Read This Before Shipping Your Cat as Airline Cargo

Rochdi Rais Rochdi Rais · Updated May 31, 2023

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Shipping your cat as airline cargo can be a stressful experience for both you and your feline companion. The process can be complex, and you must take the necessary precautions to ensure the cat’s safety and comfort. Read this before shipping your cat as airline cargo and learn everything you need to know before flying a cat as cargo, so you can make the best decision.

Understanding the Rules and Regulations for Shipping Cats

Before you ship your cat as airline cargo, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the regulations and requirements set forth by the airline and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). These guidelines cover topics such as crate size, health requirements, and documentation. Here’s a rundown of some of the most important rules to keep in mind:

  1. Health Certificate and Vaccinations: You must obtain a valid health certificate from a licensed veterinarian, typically within ten days of travel. This document certifies that your cat is healthy and up-to-date on all required vaccinations.
  2. Crate Specifications: The IATA mandates specific requirements for the size and construction of pet carriers. Ensure your cat’s crate is large enough for them to stand, sit, and turn around comfortably. It should also be made of sturdy materials, have proper ventilation, and be leak-proof.
  3. Identification and Documentation: Attach your contact information and your cat’s identification to the crate. This includes your cat’s name, your name, address, and phone number, as well as any special instructions for handling your pet.

Choosing the Right Airline for Your Cat

Not all airlines offer the same level of service when it comes to shipping pets. Researching different airlines and their pet policies is crucial before booking a flight. Here are some factors to consider:

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  • Pet Safety Record: Research the airline’s history of handling pets, looking for any incidents or accidents that may have occurred.
  • Climate-Controlled Cargo Hold: Ensure the airline provides a climate-controlled and pressurized cargo hold to maintain a comfortable environment for your cat during the flight.
  • Direct Flights: Whenever possible, choose a direct flight to minimize the amount of time your cat spends in transit.
  • Pet Handling Procedures: Inquire about the airline’s pet handling procedures, such as how they load and unload pets and whether they have trained staff to care for animals during layovers.

Preparing Your Cat for the Journey

To make the trip as smooth as possible, take the time to prepare your cat for their upcoming journey. Here are some essential tips to help your cat acclimate to the experience:

  1. Crate Training: Introduce your cat to their travel crate well in advance of the trip. Encourage them to explore, sleep, and eat inside the crate to build positive associations with the space.
  2. Calming Techniques: Talk to your veterinarian about calming techniques, such as pheromone sprays or anxiety-reducing supplements, that may help your cat cope with the stress of travel.
  3. Feeding and Hydration: Follow the airline’s guidelines for feeding and providing water for your cat during the journey. Generally, feeding your cat a light meal a few hours before departure and providing a small container of water in the crate is recommended.

Shipping Your Cat: On the Day of Travel

When the day of travel finally arrives, there are a few last-minute tasks to ensure your cat’s trip goes smoothly:

  • Arrive Early: Give yourself plenty of time to check in with the airline and complete any necessary paperwork.
  • Exercise Your Cat: Before leaving for the airport, allow your cat some time to expend energy through play or exercise. This can help reduce their anxiety and make them more comfortable during the flight.
  • Security Measures: Be prepared to remove your cat from its crate at the airport security checkpoint. Ensure your cat wears a secure collar and leash to prevent them from escaping during this process.
  • Final Crate Preparations: Line the bottom of the crate with absorbent material, such as a puppy pad, to help keep your cat comfortable during the flight. Additionally, consider attaching a small bag of dry food and feeding instructions to the crate in case of unexpected layovers or delays

Arrival and Reuniting With Your Cat

Once you’ve landed at your destination, follow these steps to ensure a safe and smooth reunion with your cat:

  • Locate the Cargo Pickup Area: Familiarize yourself with the airport layout and locate the cargo pickup area where your cat will be waiting for you.
  • Inspect Your Cat’s Condition: Upon retrieval, thoroughly inspect your cat and their crate for any signs of damage, distress, or illness. If you notice anything concerning, contact a veterinarian immediately.
  • Help Your Cat Adjust to Their New Environment: Give your cat time to acclimate to their new surroundings. Provide a quiet space, food, water, and a litter box to help them feel comfortable and secure.

Frequently Asked Questions: Read This Before Shipping Your Cat as Airline Cargo

In this section, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers for shipping live animals by air to help you further understand the process of shipping your cat as airline cargo. These FAQs cover essential topics and provide you with valuable information for a safe and stress-free journey with your feline friend.

What is the cheapest way to transport a pet?

Typically, ground transport is the cheapest way to transport a pet.  Longer trips using a transportation service, like CitizenShipper, typically average around $1.00 per mile.  Using a pet transportation service ensures your pet arrives in your new location safely, while minimizing stress and overall cost. 

How much does it cost to ship a pet internationally? 

While shipping your pet domestically is a relatively straightforward process, international shipping can be more complicated.  Hiring a pet transport service to help with international logistics can save a tremendous amount of stress and time.  

Each country of arrival will have specific regulations regarding pet health checks, necessary vaccination, and possible quarantine requirements.  The cost to ship a pet internationally can vary, especially if you need to board your pet for an extended quarantine. 

How much does it cost to transport cats?

The cost to transport cats will vary depending on the transport method.  Cats can be transported via ground or air transit, and are often small enough to be considered a “carry on” item.  Transporting a cat can cost as little as $25 on Amtrak, or as much as $125 to fly in the main cabin of an airplane.

How much does it cost to travel with a small pet?

Traveling with a small pet, compared to a large pet, is much cheaper.  Smaller pets can fit under the seat in front of you and can often qualify as a “carry on” item.  Traveling with small pets on Amtrak can cost $25, while airlines can charge around $125.  Keep in mind certain companies will only allow cats and dogs to travel.  

What does it cost to ship a puppy?

While puppies are small enough to fly in most airline cabins, they can incur additional costs.  Puppies generally require more attention, and therefore can be more expensive than shipping an adult dog or cat.  

Many breeders will utilize an air nanny service to accompany your puppy.  If the air nanny is experienced, or a regular, certain airlines may provide discounted rates or waive certain fees.  Breeders regularly ship puppies to their new homes and are well-versed in arranging transportation.  

Conclusion: Ensuring a Safe and Comfortable Experience for Your Cat

Shipping your cat as airline cargo can be a daunting experience, but with careful planning and adherence to the guidelines, you can help ensure your cat’s safety and well-being throughout the process. By understanding the regulations, choosing the right airline, preparing your cat for the journey, and following best practices on the day of travel, you can successfully transport your feline friend to their new destination.