“You’d be surprised at how many people try to put their pet through the X-ray machine.” The TSA employee noted when we asked him about bringing out cats through the airport security. We were told to take the cats out of their carriers and hold them as we passed through the body scanner. I had to remove my jacket and realized I mistakenly wore a tank top when I reached to pick up Buster the Cat, who I was only just acquainted and who had all of his claws. The thought of him freaking out and clawing his way to freedom ran through my mind as I gingerly stepped through the scanner. He squirmed only once and happily leaped into his carrier as soon as we arrived safely and unscratched on the other side.
Traveling with a pet can be a nightmare. Many people don’t travel because of their pets and others opt for short distance trips by car to avoid all of the added stress of airlines and busy terminals. Missed flights and very specific inter-state and inter-national laws make bringing your animal more of a hassle than the trip is worth. The whole experience becomes complicated and tiresome.
Last week I had the pleasure of helping a friend of mine begin a new life in Scottsdale, Arizona. She and her husband called me the week before to see if I was available to fly one of their cats from NYC to Phoenix. It seemed like a strange request, but airlines only allow one pet per person to travel and my friend was flying solo. I am not a huge fan of cats, and don’t have any pets myself, but I immediately said yes. How could I resist the chance to not only help out a friend but see a new place (more on my trip later)?
Our trip went relatively smoothly, besides a few unorganized airline employees at the airport, there were no issues with the cats themselves. In fact, I often forgot I was carrying the kitty around! Our biggest problem was not finding chips and salsa anywhere in the terminal (huge fail JFK!).
Here are a few things I learned about our domestic cat flying experience:
1. Call the airline you wish to use and book your travel over the phone. It might sound old fashioned but many airlines limit the number of pets per flight. If you don’t tell them you are coming ahead of time, you will be sorely disappointed when you have to switch your flight last minute.
2. Make sure the travel carrier fits underneath the seat in front of you. How embarrassing would it be if you finally got on board and the pet carrier didn’t fit underneath the seat? Would you be asked to leave? To avoid any extra issues, we used Sherpa carriers which are approved by many airlines and include a travel guarantee. The kitties were also very comfortable inside.
3. Have up-to-date medical records on hand. We were not asked to show the airline the kitty’s medical records but it’s a good idea to have all of their shot and medication information with you in case problems arise. If you are traveling internationally, these records are required.
4. Make sure your pet has an identification tag on its collar and is micro-chipped. If you become separated from your pet, you want to be sure it is returned to you safely. Having your animal micro-chipped is required for most international travel. Have the micro-chip number on hand as well.
5. No pre-gaming. Don’t give your pet food or water for a few hours before traveling. There are no kitty or doggie bathrooms on board and they can get motion sickness just like us. You wouldn’t want to have to smell kitty puke for six hours, would you?
6. Depending on your pet’s personality, you might consider sedating them. Our kitties slept the entire plane ride without medication. However, if your pet has anxiety issues talk to your vet about easing their (and your) trip.
Do you have any tips for traveling with pets? Any horror stories? Please share in the comments below!