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

Cat in carrier in airline cabinYou 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 — 250 Comments

  1. Hi Jason,

    sorry maybe I was not very clear on my questino regarding my previous question.. Someone wrote that i should bring the cat to the toilet in the airplane at the beginning of the flight on Boarding and remove the cat from the bag and pet her for some Moment to calm her down..Is this not a good idea to do so?

  2. Hi Phil,

    thank you. Then that means I get to be in the closed room when I got my cat out of the bag and wait…

  3. Security officials will x-ray your cat’s carrier after you remove it when you are in the room. Then they will bring it back to you to put the cat back in the carrier. You will need to go through the security line at that point.

  4. Midori – as far as the space under the seat in front of you, you may want to contact the airline and ask them whether there is more room under the middle seat or the aisle seat. Sometimes they put electronics under the middle seat so you will need to ask about that. The airlines should be able to give you this information depending on the aircraft that serves your route.

    Cat urine emits a distinct odor, so you will be able to tell when your cat urinates. Take it to the lavatory and remove the top pad. Underneath you should have a clean pad. (you will want 2-3 pads if possible.

  5. Hi Susan,

    your comment regarding the separated room to remove the cat at the security… This ROOM you meant is only to remove the cat from the bag and after I removed the cat from the bag i have to go out of the room where the security lines are there and go through the security procedure, as I have to also go through this security line (under machine to scan me)?or is this ROOM can be also used to examine the cat instead of going out of the room to do so?


  6. Hello Jason and Susan,

    Thank you so much for your comments.. I very much appreciate it and releaves my stress Level.. I asked my friend to carry one of my cats as Lufthanza only allows one cat for one passenger…i book a window seat, but my friend wanted to have an eile seat as he is a tall guy for his leg.. i may convince him to take the middle seat (there are three seats on our row)… if no one appears or refused to take the middle seat assigned to him, maybe we can take 3 seats for us two.. in case he has a choice, would you recommend the middle seat to be taken by my friend instead of the eile seat?
    I thought eile seat space is bigger than the one in the middle..
    i thought i have to pet the cat he is carrying as he is only accompanying me.. and i thought it will be an easy Access from my side.. maybe i can convince him to take the seat in the middle(or i take it in the middle)..

    Regarding the letting the cat from the bag, i understand. By the way, it was very expensive but I found a very good bag from “jetsetbag” .. This made a day and night difference to see from the Quality.. i totally recommend it. you can buy this from Amazon.

    Regarding the toilet sheet, thank you. I understand now.
    How can I notice the cat made pee? Do I Need to Change the sheet, or it can stay as Long as during the flight?

    Thank you so much for your help.

  7. Midori – do not remove your cat from its carrier unless you absolutely must do so. It will increase its stress level and it may run away. Reserve a window seat and board the aircraft as soon as you can to keep your cat away from the activity in the aisle.

  8. Midori – we are located in the United States and are not familiar with details in the Frankfurt Airport; however, we would say that there must be a room where officials can take your cat so you can remove it from its carrier. Arrive at the airport much earlier than you have to. If the security agent does not comply, ask to speak to their superior.

  9. Hi Jason,

    one more question.. I have read from some other Portal that someone mentioned that bringing the cat with the bag to the airplane toilet and pet her during the flight.. is it a wise Thing to do or rather negatively affect the cat as she has to go back to the bag again..I am very nervous. Also you mentioned that it is best to avoid all the noises/stresses while peole are loading to the aircraft..I agree.. but how can we do this.. are you advising that we should come at the last customer to board after they are already sitting and ready to take off?

    Thank you for your Support


  10. Hi Jason,
    thank you for your reply regardig the toilet sheet.. My question was actually, if I put it under the cushion, or over the cushion… if under the cushion, it will not penetrate under the bag, but cat will pee on blanket.. if it is over the blanket, the toilet sheet is not so soft like blanket.. so I was wondering what you recommend …

  11. Dear Pettravel,

    Could you please tell me if Frankfurt Airport also has such a separated room for a security..

    If so, do I Need to reserve this in advance or do I ask security staff when I am there ?

