Most important, take time before you depart to learn the rules of the airline you will be flying. The rules are slightly different for each carrier. Most airlines charge an extra fee for a pet and have a specific number of pets that they allow in the cabin on any flight. Some have age and weight restrictions, as well. You can find all of this information on the airlines’ websites. Purchase a pet carrier that will fit under the seat ahead of you. I recommend a soft-sided carrier with mesh on multiple sides. This allows your pet to watch everything. I also suggest having a carrier with entry points from the sides and top. When you’re in the airport, it’s nice to have multiple routes to get into the carrier in case you need to insert a calming hand for reassurance. I have a carrier that has a short leash built into the lining. This allows me to have a harness on my cat that can be attached directly to the carrier. I don’t worry that she somehow will push past an open zipper and get loose.
Traveling through security, you will be required to remove your pet from its carrier. The carrier will be sent through the X-ray machine, and you will carry your pet through the scanner. When I flew with my cat, she was only 10 weeks old and not rabies-vaccinated. I did, however, make sure that I had a medical record of her age and of the vaccines she had received. While most airlines don’t require an up-to-date rabies vaccination, I would urge that any animal, and particularly any pet traveling, have a current rabies vaccination. Interstate transportation rules typically require an up-to-date rabies vaccine. And if you’re traveling to another state, the rules of that state apply to you. Most likely you won’t be asked for proof of your pet’s rabies vaccine, but I would keep a copy of the certificate handy just in case.
Lastly, prepare for the unexpected. I have a small litter box, bowls and a supply of food and litter tucked into my carry-ons for long layovers or the possibility that my baggage won’t meet me on the other end. I also have my cat microchipped. If your pet jumps out of your arms or slips out of its collar, you’ll want a back-up method to ensure that your pet gets back to you.
I’ve made an assumption for this column that your pet already is accustomed to being in a pet carrier. Having a pet that readily accepts being in a carrier is a life skill every pet should have. Crate training is a column of its own. I had a fabulous first experience traveling with Sparrow, my new kitten. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. And I can see why so many other people are incorporating their pets into their travels.