Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel

Pet Travel Airline In Cabin - how will your pet react?You are flying, your pet is traveling with you in the cabin of the airline, and, unless you have done this before, you have no way of knowing how your pet will travel. The last thing you want to deal with is a howling cat or a wimpering dog for hours until you land. So what can you do to keep your pet quiet during the flight?

The first thing to consider is that, under no circumstances, can you remove your pet from its carrier during the flight. However, the key here is to keep your pet calm, to isolate them from all of the crazy activity of people loading their gear in the overhead compartments and finding their seats. This is the perfect opportunity to keep your pet in its carrier on your lap, turn it towards the window, and hug it tightly (if your pet allows for hugs) and stroke it through the carrier (assuming you are using a soft sided carrier which we highly recommend). Keep your voice low and close to your pet while assuring it that everything will be ok. Lots of “good girls” and “good boys” are certainly a welcome sound for a nervous pet.

The attendents will tell you that your pet must be stowed under the seat in front of you during take off and landing and we must all comply with that. Hopefully, your pet is laying down at this point because you need to get the carrier under the seat in front of you. Leave the carrier between your feet for a minute and then slowly slide the carrier under the seat all the while offering plenty of vocal assurances.

Once the plane is in the air, you should be allowed to keep the carrier between your feet. If your pet is fussing, offer them a pet calmer by unzipping the carrier an inch or two and extending the treat to your pet. This should calm them down. The drone of the engines should encourage them to rest unless there is too much activity in the cabin. You should be able to extend a finger or two into the carrier for a head scratch so that your pet will know that you are still there. Also, a finger tip that has been dunked in a glass of water is a good way to keep your pet occupied.

Because you are traveling, you have not given your pet a full meal, so offering one piece of chow at a time can keep you connected with your pet as long as they will accept it. Don’t feed them too much; the object here is to keep them occupied, not to fill their belly. Remember not to open the carrier so that your pet can escape. This will never turn out to be a good thing.

Other tips for traveling pet owners: put a worn t-shirt or piece of your clothing with your scent on it in the carrier with your pet. Your scent is very calming to your pet. Pack light so you don’t have to fumble with other luggage and can move quickly to turn your attention to your pet. Groom your pet prior to travel. A clean, well groomed pet is a happier traveler. Also, try to prepare in advance for your trip. Get your pet accustomed to being in the carrier. It will pay off on travel day.

Pet travel on an airline can be challenging, but use a few tricks and a lot of love, and your pet will do just fine.


Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel — 94 Comments

  1. Rainer – try to layer pet pads in her carrier in the case that she will urinate in the carrier. It you can’t do that, take extra pads with you. You can take her in the bathroom and remove the soiled pet pad. Reduce her food intake a day before travel and feed her well before leaving for the airport (4 hours). Water should be available to her, though. Don’t want her to dehydrate.

  2. This article provides a bit of comfort to me since I will bring my cat in plane cabin for a 30-hours flight. Just a question, how will she poop and pee during the flight. She’s a very indoor cat but get nervous (meow a lot) during travel sometimes she peed herself in the carrier.

  3. Suzanne – we are not veterinarians, but it appears that your pup is having anxiety issues. We can’t imagine that it would be better to have her farther away from you in a carrier, but many dogs do react better to enclosed spaces. Try doing that while you are home and take her out in the car and observe how she acts. You can also look into an all-natural pet calmer until your travels become routine for her. You can get something like this and it may help: Would also suggest that you discuss with your veterinarian.

  4. I’m traveling for work for a year, a new city sometimes weekly. I have my 4yr old shih tzu with me. We just started on our 3rd flight and she pants heavy and I can tell she isnt happy. I have her in a frontal pouch since she is a service dog she can sit on my lap. Would it be better to put her in a enclosed carrier? I even put lavender on her. Help I need this job and her to work.

  5. Jackie – we would suggest that you get another carrier. The SW carrier is too small to fit a 15 lb dog in it. Remember that the airline will require that your dog be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier. It does not sound like your pup has room to do that. Try a SturdiBag. This is a great bag which allows for extra headroom but “squishes” down to fit under the seat:

  6. Teresa – you need to decrease food intake a bit before flying. Line your pet carrier with lots of pet pads. Take your pet into the lavatory with you.

