Cat question
September 25, 2011 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Will a 12 hour flight kill my cat?

I have a wonderful easygoing cat that I took care of for five years until I had to go overseas for a year. My mother gladly volunteered to take care of him at her house while I was abroad. I wanted to bring my cat with me, but the places I would be living were uncertain at the time. A year and a half since I left, I am now settled in another city with my fiance and I would like to bring my cat over to live with us. I told my mother that I would be bringing him back with me on my next visit to see her, which didn't go over well with her. She thinks that my cat will die from stress from the 12 hour plane ride.

I'm wondering if anyone has any experiences with bringing their cats as pet cargo for long flights. The process to bring him will only require a vet visit, rabies vaccine, microchip, and a 21 day wait before flying. Overall it seems quite doable to me. I'm not feeling good about having to give up my best catfriend in the world just because he wouldn't sustain an overseas flight. He's about seven years old right now, so I know he's got a lot of years left and I really want my sidekick back.

Is it that hard for cats to fly for 12 hours? Any anecdotes, tips, advise, etc. on cat travel would be very much appreciated.
posted by side effect to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I flew both my cats from New Zealand to Ireland. They went cargo, it took a lot longer than 12 hours, and there were three flights in total (plus a three hour drive at the end). They arrived looking totally laid back and unfussed by it all, I definitely found it more stressful than they did. Note that these are cats that get all het up driving five minutes to the vet and that hate strangers and are genrally pretty shy. I think they realised very early on in teh trip there was no point fussing, and they really were totally fine with it all. I found an excellent company to move which made it a lot easier and that part is pretty important I think. Try to get personal recommendations if you can.

You'll get all kinds of overwrought people telling you how terrible this is but actually, everyone I know that has moved their cat long distance (which is more than a few) has found it to be no big deal. The cost can be pretty exhorbitant though, so be prepared for that.
posted by shelleycat at 6:26 AM on September 25, 2011

No, you won't kill your cat. There's a good thread here you might want to look at.

My folks' cat, The Furry Bomber, absolutely hated going by car and wouldn't have enjoyed travel by air one iota but she survived not only a trip from Africa home + 6 months of quarantine but another trip out to the Far East and back + another 6 months of quarantine.

On the second trip back she was joined by our other cat who was about 14 at the time. Both survived, neither showed any ill effects of either the quarantine or the journey, physical or mentally.

I think it killed my folks more to put the cats through quarantine than in did harm to the cats.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:30 AM on September 25, 2011

My GF's cat, who is a little precious, did the trip from Sydney to London a while go.

It survived, but it didn't seem terribly happy at the time.
posted by jannw at 6:47 AM on September 25, 2011

Geeze I hope not as I am about to embark on a 20+ hour road trip with my sister's cats!!! My sis's cats are currently 1/2 was to their new home from Alaska to Oklahoma, the second half of their journey will include a mild sedation thanks to a wonderful vet. But your cat's trip should be fine, and I am sure all cats mentioned above will be happy to have their owners back! =D (maybe your mom has grown attached to your cat?)
posted by Jayed at 6:50 AM on September 25, 2011

Depends on the weather. If it's too hot or too cold, that's usually what kills animals in cargo. Keep in mind the cargo hold is not climate controlled.

It may be possible (and cheaper) to bring your cat into the passenger section as your carryon. There is a fee, and I suggest sedation because most people don't like the sonic wonders of a frustrated kitty.

Check with your airline. If carrying aboard is not an option (will depend mostly on quarantine rules), cargo should be fine.
posted by bilabial at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2011

I'm going against the grain here, but wouldn't kitty be happier where she is? You've already uprooted her to stay with Mom, now that she's settled you plan to move her again?
posted by Gungho at 7:19 AM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

I brought a rabbit on a much shorter flight, as carry-on in the cabin. The reason I mention it is that rabbits are notoriously delicate and terrified of everything but by about fifteen minutes into the flight she had stopped hunching in the corner and was hopping around casually munching on hay. I don't think it's a big deal! "Uprooting" her should be fine. She's a cat.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:39 AM on September 25, 2011

Your mom loves the cat, too. She wants to keep him. That's why she said that.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:04 AM on September 25, 2011 [16 favorites]

Talk to your vet about getting drugs for your cat- specifically ace. Also, doing a search of metafilter may help you with answers.
posted by TheBones at 8:12 AM on September 25, 2011

I told my mother that I would be bringing him back with me on my next visit to see her, which didn't go over well with her. She thinks that my cat will die from stress from the 12 hour plane ride.

I think your mom is attached to the cat and wants to keep him.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:54 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

or, exactly what J. Wilson said
posted by Wordwoman at 8:55 AM on September 25, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far. I just wanted to add for clarification:

The pet cargo hold will be climate controlled. I wish I could bring him as carry on, but for long flights they can't ride in the cabin.

He's been uprooted multiple times through my many moves since I adopted him and always ends up adjusting.

Your mom loves the cat, too. She wants to keep him. That's why she said that.