    Someone posted here that we Need to reserve the room, but Frankfurt Airport is so unfriendly no one gives this inforamtion unless I have to go there and chase for People to tell me inforamtion..

    If you know , please let me know..

    thank you


  12. Midori – pet 2-3 pet pads in the carrier. If they are decent pads, they will provide some cushion for your pet. If not, then use an old towel that you can throw away if it becomes wet.

  13. Hello, I am taking my 2 cats in to the cabin in Lufthanza from Frankfurt to Tokyo late June, since Airline allows one per son for each pet, I take my friend to carry one cat for me.

    I Need to place toilet sheet on the bottom of the bag, but I know that I Need to put Shirts or blanket (cushion) on the bottom of the bag.. and toilet sheet is not so comfortable if I place it on top of the blanket.. but if I put the sheet on the bottom of the bag, then the blanket placed over will be wet. What do you recommend? You place the toilet sheet on top of everything?

    please help me.

  14. Leah – Try “Rescue Remedy” it is a safe but effective way to calm pets down. You can give him a dropper full and massage some into his paws

  15. If your dogs are Emotional Support Animals with certification, then one of them can fly without a carrier if your airline honors ESAs on your route. Not sure if the other can fly with you in the cabin. Best to contact your airlines for guidance.

  16. I have two emotional working dogs with papers weighing 3 and four pounds can they fly in same carrier?

  17. HELP! After owning a Cavalier who was born to travel, volutarily hopped in his carrier and slept through every trip with no meds, but then we adopted another 10 year old Cavlalier who is a terrible, ,terrified traveler, He fights like mad to get out of his carrier, barks, whines and just generally raises hell, upsetting people around us. Last flight a lady offered me a pill she used to put her little doggie to sleep. I’ve tried all the natural calming pills, Benadryl, didnt help. I thought I’d saved the name of the pill l but I didnt. Has anybody had to medicate a similarly wildly anxious dog and if so what did you give him.her?. My dog weighs about 20 pounds,

  18. Leah – a pet calmer should not be a problem if the pup is carried in a carrier in the cabin. Be sure and try it at home first. Good to know how your pup will act.

  19. He is a small dog, a chihuahua mix, and we were planning to keep him in a carrier. I will get and try the calmer you suggested to see if that helps. Will they hassle her if we do just sedate him?

  20. Leah – because emotional support animals are not required to be in a carrier, it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the animal will behave responsibly with other passengers and the crew. She must be able to control her dog’s behavior and giving it a tranquilizer may make things more difficult depending on its size. Certainly this is something you should try first before getting on the plane to see how her dog behaves. There are also all-natural pet calmers available. They do not put the dog to sleep but simply “take the edge off.” ( Again, you should try this at home, then take the dog to a public place and see how it behaves.

  21. My daughter has an emotional support dog for her anxiety disorders and I have been reading all the requirements for him to accompany her on her yearly trip to Texas from Montana for the summer. My only concern is that he does NOT care for strangers. She needs to be able to have him with her and I was thinking of asking the vet for something to just make him sleep through the journey. Any recommendations or advice?

  22. Hello Petra – cats are notoriously bad travelers as they hate to be removed from their environment (most do anyway). If your cat will meow all the time and cause stress for you and other passengers, you can try an all natural pet calmer and see if it will help. ( If you don’t think this will work, then you may want to consider flying your cat in the cargo hold as accompanied checked baggage. Yes, this is not the preferred way, but you will not need to remove your cat from the carrier and deal with the meowing. Millions of pets are flown in the cargo hold each year safely. Your cat will likely hide once getting to its new home, but it will adjust in a few days. Traveling with a cat is a difficult thing, but we feel that it is better than giving up your friend.

  23. Hi all! I am currently living in the US, but there is a real chance that I will go back to Germany next year. I’m already worried sick about the question whether or not I should take my cat with me. It would be heartbreaking to give her into a new home, but I’m wondering if I should put her through the stress.