  7. Hi I am traveling ( I hope) with my westie, so far I can not get him into the SW carrier to be able to zip it. I try to play and get him in there which he does but can not zip it yet. He is a rather calm little guy and 15Lbs so all should be good that way. I will give him a calming pill ( 1/2 benedryl) as I have never done this before. Bit scared but I am hoping it will work……………….. I certainly have no other options. Not driving again from NY to AZ . He went with me then and was great. 11 months old. Leaving Jan. 2016, any suggestions how to get the carrier zipped with him in it?????

  8. How do you take care of the dog’s pee and poo need in cabin during a long haul flight? I am planning to fly my small French bulldog (less than 10kg) from Singapore to New York with a stopover at Tokyo Narita airport. My dog is generally very calm so this helps immensely in air travels but I just wonder how pee and poo are to be managed in long haul flight.

  9. I am relocating to Panama City Beach, Florida and am bringing my 2 cats with me. Any advice from anyone would be very much appreciated.

  10. Sharon – really hard to comment on this as it depends on the personality of your pet. Many pets travel in the cabin across the Atlantic and can remain calm enough during the flight. Only you know whether this is possible for your pup. Likely, you can put the carrier on your lap during the flight (under a blanket) and soothe your pup. Also, bring some spare pet pads with you in the case of any accidents.

  11. Rainey – TAM will carry your Shih Tzu in the cabin in a carrier with plenty of room, but it will not carry it as checked baggage or air cargo in the hold.

  12. I have flown twice Toronto to Cancun with my mimi poodle under my seat….a tight squeeze but do-able. But that is a relatively short flight. I want to take him Toronto to Lisbon this November but am concerned that an overseas flight would be too long. Anyone with experience with this?

  13. Hi,
    I have a shit Sue and I would like to take him to Brazil.
    Those tam allow shit sue?

  14. Victor – I had the same kind of cat. She did not like her carrier and cried all the time when I put her in it. If your cat responds to treats, rewards are good. So are catnip toys. Try keeping her close to you in the carrier and speaking to her. Have someone else drive and put her on your lap and hug her through the bag. Or just take her for a walk in a park. Always answer her cries. Anything to let her know you are there. You can also try an all natural pet calmer like this one: Train every time you get. It will take some time, but it will be worth it.

  15. Hi everyone.

    It is my intention to fly from Spain to Denmark in a couple of months with my 2 years old cat, and I’m worried about how will she behave. Her only experience with the carrier is in car travel, for no more than 90 min long, and she gets very nervous and spends most of the travel crying. I’d like to train her and get used to the carrier as she doesn’t like it at all, any advise to make her more confortable in the carrier and how can I train her in 2 months? Thank you very much.

  16. Lindsay – try to sit by the window and, if the flight attendants will let you, put the pup on your lap. Otherwise, put it between your feet. Just be consistent in your behavior with it and encourage it to calm down. Slide your finger inside the carrier and let him lick it so he knows you are there. Bring a favorite chew toy in your purse and give it to him if you need to. Be careful about giving him treats as this may stimulate his bowels. (pack pads as well in case of accidents.)

  17. Hi there – I’m traveling with my puppy tomorrow from NYC to Portland, OR. He’s only 11 weeks old and obviously has a lot of energy like most pups do. I’m afraid that on such a long flight he will get restless or scared and whine/bark. He’s pretty used to his carrier by now and hasn’t really made much noise in it but he does move around a lot if he’s in there too long. Do you have any suggestions if the whining happens? Thank you!

  18. Karla – if your pet is flying with you in the cabin, it should calm down. Once in the air, you can put it on your lap (reserve a window seat) as long as the flight attendants allow it. You can speak with your vet about a very mild sedative if the pet calmers do not do the trick. You are doing all the right things.

  19. Karla – if you are traveling in-cabin with your pet, it should calm down. Reserve a window seat and you should be able to put the carrier on your lap (as long as your flight attendants will allow it) and certainly between your feet. You can give him lots of attention. You can also speak to your vet about a very mile sedative if the pet calmers do not give the desired effect.

