How to Ship a Cat by Air and How Much Does it Cost?

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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Looking for a reliable cat transportation agency to ship your pet cat overseas or across the country? If you’re a cat owner who isn’t able to travel along with your feline family member, you’re not alone! In fact, it’s a fairly common occurrence. In fact, according to Forbes, in 2019, a total of 404,556 animals were transported by airlines. The good news is that there are many options available. 

Options for Shipping a Cat by Air

There are two modes of cat shipping, via ground or air. While the latter is usually the most efficient for transporting a cat long-distances in a short period of time, you’ll most likely be required to accompany your cat in the cabin. You can transport the cat in the cargo area of an airplane, but there are only a few major airlines in the United States that offer this option. 

Another option is to hire a flight nanny to accompany your cat on its journey. Also known as air nannies, you’ll need to pay for their ticket (and possibly a return ticket) as well as the fee for your cat the fly. There are many flight nannies to choose from if you use the country’s #1 pet transportation marketplace, CitizenShipper.

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A Step-by-Step Process of Shipping a Cat by Air 

Make sure you pre-plan before the move to learn every detail and requirement of the destination state or country. This includes the necessary feline vaccination requirements and other relevant factors.

  • Step 1. Purchase an airline-authorized shipment crate for your pet cat and get started with crate training. The goal is to make your cat feel with the carrier during transportation. 
  • Step 2. Book a flight for your cat on a pet-friendly airline that has a strong record of safely transporting pets.
  • Step 3. Visit your cat’s vet for a checkup, complete the necessary vaccinations, and get the required Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI).
  • Step 4. Your cat will be picked up by the pet transportation agent a day or two (depending upon the policy of your hired agency) before your travel. This is done to make the pet familiar with the flight nanny.
  • Step 5. Once boarded, food and other necessities will be provided to the pet during the flight at an interval of every 4 to 6 hours. However, for infant pets, the meal interval will be less.
  • Step 6. Lastly, you need to provide all the necessary documents which include rabies vaccination, CVI, and Health and Acclimation certificate. Other documentation requirements include (Confirmation of Feeding) – giving food and water before the flight boards, an inspection of the Live Animal Checklist and checking if the tranquilizer consent forms are filed properly.

A woman shipping a grey and white cat by air.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Cat by Air? 

The cost to ship a cat by air is affected by several variables. The largest cost is the ticket for whoever accompanies the cat — whether you do it yourself or hire a flight nanny. Below are some of the most important components needed during a cat relocation by air. All of these affect the cost: 

  • An airline-approved travel carrier
  • The airfare for the cat’s chaperone
  • International or domestic permits followed by the health documents 
  • Pre-transport vet checkups 
  • Government endorsements

A kitten is sitting in a car.

The cost of all the above-listed items will differ from one move to the other based on the below-given factors: 

1. Origin and Destination

Basically, the nearer you are to the international airport from both origin and destination, the lesser will be the cost imposed on your shipping. The cost will be even lesser if your traveling destination is interstate or between smaller towns which can be easily covered by a long drive journey. Otherwise, the overall cost will be quite expensive if the journey to the destination requires multiple flights.   

2. Import Permits 

If you are traveling domestically, then the basic fight permit will do. However, if you are moving internationally, then your destination will require taking formal government consent in the form of an import permit, adding extra cost to the trip. 

3. Government Endorsements 

It is important to collect formal paperwork regarding the pet’s health from its vet office. These documents might be later required to be government attested, for instance, the (United States Department of Agriculture) USDA.

4. Airport Check-in

The check-in process is quite time-consuming and may take hours to complete. Here, you will need the help of your hired pet transportation agent to ensure that all the necessary paper works are done and are in order. Plus, the agent must ensure to take proper care of your car while checking in. Based on these formalities, the agent will charge accordingly. 

5. Customs Clearance 

The shipping cost is not yet over upon landing at the destined airport-  in many cases, a customs agent will be there to negotiate the entry procedures. Also, there could be certain excise and customs fees or taxation to be paid during this time.

Two people shipping cats by air in front of a house.


1. Can You Send a Cat on a Plane by Itself?

Right now only Hawaiian, Alaska Airlines and United allow unaccompanied cats in the cargo area. All other airlines require that pets be flown in the cabin with a ticketed adult.

2. Can You Send the Cats in the Mail?

No, the United States Postal Service, UPS and other carriers do not ship mammals.


Chances are that you may not arrive to accompany your cat from the airport. So, to be on the safer side, make sure to inform any of your close relatives or friends to be there at the required time to pick up your cat. You can also pay them to value their time. It will be still 800 times cheaper than booking another pet agency for the final pick-up and transport service. 

Note: Your friend may require to display the relationship proof along with some identity details to ensure that you have assigned your friend’s name for the pet pickup. So, send a signed email to your friend beforehand, mentioning his/her person’s name on it, who will be responsible for receiving your cat from the airport. The hard copy of that email will play the evidence when the authority asks.