Can You Bring A Cat On A Plane?

Did you know that cats, known for their keen sense of territory and routine, have been traveling with their human companions by air since the early days of commercial aviation? While initially, such occurrences were rare, with advancing pet-friendly policies, our feline friends have become more frequent flyers. The history of pets on planes dates back to when the notion of commercial air travel itself was in its nascent stages. Pets would accompany their owners mostly out of necessity on long, often transoceanic, flights. Over time, airlines began to recognize the growing demand for pet travel and started implementing specific regulations to ensure the safety and comfort of both the animals and human passengers on board.

Today, cats are a common sight in airports and on airplanes across the globe. As air travel has become more accessible and prevalent, so too has the need to facilitate pet owners who wish to bring their cats along. The dynamic of flying with a cat has changed significantly, with many airlines now offering the option to bring a cat in the cabin, given certain conditions are met. This shift reflects an overall trend towards accommodating pet travel, acknowledging the increasing role that pets play in the lives of people, as well as the expanding market of pet tourism and relocation. Airlines and aviation authorities continue to evolve and adapt their policies, ensuring that cats, along with their human companions, can have as smooth and comfortable a journey as possible.

can you bring a cat on a plane

Can You Take A Cat On A Plane?

Yes, you can take a cat on a plane, but there are specific regulations and policies you must follow. Airlines typically allow cats to travel either in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold, depending on the airline’s rules and the size of your pet. When traveling with a cat in the cabin, they must be kept in an appropriate carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. For cargo travel, a sturdy, well-ventilated crate is required. Additionally, you’ll need to provide health certificates and proof of vaccinations, and you may have to pay a pet travel fee. It’s essential to check with the airline well in advance of your trip to understand their particular requirements and to make the necessary arrangements. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the guidelines for flying with a cat, how to prepare your feline friend for air travel, and tips for ensuring a smooth and stress-free journey for both you and your pet.

Understanding TSA Guidelines for Cats on Domestic Flights

Traveling with pets, especially cats, requires adherence to specific guidelines set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Passengers should familiarize themselves with these rules to ensure a smooth journey for both them and their feline companions. The TSA’s official website provides comprehensive information for travelers with pets (TSA Pets).

Pre-Flight Preparations for Cats

Before booking a flight, cat owners should consider the necessary preparations to comply with airline and TSA policies:

  • Consult the airline for specific pet policies, as they can vary by carrier.
  • Ensure that the cat is comfortable and secure in an airline-approved pet carrier.
  • Visit a veterinarian for a health certificate if required by the airline, typically within 10 days of travel.
  • Prepare identification tags with contact information and attach them to the pet carrier.

At The Airport: Security Screening with Cats

The TSA’s security screening process for pets is straightforward, but requires attention to detail:

  • Remove the cat from its carrier before screening, as the carrier must go through the X-ray machine.
  • Carry or guide the cat through the human screening device while the carrier is examined.
  • Consider using a leash or harness to prevent escape, as the airport environment can be stressful for animals.

Airline-Specific Guidelines for In-Cabin Cats

Each airline has distinct requirements for transporting cats in the cabin:

  • Size and weight restrictions typically apply to ensure the pet carrier can fit under the seat.
  • Additional fees are usually charged for in-cabin pets, and advance reservation is often required.
  • Airlines limit the number of pets allowed in the cabin per flight.

Cat Carrier Requirements

The comfort and safety of the cat during the flight depend on the carrier:

  • The carrier should be well-ventilated, secure, and leak-proof.
  • It must be large enough for the cat to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Soft-sided carriers are generally preferred for in-cabin travel due to their flexibility in fitting under seats.

Health and Comfort Considerations

Protecting the cat’s health and ensuring its comfort is crucial for a stress-free flight:

  • Feed the cat several hours before the flight to prevent in-flight discomfort.
  • Provide water, using a spill-proof dish, up until the time of travel.
  • Place absorbent bedding in the carrier to manage any accidents.
  • Familiarize the cat with the carrier well before the trip through positive association.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance for Cats on Flights

Owning responsibility for legal and regulatory compliance is the key to hassle-free travel with cats:

  • Research the state and local pet import laws and regulations of the destination ahead of time.
  • Carry all required documentation, including vaccination records and health certificates.
  • Adhere to the airline’s policies regarding pet travel to avoid any issues at the airport or during the flight.
✔ Pros ✘ Cons
Companionship during travel Additional travel fees
No worries about pet care back home Potential stress for the cat
Some airlines offer pet-friendly services Varying airline pet policies can be confusing
Opportunity for adventures together Need for a proper pet carrier
Possibility of emotional support if the cat is certified Risk of escape or loss in transit

