Feline Move Post Coast-to-Coast
July 25, 2005 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I am moving from the West Coast to the East Coast and I'm wondering what the best way to move my beloved cat. I was originally going to bring her on my flight as a carry-on, but I'm thinking that the plane ride may be too long in a small pet carrier. There is also the option of checking her in as luggage, but most airlines don't allow this in the summer months (i.e. the time I'm moving). Any suggestions? Shipping is also an option; any suggestions on airline-friendly kennels that can attach water and food? Also, to sedate or not to sedate?
posted by Dante5Inferno to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I took my cat with me cross-country once on a plane. I also drove cross-country with two cats in a car. Planes are better, for cats. I got a cat carrier that she had been allowed to check out and sniff beforehand. I brought water and food with me, not in dishes in the carrier. I wasn't going to sedate her, but brought some kittie sedatives just in case and wound up using them in the airport because she was really yowl-y. I planned a direct flight but wound up with one stop-over. I got her out to walk around during the layover and had water and food for her but she didn't want much of either and was pretty groggy. In fact at first I was worried I had nearly killed her by oversedating, she was that out.

All in all we were travelling for ten hours or so. It was less than ideal, but she slept it off the next day and was no worse for wear by the next evening. I felt more comfortable having her with me instead of in some luggage compartment. Here is my advice if you travel with her

+ if you're usually a public transpo sort of person, get a friend to drive you to/from the airports so you can take the cat out of the car right up until you get to the airport, and can take her out again right when you leave. We had a litter box for the car on the way home, but it didn't seem necessary.
+ have a leash for the cat so that you can take her in or out of the carrier at x-ray points or at layover stops if you need to
+ check out everything with the airport ahead of time [extra fees, size of carrier, health certificates] so that on the day of your trip, you're much less stressed
+ bring very little else with you carry-on so you can focus on your cat and not be lugging a ton of other junk.

I had a soft sided cat carrier from PetSmart that was pretty easy to lug around, had a removable little towel/pad for the cat to lie on, zip down flaps on all sides, and was pretty lightweight and fit under the seat. I can't say I'd be thrilled to do the whole thing over again, but it wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be.
posted by jessamyn at 8:27 PM on July 25, 2005

My husband and I moved our two cats from New York to Los Angeles in the fall of 2003, each in their own carrier, under our seats on the plane. It was definitely the way to go; do not put them under the plane like luggage, because the airlines lose a lot of pets every year. I padded their carriers with absorbent liners, but they didn't go to the bathroom (or eat or drink or do much of anything, really, except sit quietly and be scared) for the 6-7 hours it took to go door-to-door. Make sure you get them checked out by a vert right before you go so you can get official travel papers from the vet authorizing them to fly. Our airline didn't check them, but yours might.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:49 PM on July 25, 2005

...by a vet, that is.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:51 PM on July 25, 2005

Do not put them under the plane like luggage, because the airlines lose a lot of pets every year.

The US Department of Transportation's monthly reports on air travel now include information on pets.

According to this article, the first report shows that most pet travel is relatively safe. Specifically, in May 2005 there were:

four deaths, five injuries and one loss. Two of the incidents — both injuries — were blamed on the airline. The others were pegged on inadequate kennels, natural causes and, in one case, an attack by another animal.

I do agree that under-the-seat is better for the animal (less trauma) than traveling as luggage.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:53 PM on July 25, 2005

If you've ever had a really nervous cat you'd know that they can easily spend twelve or fourteen hours on end basically just cowering in terror in the same spot, like, daily - I hate kitty trauma as much as anybody, but overall cats are pretty well adapted to doing this if they have to. They are dry-climate animals, after all. He'll be okay. I mean, he may be wigged out for a week or two, but often as not that's how cats get used to new surroundings, so I don't know how you'd tell what's causing it.
posted by furiousthought at 10:35 PM on July 25, 2005

My aged cat always did well on relocation plane trips (although 3 hours was the longest duration) in a carrier stowed beneath the seat in front of me. Our vet advised against sedation based on her age. I found she was less verbally upset if kept in the dark; I usually tossed a thin, dark fabric over the top of the carrier. Although I was happy to take advantage of it, it never failed to amaze me that airlines allow this practice in the passenger cabin. Some people (my husband included) are profoundly allergic!
posted by DawnSimulator at 10:36 PM on July 25, 2005

i moved from manila to new york and brought my dog along, 24 hours travelling time total, not a problem at all. he came on the plane with me in a soft side bag, which is much better than a hard carrier because they are far roomier (and the largest sizes still fit under the chair in front of you), also you can unzip them a little if you want to scratch your cat's ears or whatever during takeoff or have them in your lap during the flight. sherpa makes great airline-approved carriers, i highly recommend them, but any airline-approved bag should do.