My mom does love my cat, but everyone who meets my cat loves him, cause he's seriously awesome. But I'm not sure that's reason for me to let her have him now after my five years of raising him. She already has two cats and two small dogs of her own. I suppose having to work around her will be a bit of an obstacle. I hope I won't have to post another question later on regarding what to do about my cat being kid(cat)napped.
posted by side effect at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just be careful if he's a short snouted breed like a Persian as they can have respiratory problems flying. Some airlines won't take short snouted dogs for this reason. Make sure the cat is microchipped as animals do get out of the cages. Some airlines like them to have collars on and some don't, check with your airline. If not attach the collar with a tag to the outside of the cage. Don't put any toys in with the cat, but a familiar blanket might be nice.

Don't sedate your cat for a plane trip, if they have a reaction or are sleepy and vomit from the drugs they can die. Also don't feed too heavily before hand. Most airlines have rules which may seem silly or fussy to you but they have them for a reason so its always best to make sure you have a nice secure crate for shipping and to follow the instructions you'll be given. Label everything clearly, make sure all your contact and flight details are plastered all over the crate and you have all paperwork in order, especially if connecting flights are involved make sure you have plenty of time at the stop over airport to make sure your cat makes the connecting flight.
posted by wwax at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2011

One other thing, you can't sedate your cat while he flies. It's a really bad idea for several medically sound reasons (the changes in air pressure can really change how the sedative works, so they either might freak out more or become too sedated and die), no decent vet will do it, and most airlines specifically won't accept a sedated cat anyway due to the increased change of fatality. People always suggest it because, on the surface, it seems like a great idea, but it's not.

The pet cargo for my cats was climate controlled too, they had food and water the whole time, and the IATA cages are really sturdy and a decent size. I'm sure it wasn't a huge amount of fun, but they were comfortable the whole way.
posted by shelleycat at 10:02 AM on September 25, 2011

I brought a cat up from Peru one time - good 12 - 16 hour flight with two stops. As my stops were several hours, I was able to retrieve the cat and take it outside for a bit and then reload it on the next flight. It was not a climate controlled cargo - and I was shocked how cold the cat was when I retrieved it.

I sedated the cat with valium. Fortunately in Peru, you can buy it on the street.
If I had to do it again - I would still sedate. I would find a better way to secure water and food in the carrier. I'm sure nowadays there are better options available.

I think the biggest hassle was all the paper work! Took me over a month to complete the Peruvian papers. Make sure you know all the documentation requirements - for both countries.

And then when I got to my final destination (Canada) they said they lost the cat!. Brought me several dogs in carriers ...*sigh* - "it's a cat - C-A-T!". Four hours later, they found it.

It was really out of sorts for several days - pacing, howling, refusing to eat or sleep etc... Ran away twice, but fortunately returned. Eventually, it settled down. I moved several times during that year and it actually adjusted to all the moves very fast.

In Peru, there were vultures that would sit outside my apartment - just waiting for the cat to slip up. But here - it had to adjust to bigger vultures - traffic!. Oh, and the canned food (yeck!).
posted by what's her name at 11:23 AM on September 25, 2011

DO NOT sedate your cat unless it's traveling with you and you can monitor throughout the flight. Since you say this isn't an option, DO NOT sedate your cat.

Sedation messes with a cat's physical equilibrium. The cat becomes less able to control its body temperature, etc. The drugs can have unpredictable effects with changing air pressure, etc. It is not quite playing Russian roulette with your cat's life, but it's still an increase in risk.

I see multiple people suggesting sedating your cat, but DO NOT sedate your cat. Especially not with valium you bought on the street.

That is, unless you think your cat will have truly spectacular levels of freakout that will actually endanger its life, and you can consult with a reputable vet first.

Before you decide what to do, you really do need to check with the regulations of your particular country. There may be paperwork and quarantines to worry about.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:03 PM on September 25, 2011

Who told you for long flights they can't be in the cabin? That is absolutely not true. Most airlines, however, will only allow two pets per flight, so you'll need to book early, and sometimes there are no pets allowed in business class. The fee, the last time I did it, was about $200 on an international flight.

Brave Sir Nigel has flown from New York to Bangkok (18-hour nonstop) and back to the States (3 flights that took about a total of 30 hours travel time, and Lily's made the same 30-hour return from Bangkok to the U.S. It is not that big a deal.
posted by cyndigo at 1:50 PM on September 25, 2011

Did (3) 8 - 10 hour days by car in a row with 2 cats with no probs as a datapoint, PHX to ATL, had 'em stashed in a banker's box...they've also done air (in-cabin) ATL to STL...
posted by Exchequer at 3:51 PM on September 25, 2011

Best answer: Who told you for long flights they can't be in the cabin? That is absolutely not true.

There are plenty of routes, including anything from New Zealand, where that absolutely *is* true (and strictly enforced). Any decent international pet moving company will be able to give the definitive word for wherever you're flying.
posted by shelleycat at 11:39 AM on September 26, 2011

Response by poster: Hey everyone, thanks for the responses. Just wanted to update that my cat made the trip without a hitch and has been going about his cat business as usual in the new place.
posted by side effect at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

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