  20. Hi everyone,
    I am going to fly from Portland OR (USA) to Frankfurt (Germany). It’s a 10.5 hour non-stop flight and I am currently testing different calming treats to keep my little guy calm. I already have a carrier he is used to and will start to take him around town in it to practice. He started getting nervous on car rides a couple of weeks ago (as soon as you go fast) and I am afraid that he will be shaking and panting the whole flight :-(
    Any ideas? Every help is highly appreciated!

  21. Hello Ksenja – as long as you fly in and out of Moscow on the same airline, you will stay in the terminal and not clear customs, therefore, no additional papers for Moscow will be required. If your pup is flying as checked baggage in the hold, then the layover should be under 2 hours and the airline will move it from plane to plane.

  22. Hello, I am planning to travel with my dog(yorkshire terrier) to USA from Estonia.
    The flight is Estonia-Moscow-Miami. Do i need any additional papers or documents for my dog if i fly through Moscow? Thank you

  23. Kirshna – Emirates will not transport pets in the cabin and you will find that most airlines flying out of the UAE have similar pet policies.

  24. Hi!
    We will be flying from Dubai to SFO, around 17 hours of flight. I’d really want to take my shih-tzu cross maltese 7 month old puppy with me as in-cabin in a carrier. Is that possible on an EK (Emirates) flight?

  25. Andrea – it is doubtful that your pup can travel in the cabin with you unless it is a service or emotional support animal due to its size. The best thing you can do for your pet is to get a crate immediately and start getting your pup used to it. You can find more information on this here: We would start with KLM or Lufthansa as they have one very short layover in their hub cities.

  26. Dear Susan,
    I am relocating from Hungary to Jakarta in July or August. I have a 14 year old tibetian terrier, 13,5 kg dog. I would love him to travel with me in the cabin somehow. Any possibilities? He is calm, very nice, good in traveling in a car, never been in a carrier. He is almost always with me, so we are very close, and he gets very nervous, he barks and gets stressed when he is left alone. I am very nervous, as it is a very long flight with layover. Any suggestions or tips, even on which airline is the best to fly? Thank you very much for your help! Andrea

  27. Lisa – if you cannot find proper care for your cat in Canada, then you should consider flying her in the cargo hold as accompanied checked baggage. Should you decide to do this, you need to get her acclimated to her crate as soon as you can. Keep the top half off, put something she is familiar with in the bottom half (blanket, etc.) and something with your scent on it (used t-shirt?). Encourage her to sleep in it. After a few weeks, put the top on but keep the door open. Let her come and go as she pleases. Then take a short car ride with her in the crate, then come home. Take another one and come home. Train her to feel comfortable in her crate. It may take some effort but it will be worth it.

  28. Hi, I’m relocating to the Netherlands from Canada for one year and trying to decide if I should bring my cat. I’m not sure I’d have anyone to take her for a whole year anyway, but the whole idea of my cat and air travel seems bad. In a car, she does not stop crying, even after two hours. I’m hoping, if I take her, that the vet can completely sedate her, but I feel like the chances are slim. I believe the plane ride would be about 9 hours, and then another 2.5 hours from Amsterdam to Maastricht on a train probably (can I even take a cat on a train?). I’d make sure to get a direct flight, but I’m just curious if anyone has had an experience travelling on a plane for that length of time with a cat that is a very poor traveller. Also, what do you do about preventing accidents (and by accidents I mean the cat being so afraid/stressed that they wet or poo themselves)? I thought of putting a diaper on her (which she’d hate) because I can’t see any other solution. She has had one accident in the car before, when her carrier wasn’t properly seat-belted and it fell forward. Also, has anyone had an experience flying with their cat in the cargo hold? It seems even more horrible for her, and I can’t imagine their too gentle loading and unloading her…but if she’s going to make unholy animal noises for 9 hours I can’t see taking her in the cabin…

  29. Carisa – when you land, you will clear customs with your cat. The US import regulations for cats are not stringent, so it is unlikely that your kitty will need to be inspected.

