- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Safety of bringing kitty on long-haul flight?

January 27th, 2009, 01:34 PM
Hello, I am new to this forum and joined because I am absolutely torn between taking a job in Thailand and whether or not to bring my cats from the U.S. with me. I cannot bear the thought of leaving my cats behind! I have done all the research about importing them to Thailand (ie customs etc.) and that is all doable. The only thing making me hesitate is the arduous journey. I will only fly if they come in the cabin with me (I have even enlisted my mom to fly over with me so she can bring one of them, as airlines only allow 1 pet per person). Nonetheless, I want to be sure they aren't going to suffer long-term effects from making such a journey. The female goes into panic mode in the car, panting. I had to drive with her from Michigan to Texas last year and she was practically panting the whole way (presumably to calm herself down?). She lays down and is still, but never falls asleep. The male doesn't like traveling but he seems to handle it better. Whenever I have had to move with them (long car trips), they seem really uncomfortable during the trip, but they adjust extremely quickly once they get inside the new place and go back to normal almost immediately. This encourages me that they can handle the adjustment. It is rather the trip itself - which will amount to at least 26 hours door-to-door, 18 hours on the LAX-BKK leg alone - that worries me.

I would love feedback from others who have flown with cats. Are there possible long-term side effects? I have heard that it is not safe to tranquilize them, which is unfortunate because I would love to sedate them so they aren't so miserable during the trip. Anyway, feedback will be much appreciated. I want to do what's best for them, in my opinion that is for them to stay with me rather than go to some stranger...but the flight is a major concern.



January 27th, 2009, 01:48 PM
First thing to do is to keep things in perspective and remember that dogs and cats fly all over the world each and every day. So do all manner of other kinds of livestock, including some very expensive, highly tuned show horses.

Whether the animal can come in the cabin with you will depend on the individual airline's policy. But for such a long haul, I'd recommend not. Better to put each in a large carrier that has room for food and water and litter inside. No doubt someone sells something suitable with provision for food and toilet needs.

Otherwise, you're cooping the darlings up in under-the-seat carriers for, as you say, at least 18 hours on the longest segment.

Do not sedate. A vet will tell you it's better that they are aware of their surroundings and can vent their feelings about it.

In 1991, we moved from Victoria BC to Toronto. We drove. A 5-day trip. We left our cat with the vet with instructions on the day and flight to get her to. She flew on 3 planes, just because that was the routing available on that day. In cargo. Victoria to Vancouver. Vancouver to Calgary. Calgary to Toronto. Travelling from about sun-up in BC to sundown in Toronto. We went to the Toronto cargo terminal to get her, heard a barking sound on the conveyor belt. It wasn't a dog. It was our cat! But she was perfectly fine. And lived to a long and healthy 18-and-a-half-years-of-age.

January 27th, 2009, 02:23 PM
I agree with not having them in the cabin. It will be far less stressful in a reasonably sized crate (not too big) with their blankie in the luggage compartment. You have to provide a water container in case there is an unexpected delay but it is recommended that you not feed them during the journey - you should check with the vet if they can go that long without eating. Generally they're not interested in eating anyway. A litterbox would not be allowed, which is why they recommend something absorbent under the blankie. Accidents happen.

Maybe you could organize your flights so that you have a few hours at LAX, in which case they would be unloaded and you could probably see them and even give them some time out of their crates (you could fit them with collars and take along a leash) and a few treats for being brave.

January 27th, 2009, 03:03 PM
Here is a thread from someone travelling to the Scotland...

Good Luck

January 27th, 2009, 08:17 PM
Thanks for all the replies. I have to say I am really shocked at the advice to not bring them in the cabin. Cats (mine, at least) tend to huddle up in a corner when they are scared, so I don't know that having extra space is such a huge advantage over being able to be near me and hear my voice. I feel like being in a soft carrier that I can hopefully put on my lap during the flight would be less stressful than in a cargo hold (not to mention more comfortable in terms of temperature).

But I could be wrong! But I would have serious concerns about them being traumatized if they travel that whole way in cargo.


