Flying with your pet can be a stressful experience so you will want to make sure you have everything in place before you go to the airport. As well as making sure you are using an approved carrier (for carry-on) or kennel (for the cargo hold) you will want to prepare your pet properly for the flight. here are some tips to make this experience stress free and easier for both you and your pet.

Both cats and dogs are allowed on board, either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. If your pet is small and can fit into an airline approved pet carrier you can take him in the cabin with you. The carrier must conform to the airlines regulations and me no bigger than 23" by 13" by 9". Look for the label ' airline approved' when you buy your carrier as these will be made to be acceptable to the airlines. Airlines will only take a limited number of pets on any flight so make sure you inform the airline in advance that you are taking your pet with you. You will be charged a fee for him but many airlines will give him air miles for his next flight! Airlines reserve the right to refuse to carry any pet that appears to be aggressive.

What about the extra security in place in the US?

Although enhanced security is in place in the US it should not stop you taking your pet on board. You will have to take him out of his carrier so that the carrier can be scanned. You should be allowed to take him through the metal detectors on a lead or the security staff make take you to a separate area for inspection.

Placing your pet in the cargo hold

A large cat or dog that won't fit into a carry-on carrier will have to be transported in the cargo hold and will require a suitable, approved kennel. There are extra regulations for kennels so make sure you read up on all the requirements of your airline. The following guidelines apply to most airlines but always check to be sure. Kennels have to be well made and not collapsible as these could collapse during the flight. Rigid kennels made of plastic are preferred. Your pet must be able to turn around and lie in a comfortable position in the kennel and it needs to have an external water source which can be filled if necessary by the airline staff. In addition kennels plus pet must be weigh no more than one hundred pounds. if your pet plus his kennel exceed this then you will need to make special arrangements with the airline.

When you check in your pet the airline will issue you with ties to secure to the kennel which will hold it in place during the flight. In addition you will need to provide some certification attached to the kennel. A declaration that you have fed your pet within four hours of the flight is required, signed and the time of signing added. This needs to be attached so that it is visible on the outside of the kennel. Directions for feeding and watering for at least a day are also required.

Health and rabies certificates

Although most airlines do not require health certificates many US states do. You will need this to be issued by your vet within 30 days of the flight. All states require up to date rabies vaccination certificates. If you are taking your pet to another country you will, of course, need to carefully check up certification requirements for that country. Failure to have the required certificates can lead to a lengthy, and expensive, quarantine period in country or even to refusal to accept your pet at all. Apart from obtaining a certificate it's also a good idea to visit your vet before you fly to check him over and make sure he is healthy enough to fly. Heart conditions and respiratory illnesses can lead to problems at high altitude.

Are tranquilisers for my pet a good idea?

Most airlines and vets do not recommend using tranquilisers on your pet before flying. As well as making him drowsy after the flight they can also interfere with his breathing and temperature regulation system during the flight. It's much better to prepare your pet properly before the flight so that he is calm and does not panic.

Preparing your pet for the flight

You should make sure your pet is thoroughly familiar and comfortable with his kennel or carrier by introducing it weeks before the flight. Don't leave it until the day before flying to buy one! If he's been using it for many weeks he won't panic when you place him in it before the flight. Take a dog out for a long walk before you go to the airport so that he is tired. Don't go to the airport too early but allow time to take him out for a quick walk and time to relieve himself before the flight. Although you must feed him within four hours of the flight try not to feed him again just before the flight as a full stomach can be uncomfortable for him. Give him water to drink right up to the flight and prepare his favorite treat for when you retrieve him afterwards if he has to go in the cargo hold.


Although flying with a pet can be stressful if you are both prepared and you pet is comfortable with his carrier or kennel everything should be fine. The airline will take good care of him and you will be happily reunited at the end of the flight.