To say that my husband and I were a little nervous to fly with our (three!) kitties across the country is an understatement. When we first found out about our big move from LA to NYC, figuring out how to transport the cats became our sole obsession: How would we do it? Would they be okay? Who’s done this before? How would we get them through security? What kind of carriers would we need?Would they die?!? And so on, and so on. Well folks, I am here to tell you that everything turned out FINE! Phew! Here are a few tips on making your move with cats easier.
1. Find a pet-friendly airline. We went with Virgin America, but I’ve heard good things about Alaska Air, as well. With both airlines, your cat gets to fly in the main cabin right under the seat in front of you!
2. Research the airline’s rules and restrictions VERY carefully. Most airlines have strict guidelines regarding carrier sizes, so make sure you purchase one that meets their requirements! Also, each cat, if you’re traveling with multiple critters, needs a separate carrier.
3. Purchase your carrier long before your trip. You will want to get your cat accustomed to the smell and overall feel of the carrier before you fly to ease their anxiety on the big day. We put ours out months in advance so they could live with them for a while. Don’t forget to buy pee-pads and some toys and treats for them, as well. Chances are they won’t want to eat anything while in the air, but it’s always good to be prepared.
4. Make your vet appointment one week before the move. Your cat will need to be up to date with shots and the vet will need to provide you with a certificate of health, depending on your destination.
5. If you will be sedating your cat (and I highly recommend this, your vet permitting), get the medication while at the vet and TEST THEM AT HOME before the big trip! We tried kitty Xanax, but it didn’t quite have the affect we were hoping for. So, we consulted the vet again and were given a different medication, which we also tested out before the big day. Listen carefully to the vet regarding the acceptable dosage level.
6. On the day of the move, make sure your cat has gone to the bathroom and eaten a little bit before medicating them and putting them in the carrier (depending on the length of your flight, you should medicate your cat about thirty minutes before leaving). We chose a day flight because we know that is the time of day that our cats usually nap. We didn’t want to disturb their routine too much.
8. Once at the airport, you will need to go through security with your cat. Your options are to walk through the detector carrying your animal, or going to a separate closed-off room with them while the TSA takes the carrier and screens it. We chose the closed-off room (drugs or no drugs, we weren’t about to risk our cats freaking out and running off down the terminal).
9. Once on board, make sure they’re comfortable. Talk to them, pet them, offer them a treat. Remind them that you’re there occasionally (unless they’re fast asleep).
10. Upon arrival, have a car service or friend pick you up from the airport. This will probably be the most painful part as the drugs have likely worn off and most cats do not like car rides. We had family meet us at the airport with litter, a litter-box, food, toys, and treats which we set up immediately upon reaching our new home. Your cat may not want to leave its carrier right away due to the shock of the new surroundings. Leave the carrier open and once he or she emerges, show them where their litter-box is, as well as their food and water. At this point, it’s best to leave them alone to get acquainted with their new environment.
I hope this helps ease the stress of moving with a cat for you! It was definitely stressful, but our kitties did SO well. I honestly think the flight was more stressful on us than it was on them.