    My cat is about four years old and healthy, but she hates being in a crate, so I honestly don’t know how I’d be able to get her back inside once I’m done with the TSA check. I know there is the option to drug her, but a lot of people say it’s not necessarily safe or effective.

    I already went through the whole “leave the crate/carrier out/placing treats inside/put a towel with her scent on it” phase twice. As soon as the door closes, she meows continuously, and when she’s supposed to get back inside it’s claws out/hells no time.

    Any advice?

  24. If your dog isn’t flying with you in the main cabin, don’t have a big goodbye scene. You’ll only upset your dog. If you’re calm, he’ll be calm.

  25. Hi Cora – to respond, we need to know what country in the EU you are traveling to the US from. Some countries in the EU are considered rabies-free by the US and some are not. Unless your puppy is entering the US from a rabies-free country, it will need to be vaccinated for rabies no sooner than 3 months and wait for 30 days before entering the US. You may find that your EU country also requires a rabies vaccination. You can find the list of countries here:

  26. I will send a gorgeous 2-3 months male puppy (Groenandael Belgian shepherd) to o new owner in MN, US.
    The puppy will be deliver at beginning of March to his new family.
    The puppy will have passport, health book, all mandatory vaccines made and registered (including anti-rabies that is mandatory in EU), pedigree of origin (we start a breeding pair last year, so the puppy is from registered parents), microchip (that also is mandatory in Europe).
    These are the docs that usually are requested in all Europe.
    Please, can you tell me if are more docs required, if the puppy will be put in quarantine on arrival in US, or any other information regarding this transit (because even the new owner the import regulations in this case are fuzzy)
    Due the long flight, more than surely we will flight with the puppy there.
    THANK YOU! for any infos you can give me such as to make this transit easier possible for the little prince.

  27. Jodi – sorry for your stressful experience when traveling with your cats. These animals are particularly sensitive to being removed from their environment. Trying to prepare them for their travels may help by working with them at home. (put in carrier – rides in the car, etc.) My cat always peed in the carrier, so lots of pet pads are a great thing to travel with. ( – set of 4) As for the pet calmers, they work great on my dogs. For next time, if your carrier has privacy covers, use them. The less your cat can see what is going on outside the crate, the better.

  28. I traveled in February 2016 from Phoenix AZ to NY (Newark airport) with my two cats on a united airlines flight. They each had their own soft sided carrier and my uncle flew with me as they only allow one cat per person (max 4 animals in cabin per flight).
    I didn’t need to show any health certificate, and their only concern is that the cat cat turn around in the carrier.
    The trip is difficult, I can’t lie.
    They require that you REMOVE THE CAT from the carrier at TSA security prior to boarding.
    You can request a private room for this. All airports are equipped with private screening rooms at a passengers request. Rather than fit my cats with harnesses and leashes (yeah right who are you kidding), I asked for the private room.
    I was taken to a small cubicle room where I removed one cat at a time. As I held the cat in the room, the TSA staff took their carrier and x rayed it.
    My oldest big cat was quiet during the flight – he was scared. Even with my pets and reassuring him while he was under the seat. My little one year old was TERRIFIED and literally screamed during takeoff as the engines roared (planes are quiet loud as you know).
    I was able to keep him somewhat quieter by petting him a bit and talking to him. But he would doze off for 10 minutes and scream again. My heart broke for him.
    I used Pet Ease treats, and other well known recommended natural liquid herbs as well.
    They don’t work folks.
    Imagine if you were a small creature who was kept safely in the same house for years, and then you are put in a bag, driven to a strange place, jostled around a big airport with lots of strange sounds and smells, and put in a squished spot for hours as loud roars and noises hurt your sensitive ears!!! Terrifying!!!
    It was a hard experience for them. And stressful for me as well. I smiled and got through it. You will too.
    But be prepared for the challenges. It SUCKS.
    PS- check Amazon for pee pads to put inside the carriers. They saved me from the pee nightmare!!!

  29. Sherry – you can return to the US with the same paperwork you used to enter Italy. No vet visit necessary.

  30. I am flying with my service dog (Cavalier )from california to italy for a two week visit in the spring. Her first time flying. I will have all the necessary paperwork in order, but I’m wondering what will I need to return to the US after my visit? Additional paperwork or vet visit?

