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.


Comments

Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel — 232 Comments

  1. Denise – several suggestions for you. The first one is to try a privacy carrier. With these carriers, you can roll down the flaps and keep your cat isolated from goings on outside of the carrier. You can find privacy carriers here: https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-carriers/. The second suggestion is to put a “used” t-shirt in the carrier that will have your scent on it. Also, try working with her at home giving her treats when she behaves in the carrier. The more time she spends in the carrier before travel, the better. The last suggestion is to consider flying your cat in the cargo hold as checked baggage. Yes, it is not the most ideal and sure you would like to have your cat in the cabin with you; however, the most important thing is to keep your cat safe while traveling. there is no way she should claw her way out of a cargo crate.
    Susan

  2. I am flying with my cats from Massachusetts to San Diego. I was wondering if anyone knows of a soft pet carrier that is extremely durable. On our plane ride in the past my cat wanted out of the carrier and shred it up almost getting out. I must say it was very stressful. I will give her natural calm treatments prior to travel but I’m worried about finding a strong enough carrier. Just in case.

  3. We are planning to move to Las Vegas from Hawaii next year and this will be our dog’s first flight. He takes medication for his seizures. Do you have any suggestions and/or tips on how to keep him calm thru the hours of travel?

  4. Leanne – to fly in the cabin, your pet should be socialized and fully trained if not already. GSDs are great dogs to train. Get a short lead (like this one: https://www.pettravelstore.com/dog-travel-leash/ and keep it very close to you. Bring a foldable pet pad that it can sit on. Not sure where you are located, but we have pet calmers in our store that work great on our dogs: https://www.pettravelstore.com/happy-traveler-calming-chewables/ or https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-calming-treat-for-dogs/
    Phil

  5. I am taking my GSD on a 3 hour flight (in cabin) is there any suggestions to help him have a good first flight, keep calm.

  6. Anthony – certainly, it is better to fly with your cat in the cabin with you than in the cargo hold as long as it has good manners. 🙂 The only airlines that will allow that are Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. We would also note that, unless you fly into Guangzhou, there will be quarantine for your cat both in Shanghai or Beijing. (see requirements to enter China with a dog or cat here: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/china.cfm) We would recommend avoiding this if possible as conditions are questionable at best. You will need the assistance of an agent in Guangzhou to clear your cat and get the docs for your next flight. You can get a quote at IPATA.org.
    Susan

  7. Hello, I will be moving to China (Tianjin) in July. I will be flyin out of the Baltimore area and am taking my cat.

    She was a cargo passenger three years ago from Lahore, Pakistan to Washington DC. She had a scratch on her nose…I think she tried to eat her way out of crate…lol.

    Do you have suggestions on airlines to use, and do you think it is better to fly her in the cabin? It is cheaper…and I could be near her…

    Thanks,
    Anthony

  8. Mir-i-nisa – you can find requirements to import your Pom to the United States here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/unitedstates.cfm.

    As for airlines, we are not sure what city you are flying to, but if you are looking for an airline that will allow your Pom in the cabin with you and it is small enough to fit in an airline-compliant pet carrier, try contacting Korean Air as they do fly pets in the cabin.
    Phil

  9. Which airlines would allow my Pom to fly from Philippines to US? Help with documents I need to bring with me please. Thanks.

  10. Hello – A Lufthansa repĂĽlhet a kutyáin, egĂ©szen Sao Pauloig, ahol tisztázni fogják a vámhatĂłságokat, Ă©s egy LATAM járatot szállĂ­tanak BrazĂ­liába. Ez akkor működik, ha velĂĽk utazik.
    Susan

  11. 2 cica, 4,5kg és 5,5kg. Budapestről Brasiliavárosba! Hogyan lehetséges?
    Utazás terv szerint 2018.junius vége, július eleje.

  12. Sharon – you can find airline pet policies for over 150 airlines here: http://www.pettravel.com/airline_rules.cfm. Most all airlines that allow emotional support pets will require a letter from a licensed professional indicating that you need your pet to be with you. Delta and United will require that you fill out forms and file them earlier than 48 hours before transport.
    Susan

  13. Sharon – if you feel that your Pom will be nervous in the car, best to get her in the car before you travel. Take her on short trips around the neighborhood, then longer trips to someplace fun like the pet store or a relative’s house. Always offer her positive reinforcement when you get home. If you feel a calmer would be appropriate, you can find some here: https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-calmers/. These are all-natural and will just make her relax and maybe a bit sleepy. Try giving her some at home to see how she does with them.
    Susan

  14. She won’t bother anyone but me, I’m trying to get to California to help someone drive back to SC. All I’m doing, loving animals a barking dog, crying cat would annoy me. My first reaction would be, love that pet. It’s having a hard time. No sence in that, if I didn’t know Savannah’s behavior, I’d say I don’t know, but I do know. And are these policies all air lines, including Delta,.. bc in CAE, EVEN Eastern gone, so if you could add in which air lines this pretains to I’d appreciate it. Thank you for your assistance