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Guidelines

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sets forth guidelines to ensure the safety and welfare of animals during air transport. These guidelines are widely adopted by airlines and serve as a standard for pet travel internationally. For cats, the IATA regulations specify:

  • Appropriate container size and construction: The travel crate must be spacious enough for the cat to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Ventilation: The carrier must be well-ventilated with openings on at least three sides.
  • Food and water: Cats must have access to food and water, with dishes secured inside the carrier.
  • Identification: The carrier should be clearly marked with the owner’s name, contact information, and the cat’s name.
  • Health and vaccination: Cats must be in good health and have all required vaccinations, documented with a health certificate.

For detailed IATA guidelines, please refer to their Live Animals and Pets page.

Country Specific Regulations

When flying internationally with a cat, it is crucial to be aware of the specific entry requirements of the destination country. These regulations can vary significantly and may include quarantine periods, additional health certificates, and specific vaccination requirements.

United Kingdom

For the UK government’s regulations on importing cats, visit the UK Government Pet Travel page.


European Union regulations can be found on the EU Pet Movement page.


Canadian guidelines for bringing cats into the country are available on the Government of Canada website.


The Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment provides information on importing cats at the Bringing Cats and Dogs (and other pets) to Australia page.

New Zealand

For New Zealand’s regulations, check the Ministry for Primary Industries guidelines.


Asian countries have varying regulations; for example, Japan’s Animal Quarantine Service provides guidelines at their Animal Quarantine Service page.


Singapore’s requirements for importing cats can be found on the National Parks Board website.

10 Airline-Specific Regulations for Flying with a Cat

Different airlines have their own specific regulations for flying with cats, which may include restrictions on breeds, the number of pets per flight, and whether the cat can travel in the cabin or must be transported as cargo. It is essential to review the airline’s pet policy before booking your flight.

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

United Airlines

Air Canada

Air France


British Airways



  • Emirates’ policy for transporting animals is outlined on their Pet Policy FAQ.

Singapore Airlines

How to Pack a Cat in Your Luggage

When traveling with your feline friend, it’s essential to ensure their safety and comfort. Packing a cat in your luggage involves thoughtful preparation and understanding airline regulations. We’ll cover the essentials for both carry-on and hold luggage to help you and your cat have a stress-free journey.

Carry-On Luggage Preparation

For carry-on luggage, which allows your cat to travel with you in the cabin, you’ll need a soft-sided carrier that fits underneath the seat in front of you. Here’s how to prepare:

  • Choose an Airline-Approved Carrier: Select a soft-sided carrier that meets the size requirements of the airline. It should be well-ventilated and spacious enough for your cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Introduce the Carrier: Allow your cat to familiarize themselves with the carrier weeks before the journey. Add a comfortable blanket and favorite toy to create a positive association.
  • Label the Carrier: Clearly label the carrier with your contact information and a live animal sticker.
  • Prepare for Security: Remember that you will need to carry your cat through security, so have a leash or harness ready for safety.

taking drone through airport security

Packing Essentials for Carry-On

Inside your carry-on luggage, pack items necessary for your cat’s in-flight comfort.

  • Food and Water: A small bag of the cat’s usual food and a collapsible water dish for hydration.
  • Calming Aids: Consider a pheromone spray or a familiar smelling item to keep your cat calm.
  • Waste Management: Bring puppy pads to line the carrier and a portable litter box for long flights.
  • Health Documentation: Carry a copy of your cat’s vaccination records and health certificate if required.

Packing a Cat in Hold Luggage

If your cat must travel in the cargo hold, follow these measures to ensure their well-being:

  • Select a Hard-Sided Carrier: Choose a durable, well-ventilated carrier that can be securely locked without risking accidental opening.
  • Acclimatize Your Cat: Similar to carry-on preparation, let your cat get used to the carrier as a safe space.
  • Label and Secure the Carrier: Attach live animal stickers and your contact information. Secure the carrier door with cable ties for additional safety.
  • Avoid Confining Right Before the Flight: Allow your cat to eat, drink, and use the litter box before placing them in their carrier.