January 27th, 2009, 10:35 PM
I think you could have a problem with other passengers when the kitties do "their business" in the crate. I have seen some pets that have been approved for in-cabin denied access to the cabin due to complaints from other passengers re allergies, etc. etc. - and this was before the plane took off. I would have to agree with flying your cats in the cargo area because I think the flight is too long with 2 cats unable to use the facilities - and the absorbent material in the crate in-cabin would I expect still offend a non pet lover - and probably some pet lovers sitting next to you. Sad, but true.

January 27th, 2009, 10:49 PM
I was just going to say that. I mean some passengers lose it when a baby is crying throughout a flight, I dunno how some would react to panting possibly yodelling ( my cat does that) kitties :shrug:

Also as a person who has asthma and allergies that are controlled with my kitties but not so great with other kitties, i can understand someone who would have a problem sitting next to a person and their cats on the plane. I would suck it up, but I also have an aunt goes blue in the face when she visits us (and she stopped visiting us!) she has a rescue inhaler but asking someone like her to sit next to/near a cat for that long in a confined space is a bit much!

January 27th, 2009, 11:13 PM
Trust me, they will be OK and you will be too. They'll just hunker down and wait it out, secure in their cage. And please don't medicate them, it could very well make things worse. Vets no longer recommend it.

January 28th, 2009, 07:33 AM
Personally, I would never put a cat in cargo hold, but that's just me. I would much rather have them under my supervision at all times.

January 28th, 2009, 10:13 AM
OK, full disclosure: I'm a pilot.

Just as you cannot hold luggage in your lap -- it must fit in the overhead bin or be stored under the seat in front of you -- you would never be permitted to hold a cat carrier in your lap. It's an international air safety law.

Now, more importantly, you need to start looking at the actual pet policies of various airlines.
For instance:

Air Canada allows no pets in-cabin at all anymore. Except those for the disabled.
American Airlines allows no pets in-cabin on international routes.
Thai Air accepts no pets in-cabin.

Airlines also have pet container requirements. For instance, British Airways requires that the container must be large enough for the cat to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural manner.

The trip will be stressful, but it's temporary. They'll get over it and be happy to see you at the other end.

If you give up your pets because you're worried about a day's worth of discomfort to them, you'll regret it the moment you get off the plane in Thailand and be kicking yourself for the rest of your life. Honestly.

Pets fly everyday.

January 28th, 2009, 10:38 AM
I have travelled all over the world with cats and dogs -

2 cats - NY to London
1 cat - London - NY
1 dog - London - Sydney
1 dog - Sydney - NY

Please, DO NOT worry about your kitties in the cargo hold - it is a separate area from the suitcases, it is temperature controlled and pressurized, nothing will happen to them - as for the stress levels, they get used to the compartment very quickly and they will sleep most of the way.

The reason your kitty panted in the car all the way is because she was distracted and awake the whole way, looking out the window, looking at you, etc...

I promise you, they fall asleep under there!

Do not take them in the cabin, the space under the seat is very small and they will be cramped and smelly!

Yes, they will wet their crate, but when you get there, you groom them and all is done.

Cats do very well on long haul flights, better than dogs.

Most importantly DO NOT SEDATE! A lot of comlications arise from sedation at altitude, plus, no sedation lasts that long, and you don't want them "waking up" halfway through the flight

Take them with you, they will have a great flight and they will not be traumatized...

:thumbs up

January 28th, 2009, 10:57 AM
Do not consider leaving your cats behind due to a day or two of discomfort.

I do not have any experience with flying an animal, but do have experience sedating when traveling in a car. It was not positive and stopped the sedation on the second day.

January 28th, 2009, 07:12 PM
Personally, I would never put a cat in cargo hold, but that's just me. I would much rather have them under my supervision at all times.

Hope that you never need to make a long distance (i.e. flying distance) move.
In-cabin is pretty much impossible.
As another posted noted, animals are not placed with the baggage.
And, as I noted, all sorts of other animals travel safely in cargo all the time. Including highly-strung competition horses. For instance, those that compete at the Olympic level. Those horses, like human athletes, travel to competitions around the globe to qualify for the Olympics. Horses worth a million dollars travel via cargo all the time. No owner would risk a million dollar investment unless this kind of travel was safe and assured.

