From Feral to Flying: Airplane Travel with Cats

Toffee and Brûlée have been on over 20 domestic flights with me! Though it sounds intimidating, we have figured out what works for us to create the most stress-free travel for all involved and are completely comfortable with plane travel now. Because we know how intimidating this type of travel can be, we want to share our airplane travel tips in case you’re interested in flying with your kitties:

Preparing to Travel

Before making any plans, I talk to my vet and make a check-up appointment to make sure the girls are in good health. My girls were microchipped when they were spayed and at this check-up veterinary appointment I make sure to have their chips scanned to make sure they are still active. Once home I double check the website the chips are registered through to make sure all of the information is up-to-date. Just in case anything happens and there’s separation that occurs, it is so important to be prepared in advance. At this veterinary appointment, I also recommend asking for some medicine syringes from the vet. These are great to bring on the plane so you can put water in them to then put water in the kitties mouths throughout flight so they are hydrated. (If you try to put a bowl of water in there it spills and gets them wet and you don’t want that – believe me – we learned this one through experience!)

Well before traveling I amp up my harness training and carrier training. Our carriers are always out and the kitties use them as their safe spaces in the house. We personally adore and highly recommend the Sleepypod Carriers. They’re pricier than regular cat carriers, but we really love the privacy they offer and how easy they are to use. We own both the Air and the Atom and use the Air when we fly but love the Atom too for shorter trips (like to the vet). The Sleepypod Carriers look more like duffle bags and therefore when we travel through the airport people aren’t as tempted to come over and peek inside. This enables the cats to maintain more privacy in these higher-stress situations. We also make sure to keep up with harness training and practicing wearing our harnesses around the house, but when we know upcoming travel will be happening we add in extra practice. The cats are always supervised when practicing wearing their harnesses, but in the weeks leading up to travel I am making sure that they are wearing the harnesses for longer amounts of time and working on walking around (indoors or out) with their leashes. This way, when travel does occur, at least some of the things happening are more familiar than not and it takes away some of the stress.

Booking the Flight

We prefer to fly either Alaskan or Southwest as they have been very pet friendly airlines (since COVID changes please double check with your airlines before you book anything though as airlines’ policies may have changed). You HAVE to alert the airline beforehand you’re flying with pets because there’s a maximum number of animals allowed on flights. When you first book your flight, be sure to call the airline within those first 24 hours (where you have free cancelation) and speak to someone to add your pet to your travel ticket. One time the lady I spoke to hadn’t correctly added my cats to my ticket and when I got to airport and they almost weren’t able to go with me on the plane. I book them to sit WITH me the entire time – I would never let them out of my sight and especially not in cargo so call to confirm all of this as soon as you book your flight.

The Day We Fly

Spraying their carrier with Feliway Calming Spray before they go in it has pheromones that aid in calming. I also don’t feed too much the morning of the flight so that they don’t have to go to bathroom because they won’t due to stress and I don’t want to hurt their stomachs if they are full. My vet does not want them on any medication to relax them because if something happens/reaction in the air there wouldn’t be a veterinarian there so we don’t do any drugs/sleepy pills.

What They Wear When We Fly

They wear harnesses throughout the entirety of the travel experience with ID tags and both cats are microchipped. They also wear Thundershirts from my house through security. I have found that the Thundershirts are great for times of higher-stress as they keep the kitties more calm and less quick to scatter. After security I head to the family bathrooms (where the doors close to the bottom and can lock just in case) to take the Thundershirts off of them so they don’t overheat on the plane, making sure that their harnesses are still secure.

Airport Security

I highly recommend making sure you have TSA Precheck for this if possible and you’re a USA resident (or whatever equivalent your country offers). Another option, Global Entry, also often qualifies its members as TSA-Pre. At security you can either hold your cat(s) while the carrier goes through the screening or go into a private room. The private room option is usually more comfortable if you’re more nervous about the experience, have multiple cats, or if this is a more populated and busier environment than they’re used to. To go to the private screening, just ask the TSA officer when you get in line. The cats are usually only stressed until we get through security and they figure out what we are doing. Once through security, they remain in their carriers until we have safely arrived at our destination. We have found some people are quite negative and opinionated about cats flying so, to remain as stress-free as possible for all involved, they are safer and more content just comfortably in their carriers.

On The Plane

Usually my girls are quiet and just nap throughout the plane but I make sure their leashes are in my hand or around my foot (while sitting on plane) always. They never come out of their carrier on the flight, if anything I will slightly unzip the top just to reach in and touch their heads so they know Mama’s there especially after noisy takeoff or bumpy landings / turbulence.

I refuse to let my girls out of my sight at all and will personally never put them under the plane/anywhere that isn’t directly with me at all times (I’d rather drive, which we have done too). On Southwest (because it is pick your own seat) I ask the flight attendants when I board if anyone has said anything about having pet allergies or if they want me in a specific section because I do have cats with me. Most airline employees are very familiar with pet travel and are more than happy to assist. Toffee and Brûlée were feral kitties I found at 6 months old and now they’re little frequent fliers! Feel free to reach out with any questions by DMing us on our Instagram @twintorties !

**These posts are all based on our own opinion and what works best for us. I may earn from any affiliate links, however I only recommend products that we honestly use and recommend trying. Please always consult your veterinarian and do ample research to ensure that the tips or products mentioned may work for your cats and lifestyle as well. Please reach out to us on Instagram @twintorties with any questions.

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