Traveling by air can be a traumatic experience for an adult at the best of
times, but your four-footed friend can have an even more frightening
experience! Why not try to create the best atmosphere possible for both of you?
Your first action should be to contact the airline and see what rules and
regulations are involved in taking your cat or dog along. Many airlines will ask for an extra fee and offer the option of purchasing an extra seat for your pet or allowing you to keep him/her in the cabin with you under certain circumstances. Depending on the airline you choose your choices may be limited, but it never hurts to explore all your options and decide what you think is best for your pet.
All airlines demand that your pet be housed in a flight-certified pet
carrier and this should be your second purchase. That old soft purse may
have worked fine in getting to and from the vet, but we’re talking about a whole different atmosphere and potentially dangerous one, so go to your local pet store and explain to the staff that you need one specifically geared towards flight. These will probably be made of hard plastic and will have the ability to have small feeding cups mounted inside for your pet to eat and drink during the trip. Be sure to get one appropriate to the size of your animal – a good measurement is to see if the animal can turn around twice without banging against the sides. Remember that this is going to be his/her home for a few hours at least, so make it as comfortable as possible. A towel in the bottom of the carrier will help deal with any emergencies and mop up any spilt water or food. When loading up the cups consider the length of the flight – water may be all your friend needs. Be sure to replenish these dishes at the first opportunity, since dehydration can happen rapidly when a pet is under stress and panting profusely.
Depending on the size of your pet and the carrier you may be offered the option of placing him/her under the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight. Remember that if you do this you will have to cope with the possibility of a yowling dog or cat and the disapproval of your fellow passengers. Of course, you can always consider using some sort of medicinal relaxant for your pet to make the experience less stressful for both of you, something that may be best for older animals. Discuss this option with your veterinarian, even if you prefer herbal remedies. He/she can advise you on the right dosage for a pet your size and possibly help medicate your friend for the trip. Be sure to keep all documentation handy as far as last rabies shots and so forth goes. Even on domestic flights, you may be asked to produce these papers in the case of an emergency.
Whether you keep your friend in the cabin with you or send him/her off to the storage compartments never, ever open up the door for even a second. While your pet may have a kind and gentle attitude at home, the stress of being in a strange place with a variety of different smells can be overwhelming for some animals. You may be bit or worse yet, your pet may escape either on the cabin or inside the airport itself. Needless to say this will create a certain amount of trouble for both of you as well as inconvenience the other travelers. Please keep the door shut until you
reach your final destination for safety’s sake. If you perceive a medical
emergency, notify the airport staff immediately. They will find proper
medical help and isolate you and your pet in a secure location so that you can open the carrier door safely and administer aid.
Traveling on a plane can be a stressful experience for any human, let alone a cat or a dog. But with a few minutes of preparation, you can ensure that both of you arrive at the other end in good shape and ready to go!