Every cat and dog that travels by airplane must ride in an airline-approved carrier. Sometimes, small pets can ride with you in the cabin, in which case you have a bit more choice about that carrier – as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. But for travel as cargo, airlines have very specific crate requirements.
No big deal, you may think. I’ll just use the carrier I already have.
Actually, you will not be allowed to do that. Kennels approved by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) are designed to provide maximum safety and security for the animal inside. These crates are extremely sturdy but allow plenty of ventilation. Even a smarty-pants pet like yours can’t release the door and escape. Nor can any part of him stick out, risking injury.
In addition to every possible safety precaution, IATA-approved kennels are sized to ensure your pet’s comfort during travel. If you have a dog, don’t guess at the crate size, because he must be able to stand up without touching the ceiling, turn around easily, and lie down. Measure him.
In all likelihood, the carrier you already own does not meet these stringent requirements. So plan to buy a new one, and get it as soon as possible. Time is your best friend here, because you’ll need plenty of time to help your kitty or dog become acclimated to that new crate. By the time his departure date rolls around, your pet should think of it as his personal space. That sense of familiarity will do more than anything to help him remain calm on his journey.
Here’s what to do, once you have the crate:
- Set it out in an open space – the living room, for example – where your pet can see that it “belongs” and give it a good sniff. If your pet is afraid of enclosed spaces, start by setting out only the bottom half of the carrier. Later, you can add the top and, eventually, the door.
- Encourage him to explore it thoroughly and make it his own, by playing with him in and around the carrier. Put favored toys and treats inside, so he wants to enter on his own.
- You’ll need to put something absorbent on the floor of the crate for travel, so do that now to show your pet this space is comfy. Make it familiar by using one of his small blankets, or one of your old T-shirts.
- Encourage him to snooze in the carrier, so he gets used to doing that in safe surroundings, too.
Tranquilizers are not the answer
Often pet parents who are concerned with their fur-baby’s comfort assume that giving their pooch or kitty a sedative prior to travel will help keep him relaxed and comfortable in their carrier. Wrong! Tranquilizers are no longer recommended for pets traveling by air. In fact, they are banned. Airlines won’t take sedated pets, and here at Starwood Animal Transport, we don’t allow it, either.
Sedation is unsafe in the air. Modern science has shown that it can do more harm than good. Tranquilizers raise your pet’s blood pressure and heart rate. They make your pet woozy, and interfere with his balance. All this increases the risk of negative health reactions as well as the risk of injury.
Perhaps worst of all, though, your precious one is likely to be more anxious, not less. Dogs and cats – cats, especially – like to be in control. The mental wooziness and lack of balance brought on by a tranquilizer will make them confused and frightened. This is NOT what you want for your pet. Nor do we.
So focus on helping your guy get used to his new crate, and on other things you can do to prepare him positively for his journey. For instance, this article has some great tips on acclimating your dog or cat to his new home, once you’ve arrived.
We know you have lots of questions
That’s why we’ve created The Ultimate Guide for Stress-Free Flying with a Cat or Dog. You can read it online, or download it as a PDF to use as a handy reference. We recommend that, because there’s a lot to think about and remember if you’re making plans for your pet to fly. Of course, you can always call on us, too. Our professional pet travel agents know their stuff, no matter where in the world you’re headed. We can handle every detail, to make planning easy and stress-free for you as well as your pet.
Well, there is one thing we cannot do for you: acclimating your pet to his crate. But if you follow our suggestions here, you’ll both be fine with that, too.