers for more than four hours during your pet’s trip are not permitted.


Cats must be eight weeks old to fly.


Soft-sided carriers must be 17″ x 11″ x 9.5″ or under, and hard-sided carriers cannot exceed 17″ x 11″ x 7.5.”

Cargo Shipping Policies

  • Arrive two to four hours before the flight to complete the check-in process and verify the necessary paperwork.
  • Flight reservations are accepted for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 20 days prior to travel.
  • If your pet is not picked up within four hours of the arrival time, you will be subject to additional charges.
  • Prices vary depending on trip details and the size of your pet (the amount will be confirmed upon booking).

Downsides of Flying with a Cat

Not All Breeds Are Fit to Fly

Depending on the result of your cat’s veterinary assessments, air travel might not be suitable for your pet. These factors could include age, demeanor, or overall health concerns. For example, most airlines prohibit brachycephalic (or “snub-nosed”) cat breeds from flying in cargo because they cannot cool themselves and may struggle to breathe. This creates a higher risk of overheating or strokes occurring.

The following are considered brachycephalic, or “snub-nosed,” breeds of cat:

  • Persian
  • Himalayan
  • Burmese
  • British Shorthair
  • Exotic Shorthair

Limited Space

A limited number of pets are allowed on a flight for the safety of both animals and passengers aboard, so spots fill up fast. Due to lack of space and weight requirements, you can only bring one cat at a time as a “carry-on.”

Unpredictable Nature of Cargo Shipping

The cargo area is unpredictable in many regards – your cat may experience unexpected turbulence, noise, or mishandling by airport staff. These factors can be major stressors for your cat.

In addition, your cat’s flight might be delayed or canceled unexpectedly, especially during winter and summer months. This is mostly due to the strict air temperature requirements in the cargo hold. The air temperature must be below 85 °F (29.5 °C) and above 45 °F (7.2 °C) for pets to fly in cargo.

Why Hiring a Driver Through CitizenShipper is a Great Alternative

The final option is to place your precious kitty in the hands of a trained professional driver. There are several benefits to hiring a ground cat transporter through CitizenShipper:

1. The Process is So Simple

The first step is creating a free, customizable listing. Here you will add details about your cat so CitizenShipper can match you with qualified, background-checked and USDA-registered drivers.

CitizenShipper operates with a unique bidding system. Once your listing is posted, transporters compete to offer you the best deal. This keeps costs low — about 60-70% less than traditional shipping companies!

2. Safety is Guaranteed

Your pet’s safety is top priority, and that’s why CitizenShipper is prepared for any medical emergency along the way.

CitizenShipper provides a pet protection policy at no cost that covers some or all expenses related to pet injuries, illnesses and other unexpected issues that may occur during transport.

All drivers hired through CitizenShipper have 24-hour access to a licensed veterinarian through FirstVet.

During the car ride, your cat will never be left unattended, and the driver will know when it’s best to pull over for pit stops and water breaks.

3. The Family Treatment

CitizenShipper knows your cat is more than precious cargo — they’re a furry family member. Drivers hired through CitizenShipper’s marketplace are experienced and well-loved by past customers.

By clicking on a driver’s profile, you can view the following:

  • Reviews from past customers
  • Rating on a 5-star scale
  • How many trips the transporter has completed and canceled

Communication is part of the fun! You can contact your cat’s driver throughout the trip to check in and receive cute photos of your kitten on their adventure.

The Journey Ahead

Flying with a cat can be a stressful endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. CitizenShipper can offer a helping hand whether you choose to take to the sky or hit the road. Create a free listing today to see quotes within minutes!