5 greatest tricks to maintain your cat calm throughout a flight, in accordance with veterinarians

Aircraft-safe cat carriers can be made of either plastic or soft mesh material. Humonia / Getty Images

  • If you are flying with a cat, it is important that your cat familiarize himself with a carrier before flying.

  • You should also pack a harness, exercise pads, water bowl, and cat food.

  • You can try natural tranquilizers like pheromones or prescription tranquilizers for the flight.

  • Please refer to Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more information.

Flying your cat can be intimidating – it’s hard to predict how your cat will react to the airport and air travel.

Preparing beforehand by testing calming supplements and getting your cat comfortable with a carrier can make the process easier.

Here are several different methods you can use to get your cat ready to fly and make the experience as smooth as possible.

1. Make your cat comfortable with a cat carrier

Your cat must spend the entire flight in an aircraft carrier. It is therefore important that you train your cat to be comfortable with it.

Types of Aircraft Safe Cat Carriers

There are two main types of transportation companies that you can take on an airplane:

  • Soft straps are made of flexible materials and often have mesh sides for ventilation. You can carry soft straps with a shoulder strap or get a rolling strap that you can pull like a suitcase.

  • Hard carrier are made of more stable plastic. Most hard straps can be taken apart so that the top and sides can be lifted off the bottom.

To get your cat used to a carrier:

  1. If you are using a hard carrier, you can just leave the lower part in one of your cat’s favorite spots around the house, such as the bathroom. B. in a sunny corner, says Carlo Siracusa, DVM, professor of animal behavior and welfare at the University of Pennsylvania.

  2. When your cat is comfortable sitting on the bottom of the carrier, you can put the top on and encourage your cat to spend time with treats in it. “Gradually increase the time the cat spends in the assembled carrier, starting with just a few seconds,” says Siracusa.

  3. “After the haulier has been on the move long enough not to look threatening, put on your favorite bedding, toys, treats, and maybe a catnip,” said Amanda McNabb, DVM, a private practice veterinarian in Washington state

  4. The final step is to practice carrying your cat in the luggage rack and eventually use it for short car trips.

If you are using a soft backing, you can follow the same steps but not remove the lower part.

The story goes on

If you don’t acclimate your cat properly, he or she may panic at the airport or on the flight. This can be traumatic for the cat and stressful for you and the people around you.

Siracusa recommends giving your cat at least three to four weeks to get used to the wearer. “We always recommend going slowly because trying to go too fast can backfire,” said Melissa Bain, DVM, professor of clinical animal behavior at UC Davis.

2. Pack everything your cat needs

Being prepared also means gathering all the things your cat needs for the flight. Some of the most important items to bring in your carry-on baggage are:

  • A harness and leash to hold your cat back while going through security. The wearer may need to do an x-ray so you will have to carry your cat.

  • Training pads for vacuuming urine if your cat has an accident during the flight.

  • A plate and water.

  • Extra food in case your flight is delayed.

  • Baby wipes, gloves and Ziploc bags help with tidying up.

  • A small disposable litter box for longer flights.

  • All medical records and your cat’s microchip numbers. Airlines can request this information and it can be useful in an emergency.

3. Do not feed your cat on the morning of a flight

Eating before a flight can increase your cat’s motion sickness and cause nausea or vomiting. Therefore, for most cats, you should avoid feeding them four to six hours before the flight.

You can give your cat small amounts of water before the flight and on the plane.

Your cat shouldn’t have trouble skipping a meal – in fact, if he’s feeling stressed, he may not even want to eat. “Healthy adult cats can be safely fasted a few hours before and for the duration of the flight,” says McNabb. Cats can walk about 8 to 10 hours before they feel hungry.

However, young kittens may not be able to fast. “Kittens under 6 months of age should have food at their normal times,” says McNabb.

Also, if you have an adult cat with serious health problems, you should speak to your veterinarian to find out how long your cat can go without food, advises Bain.

4. Try natural calming solutions

Some natural products can help with your cat’s anxiety, says Siracusa. These include:

  • Pheromones: Chemicals that animals give off to send emotional signals to one another. One pheromone product, Feliway, mimics a pheromone that cats release to mark an area as safe. Spraying this into your cat’s carrier can provide comfort to a frightened cat.

  • Herbal Medicine: Although formal studies have not yet been conducted, many cat owners have had success giving their cats certain flower essences or dried herbs. A product called Rescue Remedy combines five different flower essences and experts say it should be safe for your cat.

You can also ask your vet about other natural products that can help them stay calm on the flight.

Is CBD Safe For Cats?

CBD has been shown to be safe for dogs, but it may not work in the same way for cats.

“There is no evidence that CBD products have any sedative effects on cats, especially while in flight. I would not recommend them for this specific use,” says Siracusa.

When trying a new product, carefully follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions, says McNabb. Also try the products a few days before your trip to determine any side effects. “It’s also extremely important to use a product specially labeled for cats because cats generally don’t metabolize things the way dogs or humans do,” says McNabb.

5. Travel with a sedative

The majority of cats don’t need to take tranquilizers for a flight, Siracusa says.

“Even cats who don’t like to travel by car do well on flights because they don’t have the same vibrations that go with traveling by car,” says Siracusa. However, cats tend to be more nervous when the aircraft is on the ground during takeoff and landing, as these transitions have more pressure and vibration changes.

Even if you plan to use natural tranquilizers, Bain recommends that you speak to your veterinarian to come up with a backup plan in case your cat needs tranquilizers.

“If they are seriously anxious, they can benefit from the necessary medication that only the veterinarian can prescribe,” says Siracusa.

Common sedatives include drugs like gabapentin and trazodone, which can make your cat less aggressive, less stressed, and more indulgent. Most sedatives last between 4 and 6 hours. Ideally, you should treat your cat about two hours before your flight, says Siracusa.

Just like with natural supplements, you should do some test runs to see how it is affecting your cat before actually traveling. “Individual cats respond differently to different dosages and medications. The more you know about your cat’s needs, the better the flight for both of you,” says McNabb.

Insider to take away

Getting your cat on a flight can be a challenge, but there are many steps you can take to make the process easier.

Getting your cat used to a porter, bringing extra supplies, and using natural or prescription remedies can help you and your cat stay calmer while traveling by air.

If you’re not sure which methods to try, speak to your veterinarian to find out which method is best for your cat.

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