  31. Hi. I am travelling with my cat to barcelona with Iberia Express. Can anyone suggest a good carrier? Also should it be hard or soft? The dimensions cannot exceed 105cm. Would he grateful for any advice. Thanks.

  32. May – if you want your pup with you in the cabin, and it is small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat, then you may want to consider either Asiana Airlines or Korean Air. Asiana will transit in Seoul and put you into Chicago and Korean Air transit in Seoul and put you into Seattle. These would be the cities where you would clear customs and board a domestic flight to Indiana.

  33. Hi, i am travelling with my 3 years old pomeranian from manila to indiana usa. I worry with the safety of my dog can you suggest an airline that accept my dog to stay in cabin. If not as cargo will my dog will be 100% safe.
    thank you for your reply

  34. I agree with placing your worn item into the carrier with your pet. I have travelled several times with my cat and I’ve learned to always placed my recently worn shirt in there with her. It has always been a hassle-free flight since I started doing that. During the times I wasn’t able to, my cat would just be meowing and yowling constantly. You could imagine what the other passengers were going through with all that noise.

  35. i am flying with my cat first time being on a plane in janurey 2017 and south west . and they say esa are welcome and you have to have a dr note thats all . going to ca for a week and then coming back home. he is 16. dr say coming treets

  36. Mrs. Stout – unless your Yorkie is a service or emotional support animal, it must travel in an airline compliant carrier.

  37. Iam Flying On Allegiant this sunday takeing my yorkie And She Don’t like to be in a cage she like to be right with you. How Is Allegiant with that.
    Mrs stout.

  38. Monique – it is doubtful that you can find an airline that will fly into Johannesburg with your Yorkie in the cabin. (we do not know of any.) What you need to do, if you need to take the trip, is to get a good crate as soon as possible and get your Yorkie acclimated to its crate. It must see it as a safe place and you must take it out and about in the crate. The more time you spend doing this, the easier it will be on your Yorkie come travel day. There is a dedicated place for animals and that place is temperature and pressure controlled like the cabin. Most dogs just rest to the drone of the engines. Make sure your pup has enough water in the crate bowl as well.

  39. am flying my yorki to my mom from port elizabeth to jhihanneburg , they dont want my doggy in the cabin and am stressed ot because i dont know if he will be oky underneath the plane its cold and the noise is loud 🙁 how do i get him to be calm for an 1hour and 45 min flight please any suggetuions ???????? am stressed beyond because my boy (Yorki) is very sensitive on his ears .

  40. Deonette – many airlines accept pets in the cabin on routes where the destination country does not require that pets arrive as cargo. Examples are American, Delta, United, Lufthansa, KLM, Southwest, JetBlue, Korean Air, Turkish Airlines and there are more.

  41. Elsa – US Airways is the only commercial airline that will allow you to get an extra ticket for another pet. If the dogs are very small (puppies), then there is a possibility that an airline will allow it. Else, generally, the rule is one pet per passenger.

  42. Pam – whether pets are allowed in the cabin depends on your destination country and your airline’s pet policy.

  43. Hi Pam – we wish we could help, but HK regulations require that all animals including pets arrive as air cargo. Service animals may be exempted from this requirement but we doubt ESAs are included. Your airline should be able to tell you that.

  44. @Stephanie on August 14, 2016 at 12:13 AM – be careful in traveling with your pug, there’s a higher risk when traveling with flat nosed pets due to their nasal cavity being compressed, they could die. “data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). For five years, starting in May of 2005, DOT recorded all pet deaths during air travel. There were 122 dog deaths in that time period, and approximately half of them were “short-faced” breeds, like pugs and bulldogs.”

  45. Hi, I’ve read through some of your older posts. I’m flying my poodle from Toronto to Hong Kong. Looks like only Cathay pacific and air canada provide direct flights. I really don’t want my dog to go through those airlines ground noise and cargo… Hopefully you can help me! Thank you again.

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