Before your cat can enjoy an airplane ride, they will need to be comfortable with a few specific experiences. Since most of their time will be spent inside a pet carrier, your cat will need to be able to easily go in and out of their carrier, and be able to relax while inside.
When traveling by air, there will be many times when the carrier will be moving. There’s the transportation to the airport, then through the airport, and onto the plane. Once situated under a seat or on your lap, the carrier will then move with the plane as it takes off, flies to your destination, and lands. Then, you’ll need to move the carrier off the plane, through the airport and to your final destination.
Along the way, your cat will be exposed to many loud noises, unfamiliar places and new people. An airport can be a confusing place, with a lot of action happening at once, and this can cause anxiety in many cats. Learning how to adapt to new situations, people and places is essential for a pleasant airplane ride.
And lastly, there will be a moment when your cat will need to leave the safety of their carrier as you pass through TSA, and will need to be hand-carried through the metal detector. The safest way to remove your cat amidst the noise, people and other distractions is with a secure harness and leash, so your cat should be comfortable wearing both well before the journey begins.
If you know you want or need to travel by plane when your furry pal is still a kitten, start training them right away. While it is easier to train a young cat, older cats can still learn the same skills, but may need more time and patience.
All cats should be trained to enter and exit their pet carrier or crate, regardless of whether or not they will be traveling. And many cats can benefit from harness and leash training, both for trips to the vet office and for walks.
For airplane travel, you’re going to use the basics of crate and carrier training, and harness and leash training, along with socialization and desensitization techniques to prepare your cat for the various environments they will encounter throughout the flying experience. Ideally, you’ll want to start at least a month prior to the airplane ride, but you can accomplish the same goals in less time if you are consistent. Be sure you purchase a carrier that fits the regulations of the airline you will be using, and a harness that fits snugly.