  15. I have a 10 month old, 3 lb Pomeranian. She rarely barks at ppl, very loving, but very scared in strange places. Can she sit in carrier in my lap, so I can reassure her. Savannah’s not been away from me except a few hours since bitty puppy. She is emotional support, has her vest, but I’m in between Drs rt now, so it’ll be hard to get paper signed for me. . So I’d just as soon, to get her to California, keep her close however. She doesn’t.bite, she’s just not used to travel period, coming back in car, I’ll have something to give her to keep motion sickness down. Shea 3 lbs. Not a big girl at all. What are policies on this pls

  16. Keith – you should alert the flight attendant to the pet owner. The airlines are now starting to tighten their rules on ESAs. We see the beginning of a trend to verify that ESAs are socialized and trained to deal with people.
    Phil

  17. I was flying JetBlue yesterday from Tampa FL to San Juan Puerto Rico for 2.5 hours. There was a woman so overweight that she could not stand up by herself along with her small dog in a zipper bag. The dog barked for 2 solid hours and no one made any attempt to quieten this dog. 200 other paying customers were subjects of this annoyance after a long business trip. What are the requirements and regulations for dealing with these situations and why was this Never an issue 20 years ago? Thanks

  18. Kathleen – flight attendants on the airlines try very hard to make the experience of flying on their airline the best it can be; however, things happen and rearranging seat assignments is both difficult and voluntary, especially when the flight is airborne. Consider the same experience with a crying baby. It is unfortunate, and surely the owner felt some distress at bothering other passengers. It is something we try and work through if there are no other unoccupied seats available on the aircraft. Too bad the owner did not have some cat calmers – all natural. https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-calmers/
    Susan

  19. I flew on United from Newark to Houston on December 20th. A cat across the aisle from me cried for the first hour of the flight. When I approached the flight attendant about whether or not something could be done I could tell that giving me a hand was not his top priority, so I let it go. I don’t know what I should have expected in this situation. Do you have any advice for me?

  20. Crystal – we cannot find an airline that flies your route directly; however, you may want to contact United Airlines PetSafe desk for the cost if your pet is flying unaccompanied. You can find their pet policies here: http://www.pettravel.com/airline_pet_rules/united.cfm. If you are accompanying your dog, then American may be a good bet. Either way, unless your dog is in the cabin flying with you, watch the temperatures. The airlines will not transport a live animal in the cargo hold if temperatures fall below 45 degrees F.
    Susan

  21. Zach – if you anticipate that your pet will be fidgety or anxious, then you may want to consider a Pet calmer. https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-calmers/. Hopefully, your Air France flight is non-stop or you will need to recheck your pet on the next leg of your trip and pay another pet fee. Layer pet pads is your carrier so accidents are easier to deal with. Have a safe trip.
    Susan

  22. I’m currently living in the U.S. and planning on flying via Air France to Paris then using the Pet Moves company to get into the UK. They go straight from CDG to several locations in SE England as well as London. Then another 3 hour drive to my new home in Newcastle upon Tyne. Any suggestions on anything that would make this trip easier on her? Thank you.

  23. Middle East Airlines allow pets on board in the cabin for USD 100 and total bag size should be collectively 115cm

  24. The good airline to fly with from uk to any Europe is aeagen airline, small dogs can be in the cabin with you, but problem is only when you come back to uk, flight from London to Athens I paid 50 Euro, to come back 600 pounds.

  25. We have confirmed that Swiss Air, Air Canada and Lufthansa will transport pets out of the UK in the cabin on certain routes. Have you checked with Iberia?
    Phil

  26. do you know of any airlines flying from England to Spain that allow you to take a small dog on board with you

  27. I am traveling from Ottawa to Geneva with my 3 year old toy poodle. I am transferring in Montreal. Does annyone know if there is a pet relief area in Montreal inside security?
    And yes good idea. I will try that. And do U think I should let her walk threw the airport after she goes potty?

  28. That is correct, Midori. If the security officer denies you access to the room in Frankfurt, ask to speak to his or her supervisor. Do not take “no” for an answer.
    Susan

  29. Hi Susan,

    thank you..OK; I will not remove it from the bag in the toilet.. I will only do so if i have to Change the toilet sheet in case she urines..OK, what you mean is once I remove it from the bag in the toilet, she will know that i could remove her if she cries enough… but i can not remove her.. then she may be agressiver.. I understand…

    UPDATE from the German Airport security, I visited Stuttgart Airport security yesterday to ask about the procedure- although i will not fly from Stuttgart but Frankfurt, I think it is a good indication for German Airport.. They do have a closed room where I can remove the cat.. I do not Need to reserve the room.. I can wait until the bag is scanned.. and the security Agent will bring the bag back to my room…

  30. Midori – you can comfort your cat while it is in the carrier. Although it sounds like a good idea to remove your cat from the carrier to give it love, you have to put it back at some point. Once your cat knows that you will take it out of the carrier, its behavior may change. Best to speak to it while it is in the carrier in low and consistent tones and squeeze it lightly. If you have a soft-sided carrier, your cat will feel your “hugs.” Keep the environment around it calm if you can. That is why a window seat is important.
    Susan

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