January 28th, 2009, 07:31 PM
Hey there ! Thanks for sharing that information. I always wondered what it was really like for pets flying. I guess for some reason I always thought they would be cold or too hot in the cargo area?? silly of me really??? Your point about the horses going on a plane is amazing to think of?? alot of misconceptions out there too!

Thanks again! although I hate flying its good to know what its really like! :laughing:

January 28th, 2009, 10:15 PM
Hope that you never need to make a long distance (i.e. flying distance) move.

Nope, not something I would consider while I have pets.

As another posted noted, animals are not placed with the baggage.

Indeed cargo and checked baggage are separate, but animals do travel as checked bags in some situations. It's important to make that distinction when booking a flight.

And, as I noted, all sorts of other animals travel safely in cargo all the time.

Oh absolutely. But having special needs cats has made me too paranoid to consider it as an option - for me.

Anyway, there's a good sight here with tons of info on flying with pets, including the various policies of some airlines (unfortunately just those in the U.S though):

January 29th, 2009, 08:38 PM

I shipped my cat in the cabin with me from Amsterdam to Chicago on a KLM flight. The seating configuration meant that my boyfriend and I were sitting next to one another alone - so we weren't bothering anyone around us. My cat was in a soft bag and the crew were fine with me having him under my legs for take off and landing. He wasn't stuffed under the seat in front of me. During the flight the bag was on my lap and he snoozed.

A friend of mine who had cat allergies pointed out she would hate having to have a cat next to her on a flight and I have to say I selfishly never thought of that.

My friend flew her cat in the cargo from Amsterdam to Cape Town and the kitty did just fine.

Definitely no sedation! But I would suggest putting Bach Flower Rescue Remedy in the kitties water a month before you fly. Just a few drops a day and it can help them deal with stress a lot more.

I am just about to ship my two cats from Chicago to London - you can only put them in the cargo hold on flights into the UK. I would feel happier having them with me but the cargo hold is fine and I agree with all the advice on here that once they get used to the noise and environment they will just sleep.

I also own two horses that I shipped from New York to London and traveled as a groom to experience the process. Its not great but they do just fine. I think the flight is probably less stressful than the getting to the airport, on the plane and all the various holding and vet checks they have to go through on each side.

If you are curious to see my horses flying you can see a link to them on the flight below. They were basically tired more than anything else.

I would say you shouldn't worry about traveling your pets. They will be a little bit stressed for a day and then they will be back with you and just fine.

Hope this helps!

January 30th, 2009, 09:35 AM
Hi There,
I lived in Thailand for three years. I brought my dog over with me, and ended up rescuing two more dogs and a cat while there.
I brought them all home to Canada with me.

We flew with EVA, and we were not able to bring any of the animals in-cabin. Our cat is not used to travel, but she did just fine. She was absolutley normal when we arrived.

We brought our fur-babies along as checked baggage.
I know you weren't asking for a reputable airline, but I highly recommend EVA for pets.

Don't tranqualize them, but put them in their travel crates with treats daily before you leave. I started with 15 minutes, and worked up to three hours. I felt SOOOOO bad, but I think the practice helped ease their minds. Eventually, they would lie down and sleep. I think I suffered more than them during that time!

You can buy spill - proof water dishes. We filled ours up, and our pets had slurped them dry by the time we arrived - so make sure they have H2O. Another thing to consider is having some kitty litter ready so that as soon as you arrive, and are in an enclosed area, they can "do their thing". Obviously, wait until you are somewhere that the cats can't get away.

It's great that you want to bring them with you. Honestly, some people were really cruel to me - saying that making pets fly is a horrible thing to do. All of my pets were right back to their normal selves after the flights...And much, much happier to be with their people than to have been left behind - although I understand that often, that is the only option.
As for moving to Thailand...if you're an animal lover, get ready for some pretty sad sights. :sad: I will never be the same after having witnessed such carelessness as far as animal care and treatment goes. It's horrendous. Keep your kitties indoors!!!

The flight and preparation are stressful, but once you're done it, you will be happy that you did. :cat: