My cat, Isabelle, has accompanied me on more than 35 flights in the past two and a half years. She even has her own European Union pet passport, so she has definitely reached frequent flier status. We’ve flown between North America, South America, and Europe, accumulating thousands of miles and dozens of hours in the air.
Throughout that time, I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to make flying as simple as possible for both of us. We are full-time digital nomads, learning lessons about what actually works (and what doesn’t). Below, my favorite gear to make flying with a cat (or dog) a breeze, even on long-hauls.
Jump to recommendations for:
A trusty pet carrier
Packable calming treats
A comfy blanket
An organized folder
What not to bring
When I first started traveling with my cat, I purchased a collapsible travel litter box. If you’re going on a short trip, this could be effective, but I found it much more trouble than it was worth. I typically stay in a destination for months at a time, so I buy a litter box on arrival. Collapsible litter boxes are fabric, so you’ll never fully be able to get the smell out. They’re also relatively small if you have a larger cat like mine.
While every airline has slightly different restrictions, you typically have two options for flying with a cat or dog: in the cabin or the cargo hold. If your pet is small, it can travel with you in the cabin. If it is too large, it must go in the cargo hold.
General carry-on pet requirements:
- The pet should be at least 8–16 weeks of age.
- You cannot sit in an exit row, bulkhead seat, or any seat without floor storage, like lie-flat seats.
- The kennel must be soft-sided, leak-proof, and have ventilation.
- The exact size requirement will depend on the aircraft, but the kennel I recommended earlier is standard for most planes.
- There’s also typically a weight limit for carry-on pets, which is usually around 17–22 pounds.
- Cost varies depending on the route, but can be up to $200 for an international flight.
Contact your airline directly to find the most up-to-date information, learn about restrictions, and book your pet’s ticket well before travel.
Before any international flight, know that you must go to your veterinarian and get an exam and any required vaccinations for your destination. Then, your veterinarian will fill out paperwork and submit it to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which will review everything. They will issue your paperwork and send it to you or your veterinarian. You cannot start this process more than 10 days before your departure.