  30. I will be flying from south korea (incheon) to Chicago ( o’hare) on the 26th of December with an in cabin cat. Just wondering what I do when I land? Do I just go through customs as i would if i didnt have a cat or do I go somewhere special for the cat too?

  31. Viktoriia – you are correct in your assumptions about clearing customs in Paris. Your pet will need a microchip, vaccination AFTER the chip is implanted and a titer test 3 calendar months prior to entering France. Your vet can better answer your question about re-vaccination.

  32. Susan, I figured my issue! I have to change flights but now I’ll fly through Moscow direct to JFK. So no stop in Europe. My cat has all documents for going thought USA customs. I’m so happy!!! I appreciate all of ur help!

  33. Thank you for information. I planed to fly with Delta and KLM. They are partners. But after reading more info I realized its gonna be more complicated. We r flying from Ukraine to TX through Paris. I’m not EU citizen so I have to go thought customs no meter what. Which means that my pet have to have all requirement documents not only for US but for EU as well, right??? Such as microchip and blood titters done before travel (Ukraine is country with hight incidence of rabies). So that’s 5 mounts of pepper work! (Take blood mounts after vaccination, titer test takes 3 weeks, 3 mounts of wait before travel if titer test showed good results.) Did I understood everything correct????? The problem is that my cat has no microchip but was vaccinated in August. So now I need to microchip him and do vaccination again. I wonder is it healthy for pet to be vaccinated 2 times within 1 year? He has 1 year vaccine.. Doest look like my pet can travel with me this time. But I can prepare him for next travel to be successful. Thank you.

  34. Viktoria – if you are traveling with your pet in the cabin, you should have a soft carrier. They are lighter and fit under the seat easier. Your comment about changing 3 planes is a bit concerning. Are you staying on the same airline? You do not want to have to clear customs in any country between Ukraine and the US as they will require a titer test 3 months prior to travel. If you are changing airlines, there is a good possibility that it will be necessary to clear customs. Changing airplanes is OK; changing airlines is not.

    The US does not require that your cat be vaccinated for rabies, but they recommend it. A microchip or tatoo is not necessary. It is always a good idea to travel with a health certificate.

  35. Hello! I plan to travel with my cat as a carry on from Ukraine to Texas. He has passport with picture and rabies vaccination. He doesn’t have a chip or tattoo code. Is picture in passport good enough identification for the pet without tattoo #? Also I already got hard carrier for him because I thought soft carriers wasn’t aloud. But here I red that it might be ok. Can u plz confirm it? Because I’m going to change 3 planes and soft carrier would be more comfortable use while under sit or caring it around (it much lighter) and I don’t have to worry about that much seat size to fit it under. Thanks

  36. Cathryn – the length and height of your pup is very important. The best carrier for larger pups that we carry is this one: It allows extra height for your pet. Note the measurements at the bottom of the page. The airlines will check to see if the carrier is big enough for your pup to stand up and turn around in the carrier.

    Because your pup will not be old enough for rabies vaccination, you will need permission in advance for home confinement from the Center for Disease Control. (

  37. Hello, I am flying to pick up my new great dane puppy. Puppy will be 8 weeks. We are flying from Cali to Alaska. I want to travel with my puppy in the cabin. Puppy will be between 8-12 pounds. I’m lost as to what type of carrier will accommodate my pup. Any help????

    A very nervous dane mom!

  38. Juj – your kitty will not each much when traveling as it is a bit stressful for them. A bit of kibble should be fine. Bringing pet food in open containers into another country can be a bit tricky and oftentimes not allowed. Have you checked export requirements for Egypt?

  39. I might get a baby Persian kitten I’m flying from Egypt to vancouver canada what types of food are good with them while traveling?

  40. Hi Claire – we have sold thousands of these carriers and not one person has told us that they had a problem with them. Many of the airlines publish size requirements for hard sided carriers. However, the airlines love flexible carriers because there is a greater chance of them fitting under the seat.

  41. Want to fly back home to Toronto from London on Air Canada with my Jackapoo. He can stand and turn around in 16inch flexible sturdi bag, Air Canada has 10inch height limit on carriers. The Sturdi bag is flexible and can fold down to 10inches, with my dog comfortably lying down would this bee acceptable to Air Canada?

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