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In 2017, my cat Tang and I moved across the country from our home in Minnesota to Washington state, where my boyfriend had recently landed a job. I’ve had Tang for most of her 18 years and was lucky enough to be chosen as her favorite human, so obviously I couldn’t leave her behind.
Like most cats, Tang doesn’t get out much. She’s an indoor cat that has only ridden in the car a few times and had a couple of backyard adventures. So, flying with her halfway across the country was definitely going to be a new experience for both of us.
How I Prepared for Flying with My Cat
Book a Ticket
I wasn’t initially sure how we were going to move across the country. Would we be able to fly? Or would we have to drive?
Thankfully, my boyfriend got a relocation package when he was hired, so his company made arrangements to have our things moved and reserved a plane ticket for Tang and me.
When it comes to flying, reserve a ticket according to your airline of choice’s pet policy page. I flew Delta. They recommend you call to reserve your ticket when flying with a pet as there’s a limited number of pets allowed on each flight.
Buy an Airline-Approved Carrier
After the ticket was booked, the next thing to do was get an airline-approved carrier. I needed a carrier that would fit under a seat and wanted a soft carrier that would be more forgiving.
I read through reviews of the highest rated carriers on Amazon and checked to make sure they’d fit the under-seat dimensions provided by the airline. Eventually, I chose a pink carrier (very similar to this one) with great reviews and a removable and machine-washable bed inside, in case of any accidents.
Take a Trip to the Vet
With the new carrier in tow, our next step was to visit our vet. We initially made the appointment to get Tang a sedative for the flight, a copy of her health records, and to make sure her shots were up to date.
What I hadn’t realized was that every pet moving to a different state needs a Certificate of Veterinary inspection by a licensed and accredited veterinarian. Thankfully my veterinarian was aware of this and was able to fill it out for us during our visit.
State requirements for moving pets vary depending on the state, so it’s a good idea to search the pet entry requirements for the state you’re moving to before going to the vet.
Before we left for the airport, I was sure to give Tang her sedative to make sure she’d be as comfortable as possible during the flight. I made sure she stopped eating a few hours before the flight so she wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom or vomit during the flight. I also packed a little food for her in case our plane was delayed and she got hungry.
When you fly with a pet there’s generally a fee you have to pay at check-in, which varies from airline to airline. At the time, Delta’s fee was $125.00. The cat carrier was considered my carry-on, so I had to check any extra luggage.
Going through airport security with a cat was by far the most stressful part of flying with Tang. When we got through the line I was told I would have to take Tang out of her carrier and carry her with me through security. I was traveling by myself so this made maneuvering airport security extra tricky.
Tang was not particularly fond of being taken out of her carrier and doesn’t usually like being held, but her sedative seemed to be working and she was content to stay with me while going through the metal detector and waiting for our bags.
The actual flight went very smoothly. The carrier fit under the seat well and Tang was generally pretty quiet aside from a few quiet meows every once in a while.
When she did meow, I’d try and comfort her by talking to her and petting her a bit, which generally calmed her down. My seatmate was a bit startled when he heard her meow and noticed he was sitting next to a cat. He asked me if she traveled often and I told him this would definitely be her one and only flight.
Tang meowed pretty loudly the whole way home and when we arrived was very glad to be out of the carrier. My boyfriend had a litter box along with food and water all set up for her and after she refreshed herself she quickly made herself at home.
In the almost two years since our move, Tang has acclimated to life in the Pacific Northwest and even enjoys the rain.
Helpful Tips I Wish I’d Followed
- Research ahead of time. It’s always less stressful when you know what to expect.
- Plan ahead. You need time to book your flight, visit the vet, and get a carrier.
- When in doubt call the airline. If you’re unsure about your carrier’s size or anything else just call the airline to double-check.
- Bring a blanket. Having a blanket to swaddle your cat in during airport security can help keep your cat safe and you from being scratched.
- Bring something familiar. Bring something from home to keep your cat company in the carrier and help acclimate them to their new space.
If you’re moving with your kitty soon, Tang and I wish you luck!