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Flying is traumatic for an animal if it has to ride in the cargo hold. Most animals will be frightened or nervous. Cargo holds are not air conditioned or heated, can become very cold or hot, and may lack adequate oxygen at certain altitudes. Even in warmer weather it can get cold at higher altitudes, and if the plane sits on a runway for any period of time it can get hot, just like your car.
An animal may become overheated, dehydrated, extremely cold, ill, and cannot relieve itself as needed. THERE ARE OCCASIONAL FATALITIES. Cats have been known to escape the carrier and get lost for weeks in an airplane--a harrowing experience for both cat and owner. Airlines will not delay schedules or ground a plane to search for an animal. Airlines are not required to report injuries or fatalities of animals in cargo holds, but many major airlines have been cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Before putting a pet on a plane (when it's your ONLY option), ask the airline about its record on fatalities/lost animals, whether they have been cited for violations, how many times, and what corrective action was taken.
Some airlines allow small pets to travel with you in the passenger area in a carrier under the seat in front of you. It may cost more, but it's the best way to take your pet if you have no choice but to take it on the plane.
If you have an option, consider the well-being and safety of your pet. Consider leaving it with a friend or boarding it. Pets don't like being boarded, but leaving the animal in a cage or kennel for a few days (or weeks) is less traumatizing than flying and is much safer. If you must get your pet to another city, consider driving it there yourself if possible. This would be cheaper all around and much more comfortable for the pet with less risk
Most dogs like to ride in the car and do fairly well on a road trip. The most important thing to consider is the weather. In summer heat you can't leave a dog or cat in the car while you stop at restaurants. Fast food drive-throughs or roadside picnics are best. Don't allow your dog to hang its head out the window or jump around in the car. It would be safer in a carrier with room enough to stand, turn around, and lie down. A carrier is preferable to a dog seat belt. Any time a dog seat belt is used, it should be attached to a harness, not just a collar (this could break its neck or hang it). The dog can still get twisted around and should never be left alone with a dog seat belt on.
Cats should ALWAYS travel in a carrier for their own safety. This way you avoid losing a frightened pet which escapes out the car door and can't be caught or found. The crate should be large enough for the cat to stand, turn around, and lie down, and should be lined with newspapers in case of accidents.
Carry water, but don't give a pet too much food. A cat will probably be too nervous to eat. The cat's normal litter box should go along, with the "old" litter in it so it will be familiar.
Plan "pit stops" for dogs or to allow the cat out in the car to use the litter box. You may have an iron bladder, but your pet doesn't! (And please place a collar and tag with your phone number on your pet in case it gets loose!)Return to Top