how do i transport my cat from nyc to montreal?
February 8, 2016 1:59 PM   Subscribe

So, my cat is too big to fit in the small pet carrier that's allowed for Delta flights between nyc and montreal, so I can't take my cat as a carry-on. It doesn't look like I can take my cat with me via greyhound or amtrak, so, what are my alternatives?
posted by and they trembled before her fury to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (also, how bad an idea is it to just sneak my cat onto a greyhound bus?)
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 2:03 PM on February 8, 2016

Best answer: Delta has extremely stringent requirements for the sizing and weight of your pet carrier, but in reality the underseat space is much larger, even on the relatively smaller expressjet planes going the short distances. Every time I book my dog on a flight I lie and give them the dimensions for a Sherpa small size carrier and tell them he's 17lbs. In real life he has a Sherpa large size carrier and is closer to 23lbs. I have a pretty small dog but I'd be surprised if your cat is bigger than him. I have flown with him a whole bunch and nobody cares. Delta just needs to be able to plug the right numbers into their system.

If you have a soft-sided carrier you can make it fit into the underseat space.
posted by phunniemee at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2016 [10 favorites]

There are companies that transport pets, even internationally, as a service. Sorry I can't recommend a specific provider but this is a thing that exists.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2016

Can you drive? I would rent a car if I could drive but didn't own one myself.

What are your budget limitations for figuring this out?

I would not try to sneak a cat on a bus for over 6 hours, that will never work.
posted by instead of three wishes at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: phunniemee, thanks, I think that's exactly what I needed to hear. I flew into NYC today and there does look to be a lot of underseat space, so it might work out. I'll still take other ideas though, while the thread is open. Anyone have any experience with commercial pet transport services?
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 2:11 PM on February 8, 2016

Can you buy a seat for your cat on the plane? Call delta and see if they would be chill with that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:12 PM on February 8, 2016

Best answer: I would recommend, however, to do some creative fussing with the bag to keep it from being an object of focus (move it around a lot, keep it out of sight, do a routine worthy of vaudeville when you have to put your bags on the scale, etc) in the very, very small chance your gate check person happens to be good at estimating dimensions and has a hard on for small time powertrips. Like I said, I have never had a problem, but you probably don't want to go around flaunting it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:13 PM on February 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

My experience is similar to phunniemee's but on American. I use the medium sherpa which American says is too big but I've never had an issue.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:21 PM on February 8, 2016

Best answer: The medium size Sherpa bag mentioned above is what I have and have used on probably two dozen flights on different airlines with no issue.

Just so you know, you will need to take your cat out at security and hand carry it through an old school metal detector. (Note, not the "hands above your head" body scan kind.) They'll have to swab your hands and then send you on you way, but your cat will be in your arms at this point. Many cats get spooked with all the noise and may try to escape, so it would probably be a good idea to have a collar on the cat with your information on it.
posted by Flamingo at 2:22 PM on February 8, 2016 [10 favorites]

I've flown my cats cross country in the cargo hold of the plane. You'll need a plastic pet crate, not a soft-sided one. The cargo shipping place is not always in the main airport, in Denver it was on the road to the airport and I stopped there on my way up. You pay a small fee (around $100, I think? It's by weight.) and they get put in a temperature controlled, pressurized area near the checked luggage. There are handlers to keep an eye on them, and you can even have them fed and watered if you need. They get brought into a special room in the baggage claim area for you to collect them.

The handlers were all really sweet to my kitties, and my adventurous cat had a great time getting played with and petted. My wimpy cat was terrified, but he would have been even if he'd been in the cabin.
posted by ananci at 2:33 PM on February 8, 2016

Best answer: There's a ton of great info at on which kinds of planes have the most underseat space, tips for flying different airlines, etc. I had to fly with my dog a whole bunch last year and found it super helpful to know which planes and seats were quietest and which might have weird protrusions that limit underseat space etc. when choosing my flights.
posted by HotToddy at 2:46 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This old question of mine might be relevant to your interests. Multiple people assured me that big cats fly in the cabin all the time and the airline personnel barely notice them. This is what I observed too - they do not bat an eye.
posted by bleep at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2016

On the recommendation of, I used the large Sturdibag for getting my two 10lb dogs from NYC to Hawaii (one for each dog). We flew Jet Blue to California and Alaska Air to Maui, the bags fit under our coach seats (middle and window) without issue and we didn't have any problems at check in. No one weighed the bags, or really even gave them a second glance at all. We were going to go for the medium size, since the large is technically "too big" for the plane, but they were too cramped in that size when we tried it. Per Dogjaunt, people have also been successful using the XL Sturdibag, though trimming the foamcore base is recommended so that you can put it sideways under the seat if asked.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:13 PM on February 8, 2016

It really depends on the size of the plane, I think. I could barely fit a 12lb puppy in a small sherpa under the seat in a JetBlue flight from SYR to NYC, but luckily the flight crew were all so moved by his tragic whimperings that he spent most of the ride in a series of laps having his tummy rubbed.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:26 PM on February 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just so you know, you will need to take your cat out at security and hand carry it...Many cats get spooked ...

If there's any chance that having a harness on will not freak your cat out, that might be a good idea. Make sure you choose a really secure harness (cheap ones are sometimes easy for cats to back out of). A harness will give you a better grip on your cat than not wearing a harness.

Don't try to attach a leash to just a cat collar, by the way.
posted by amtho at 4:29 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've had security ask me to take the harness of my cat at the metal detector, but in happier news I have a large cat and a large soft sided carrier and it's always fit under the seat and never caused a problem with the various airlines.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2016

Hi, weighing (ha!) in with two ample cats who regularly get shoved under seats in planes. Our big guy clocks in at 19 lbs and fits just fine. He would clearly be happier in a larger space, but does ok. We got this thing that has a fold out patio - once we're flying we open the patio and it gives him some extra space, FAs say that as long as the patio is folded in for landing it is within policy. Oh yes - we fly Delta, too.
posted by arnicae at 6:40 PM on February 8, 2016

Yep, nthing that you will be fine. I recently flew with my mother's Bengal. He is HUGE and he was totally content under the seat. The TSA people were more excited to pet him then to measure his crate.
posted by Marinara at 7:18 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

My 19 pounder has several flights (including long haul international ones) under his belt, and has done just fine under the seat. He can turn around, stand up, and seems comfortable in a smaller carrier than one might expect given his expansiveness (cats have no bones), and I definitely do the harness thing, clipping it to the inside of the carrier. And uh...yeah, another vote for white lies regarding the weight requirement. In my experience, they don't check, though I did once have a clever friend with me who snatched him off the scale he happened to be resting on at the check-in counter.
posted by knuspermanatee at 7:23 PM on February 8, 2016

Response by poster: update: i was able to successfully bring my cat over. gate agent never asked to look at the (medium sherpa) kennel at all, so I just hid it from her behind the counter, and all went well. yay! now to figure out how to get kitty to find/use the new litter box :(
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 4:50 PM on February 15, 2016

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