jessamyn is totally right about getting a leash for inspections, other things to do:

- make sure the airline knows well in advance you are bringing your cat along. the ones that do a) have a limited number of animals allowed in the cabin and b) will make you pay for a pet ticket, usually about $25 or so.
- have your cat get everything out of her system well before you get to the airport; don't feed her a meal at any time before or during the flight. a few hours without eating won't kill her, but they will keep her from pooping. water is fine, as are a few treats (especially during takeoff and landing when the cabin pressure changes).
- a familiar toy, towel/pillow/blanket in the carrier might be a good idea, depending on your animal.
- make sure tags and microchips are up to date!

in any case, make the decision as to what pet carrier you will be using ASAP so that you have as much time as possible to get your cat as comfortable in it. good luck!
posted by lia at 10:37 PM on July 25, 2005

I've taken my cat on two roundtrips between Chicago and California. The most recent trip was over ten hours of travel time, including two on public transportation. It wasn't ideal, but I don't think he has much lasting resentment about it. Of course, you know best how your own cat will react to an airplane ride.

I second the advice to buy a sherpa bag. The first trip, I used a non-soft-sided carrier and it was a huge pain in the ass and didn't even completely fit under the seat (fortunately we'd taken off before anyone noticed, otherwise I'd have had to move him to cargo).

Apparently you can buy disposable travel litterpans and food and water dishes (or so the brochure that came with my sherpa bag tells me) but I never have. Once I tried to give him a can of food but he didn't eat any and it made a HUGE mess, so I think treats might be better.

I've actually found that the fee for in-cabin pet transport is a bit high. The cheapest I could find was Delta, which was $50 one way. Generally it seems to be around $100. The rates are usually buried somewhere on the airline's website. Make sure to check the websites for specific info- some airlines don't allow pets at all (I know Southwest doesn't).
posted by granted at 12:45 AM on July 26, 2005

My friends had their cat send from NC to Seattle by plane. As luck would have it, my friend's mother worked for a vet, and was able to get a sedative (injection?) for the cat, so it was asleep the whole flight. I don't know if that's an option for us normal people, but you could call around vets' offiices and ask about sedatives.
posted by zardoz at 3:56 AM on July 26, 2005

I've traveled with cats by plane, train and car with no long-lasting kitty trauma.

I would discuss sedation with your vet. My vet recommended a half tablet of Benadryl one hour before travel to calm our cats.

Some airlines require you to present documentation that the animal you are transporting is healthy. This seems to be a standard form that your vet can fill out within two weeks of your travel date. However, your vet will probably require you to bring the cat in for an exam.

Not to encourage scofflawery, but the one time I traveled on a plane with a cat I paid the cat fee ($50) for the outbound flight but didn't bother on the return flight as no one asked me for any kind of documentation either coming or going. This was about two years ago.
posted by Sully6 at 7:00 AM on July 26, 2005

A cat won't eat when he or she is scared, which she definitely will be on an airplane flight. So there's no food necessary (bring some treats just in case, or in case your cat is strange).

It's really fine to fly with your cat. Except for the outrageous $80 each way charge I paid (on United). This got reimbursed by my employer, but still: outrageous.
posted by zpousman at 8:20 AM on July 26, 2005

A little off-topic: my cats are fine traveling, but really uncomfortable in a new place with no furniture. On our last move our first purchase was a tiny cat tree with a tube they could hide in, and they were much happier.
posted by Aknaton at 8:54 AM on July 26, 2005

Seems like folks have this one pretty well covered, but I'll add that when it comes to sedation: don't. The trip will be stressful, but if your kitty is woozy and disoriented, it's actually more stressful than if she has her faculties about her.

My aunt's vet recommended a whopping dose of Rescue Remedy, which worked wonders when she flew cross country with her (in the cabin).
posted by Specklet at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2005

I've had wonderful success flying with small dogs when sedating them with children's chewable benedryl. They mellow out, then pretty much sleep the whole time. In my opinion, their trips were much smoother when they were sedated, and they didn't have all the anxiety that they'd had otherwise. I've never flown with cats, though. CMMV.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:49 PM on July 26, 2005

When my wife and I flew with our two cats, five years ago, one thing we encountered was a limit by airlines on the number of animals allowed on any given flight. As in - if someone else has a pet on board, you can't bring yours. If this restriction is still in place (which wouldn't surprise me - there must be some limit), you obviously want to make reservations well ahead of time. And you want to do it over the phone, to make reservations for you and your pet at the same time, of course.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:53 PM on July 31, 2005

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