Hold Luggage Packing Checklist

Include these items when preparing the hold luggage for your cat’s needs:

  • Food and Water Dishes: Attach spill-proof dishes to the inside of the carrier door for easy access without opening the carrier.
  • Comfort Items: Provide absorbent bedding and a piece of your clothing to offer comfort and warmth.
  • Familiar Scents: Incorporate familiar scents to help your cat remain calm during the journey.
  • Feeding Instructions: Affix clear feeding instructions and freeze water in the dish to prevent spillage and provide hydration.

Similar Items to Bring on a Plane

When traveling by plane, in addition to cats, you may consider bringing other small pets such as dogs, rabbits, or birds, provided they meet the airline’s size and breed specifications. Comfort items like a favorite blanket or a small travel pillow can also enhance your journey. For entertainment, portable devices like e-readers, tablets, or handheld gaming consoles are popular choices. Don’t forget to include a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for a more peaceful flight. For those who need it, essential medical equipment such as CPAP machines or prescription medications are also important to have on hand. Always check with the airline for specific guidelines and restrictions before packing these items.

FAQ’s About Can You Bring A Cat On A Plane?

Traveling with a cat can be a stressful experience for both owner and pet. However, with careful planning and understanding the rules and requirements of airlines, you can make the experience more comfortable for your feline friend. This section aims to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about flying with a cat, covering topics from airline pet policies to tips for keeping your cat calm during the flight.

Is it possible to bring a cat on a plane?

Yes, most airlines allow cats on planes, either in the cabin or as checked baggage in the cargo area. However, you must comply with the airline’s specific pet policies and any applicable animal health regulations.

Do airlines charge a fee for traveling with a cat?

Yes, airlines typically charge a fee for traveling with a cat. The amount varies by airline and whether the cat is flying in the cabin or as checked luggage.

What are the requirements for a cat carrier?

Airline requirements for cat carriers generally include that the carrier must be well-ventilated, secure, large enough for the cat to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably, and fit under the seat if traveling in the cabin.

Can my cat travel with me in the airplane cabin?

Many airlines allow cats in the airplane cabin, but there are restrictions on the number of pets per flight and size of the carrier. It’s essential to check with your airline before booking.

Are there breed restrictions for traveling cats?

Some airlines may have restrictions on certain cat breeds, particularly those with brachycephalic (flat-faced) features, due to health risks associated with air travel. Always confirm with your airline in advance.

What documents are required when flying with a cat?

You’ll typically need proof of vaccinations, a health certificate from a veterinarian, and possibly additional documents depending on the airline and your destination.

How can I prepare my cat for air travel?

Gradually acclimatize your cat to its carrier before travel, ensure it’s well-hydrated, try to book a direct flight, and consider using pheromone sprays or prescribed calming medication from your vet.

What if my cat has special needs?

Contact the airline in advance if your cat has special needs. They may require a letter from a veterinarian or additional documentation, and you’ll want to discuss any accommodations that might need to be arranged.

Can my cat’s carrier be counted as a piece of carry-on luggage?

Yes, in most cases, the cat carrier is considered a piece of carry-on luggage. You typically won’t be allowed to bring another bag in addition to your pet carrier as carry-on.

What should I do if my cat is stressed during the flight?

Keep calm yourself, speak reassuringly to your cat, and avoid the temptation to open the carrier during the flight. Familiar items like a blanket or toy might help reduce stress. Consult with your vet for more tips and advice.

Packing It All Up

Bringing your cat on a plane is indeed possible with the appropriate planning and understanding of airline policies. The key points highlighted reveal that most airlines offer options for your feline friend to travel either in the cabin with you or as cargo. If opting for cabin travel, it’s essential to ensure your cat is in an airline-approved carrier with dimensions that fit under the seat ahead. For cargo travel, the crate must meet IATA guidelines and provide adequate ventilation and space for your cat. Regardless of the travel method chosen, one must comply with the airline’s specific requirements on health certificates, vaccinations, and identification tags or microchips.

Beyond airline regulations, it’s imperative to condition your cat to its carrier before the flight to minimize stress. Providing familiar items like blankets and toys can offer comfort to your pet during the journey. Advance preparation also includes evaluating your cat’s health with a veterinarian to ensure it’s fit to fly. Additionally, complying with the destination’s pet import laws is crucial, as some regions have stringent quarantine and health regulations. The overall insight is that while flying with your cat demands extra steps, thorough research, and planning, it is achievable. By covering all bases, from choosing the right airline to preparing your pet mentally and physically, you can ensure a smoother flying experience for both you and your feline companion.