Flying with your cat.

Many people feel uncomfortable during flights, some even bad and animals even more so. Below you'll find tips (hopefully useful ones) related to transporting animals with you in the cabin. All these tips are based on personal experience.

Transporting your animal as check-in baggage seems to be a very bad idea indeed. They say, animals are even dying in the cargo area. But transportation in the cabin is also quite troublesome, so be prepared to give your pet excess of your attention, care and love during the flight.

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unhappy cat in a bag

Our cat for us is not just a pet, he is our friend and the member of our family. He lives with us for a long time, more than 15 years already. We've found him on the street when he was quite small. We travel a lot together. He can travel without any discomfort by train, car or bus, but flights have always been a big problem for us. And no wonder.

But let me begin from the beginning. And in this case everything starts with you searching for and booking the tickets. And at first we (as many other travelers, I believe) were mainly concerned with their price. And we were wrong. Because if you're traveling with your pet, you'd better check at the first place how much his transportation will cost you. And there prepare yourself for a surprise: the costs for carrying your pet in the cabin can vary from $50 to €250 in one direction and can cost you even more, if your pet goes as check-in baggage. We've never even thought of doing it, but his weight is about 3 kg at the best of times (he was always like this). So as an example, according to KLM airlines, if your pet is traveling as check-in baggage and the transfer at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport lasts 2 hours or longer, you will have to pay an additional EUR 150 (or USD/CAD 200) to cover the animal’s care during the transfer. Really, are you ready to pay them for this animal's care?

Try to get seats at the first row of economy class (quite possible, you won't be allowed to enter premium classes with your pet) or reserve seats with some extra legroom (in so called comfort zones). You'll need this extra legroom, there you'll be able to put your carrier on the floor (it's very difficult to keep it all the way on your knees, especially during transatlantic flights). But often flight attendants will try to help you (they aren't very interested in having your fluffy miracle meowing on board or disturbing fellow passengers otherwise). So, if there's an opportunity, they'll let you know about vacant seats and will allow you to place the carrier on an unoccupied seat near you.

Some words about pet containers/carriers. For example KLM requires it to be 46 (length) x 28 (width) x 24 (height) cm (max dimension is 98 cm) for total weight (that's our pet + travel bag or kennel) of 8 kg, and they really write on there website: Your pet must be able to stand up and lay down comfortably. Hypocrites! By the way, Mongolian Airlines or Russian Aeroflot set max of allowed dimensions at 115 cm with the max total weigh of 5 kg. That makes quite the difference, believe me.

Then you've got to find out if your pet needs a veterinary health certificate. Mostly it's not required if you traveling between countries with the same level of rabies, never needed one for flights between Europe and the US. But you'd better get in touch with the embassy of the country of your destination: you won't have to spend your time and money for a piece of useless paper, but it'll be highly unpleasant to hear that you need it for the first time from a border protection officer.

And if you need this certificate, then you'd better arrive at the airport well in advance, you can loose an hour or more at the Veterinary Station/Border Inspection Post.

A lot of airlines doesn't recommend to feed or give water to pets during 4 hours prior to the departure. You can fallow this advice. Take with you enough toilet paper and paper towels. We've tried to use special absorbing diapers, won't recommend it to you and, if I'll be able to avoid it, won't use them again myself. Much better to put a thick absorbent cotton towel on the bottom of the carrier and cover it with paper towels, you'll be able to change them so often as you need. So take plenty of plastic bags (for used paper towels / toilet paper). Also bring a syringe (20 ml, without needle). You can always ask your flight attendant to bring you some water.

Most passengers during takeoff / landing / flight maneuvers feel pressure in their ears, many experience discomfort or even pain in ears or in their face / head area, especially if they suffer from any kind of sinusitis. And most of us know how to deal with it: you have to swallow or even better - yawn. But how to explain to a cat, that it must yawn or swallow? So, if your fluffy miracle became agitated or is meowing mournfully, then it's time to give it some water from the syringe (pour gently behind the cheek, slightly raising its head and making sure i's not choking).

Our cat always began to vomit (the first symptom of nausea was salivation), defecate and urinate. We've always thought that he had something similar to motion sickness. But the cause of our problems turned out to be quite different.

During one very long transatlantic flight, seeing me trying to clean after my cat (he was constantly vomiting and pooping - it was horrible!), a flight attendant took pity on me (perhaps everyone just began feeling the odor), and (quietly) recommended me to use a... changing table (only clean everything afterwards). There're such tables, as I think, in every one of the on board toilets, but the size of those toilets can be different. Choose the biggest, put a towel/diaper on the table and release your wretched animal. Let it stretch its legs, look and sniff around. Ours at once then calmed down, stopped vomiting and pooping. The rest of the flight was just perfect.

happy cat in a bag

The main reason for such a condition was apparently utmost fear. Imagine yourself in a (soft) carrier 46 x 28 x 24 on board of an airplane. Everything becomes clear, I think. From that time we are doing it during any flight: quietly, with the carrier into the toilet and for a small a walk. Since then flying with him has become much easier and more enjoyable.

Perhaps someone will find my observations and experience useful. If I remember anything interesting, I'll certainly write about it.

Have a nice trip and enjoy yourself!

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