Pet parents and pet lovers are coming to grips with the fact that flat-faces may be cute, but they also pose serious breathing and other health concerns for cats and dogs. Travel can make pets anxious, especially cats, which only makes the problems worse.
This isn’t to say that your flat-faced kitty cannot travel with you, even on a plane. But it is crucial to understand why travel can be so stressful for her. That way, you can make smart decisions about whether Fluffy should, in fact, go with you and, if so, how you can make her journey a positive experience.
If your Fluffy is like most cats, snub-nosed or not, change is not really her thing. She prefers an environment that is familiar and predictable. So right of the bat the prospect of travel is going to put her on high alert. Consider the fact that her only travel experience thus far is probably trips to the vet – not exactly something any self-respecting feline looks forward to. Beyond that, however, there are other factors that specifically relate to travel which pose special problems for your flat-faced cat.
Flat-faced cats have difficulty breathing under any conditions. If you’re traveling within the US, look for an airline that will allow your kitty to ride with you in the passenger cabin. A few airlines also allow in-cabin international travel, if the flight is relatively short and the destination country does not require incoming pets to arrive as cargo. The first question to ask is whether the airline allows flat-faced cats and dogs to fly at all. Due to the increased risks for snub-nosed pets, most airlines have recently instituted more stringent restrictions on brachycephalic animals, and some no longer accept them.
Whether pets travel in the cabin or as cargo, they must be confined in an IATA-approved carrier the entire time. (No sneaking Fluffy into your lap for a pet and snooze.) In cabin, the carrier will have to fit under the seat in front of you and also allow enough room for Fluffy to move around comfortably. If she’s a big girl, this may not work well for her. It will also be stuffy, which puts her at higher risk.
If your kitty is allowed to travel as cargo, our Starwood team strongly recommends that flat-faced pets be given a carrier that is roomier (1-2 sizes larger) than the IATA-mandated size. All approved kennels are extremely sturdy and designed to provide maximum ventilation, but giving Fluffy even more air space within the confines of her kennel may help her feel calmer so she can breathe a little more easily.
All cats and dogs are at higher risk when traveling in very hot or cold weather, and airlines will not allow pets to fly when temperatures are over or under certain limits. For flat-faced cats, summer is the biggest problem because heat and humidity exacerbate their natural breathing problems. Cats don’t pant, so if they can’t get enough air to keep their bodies cool they can suffer from heatstroke. Heatstroke is deadly. Even airlines that still allow snub-nosed pets to fly often embargo them during summer months.
We recommend brachycephalic pets not travel if temperatures are above 75o anywhere along their itinerary.
Some brachycephalic breeds suffer from acid reflux because they cannot eat and digest food properly. Some have bulging eyes that are prone to dry eye and injury.
The longer the journey, the greater the risk for pets who fly. It’s best to book a direct flight, or the shortest overall itinerary, but depending on your destination, layovers may be inevitable.
Age and obesity
If your cat is getting up in years she is automatically at higher risk for health problems and perhaps higher anxiety as well. The same is true if she is overweight, regardless of her age. For flat-faced cats, both age and obesity increase existing travel-related risks.
You know how irritating it can be when you have to fly during peak seasons. More people, more noise, more delays. Chaos will ramp up your kitty’s stress level, too, and delays will increase her overall risk. If at all possible, avoid holidays, etc. as well as hot summer months.
What to do
Get Fluffy’s travel crate well in advance so she has plenty of time to become familiar with it.
Don’t even consider sedating her. Tranquilizers diminish a pet’s cognitive and physical abilities, increasing risk of both anxiety and physical harm.
Call us first
Organizing air travel is complex and confusing no matter what kind of pet you have. With the added complications surrounding brachycephaly, relying on our pet travel professionals will ensure Fluffy has the safest, most comfortable, and least stressful travel experience possible.