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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun. 15, 2004

    Default Air flight for cat vs car?

    I am going to be moving cross country, and will be bringing my cat. Problem is, he is a sensitive soul. Would it be better for him to go by car on a 20 hour trip or 4 hour flight? Has anyone flown a cat, and was it a good or bad experience?
    Nobody puts baby in a corner

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr. 14, 2006
    Saco, Maine


    I would take him in the car-at least that way you KNOW what he's doing. Once he leaves your hands at the airport, you have lost control.

    When my 2 cats went to Aiken with me last year (a 20 hour drive) they curled up in their clean litter box and slept the trip away. I had their bed and food and water available for them. They'd get up and have a snack, a wrestle, look out the windows, get a head rub and curl up in the litter box again...
    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr. 14, 2001


    Four hour flight. Hands down. Unless he's huge, you should be able to get him in the cabin in one of these: (If he IS huge and you must fly him as cargo, the car ride gets more attractive.)

    I brought a 9 week old Ridgeback puppy home in the large Sturdibag and she was considerably larger than my cats at that time--15 lbs or so, and all legs.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 24, 2006


    I've always wondered how you would handle going through security with a cat, assuming it would be flying with you in the cabin. The dogs are always taken out of their carrier and carried through the magnetometer, while the carrier goes through the x-ray belt. What in the heck are you supposed to do with a cat?? Mine would claw me to shreds in a lathered panic about being out in the open among hordes of strangers if I had to take her out of her carrier and hold her.

    I've only ever seen dogs go through security- probably because cat owners don't want to lose a limb attempting the process.

    Mine is a very timid, easily rattled cat so I would have to say I would drive rather than fly. Security issues aside, she'd be so freaked by 2 hours in an airport and 5 hours in a plane that I really wouldn't want to try it.

    Can yours fit in the cabin? Or would it be flying in cargo?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep. 5, 2005


    I would drive. But, well before you attempt either plane OR car, get tranquilizers from your vet and test them first.

    Give cat the prescribed dose and then go out and drive around for two hours to check out the effect. Apparently cats can react to tranquilizers by going hyperactive instead of calm.

    Taking a cat through ariport security sounds like a special sort of nightmare.
    I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2010


    Would you be flying with the cat? If so, check with your airline, many will allow small pets (who can fit under the seat in a carrier) in the passenger cabin. Sometimes it's only certain flights. If you can do that, I'd consider flying, it would probably be easier on the cat to be confined for the shorter period of time.

    If it's a choice between shipping the cat as cargo versus driving, I'd choose driving.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May. 3, 2008


    If you're planning to do the drive in 2 days or less, I'd drive.

    I've flown a cat 3 hours (in the cabin) a couple of times and driven one 14 hours. For the flight, my cat is pretty comfortable being held and carried for as long as I want to, so I wasn't overly worried about her trying to get away when I took her out of the carrier to go through security, but I did use a harness on her with a leash and tags and a separate collar with tags when I went through security. It was fine. I also made sure I had long sleeves on. If it's winter and there could be long airport delays, I say go with the car for sure because you don't want to be stuck in the airport with the cat. If it goes to the bathroom in the carrier, the smell will be noticeable on the plane and all of your fellow passengers will hate you.

    For driving, the best advice I got was to take a small litter pan, fill it with litter and place it in a bag large enough to tied closed. Then periodically, stop the car, open the bag and push the sides down around the litter pan, makes sure the doors are closed, take the cat out of the carrier, put it in the litter pan, after it does it's business, retie the bag around the pan.

    The other piece of good advice was to use a larger carrier for the drive than i would normally so that the cat had plenty of room to move around.

    Also, ask your vet for advice about limiting food and water to avoid motion sickness.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2007


    Unless your cat is really cool, I'd drive.

    Flying with cats and cat-sized dogs is very different. Flying in modern times sucks and cats generally aren't willing to co-sign our BS about things that big.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2011


    My husband and I moved cross country in August. We drove for 5 days in a U-haul with our cat AND our betta fish. Both did very well. We got some mild sedatives from our vet for the cat. We ended giving her only half a dose for each day, because that was enough to keep her quiet but not knock her out. We tried stopping every so often to let her drink water and use the litter box, but she didn't feel comfortable doing so at rest areas. We would just let her out in our hotel rooms (we also snuck her in... ) and she would eventually use the litter box and eat/drink after she explored the room and got comfortable. She really did very well. She had no ill effects once we arrived at our new apartment.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 25, 2009


    I have heard that you have to take the cat out of the carrier and carry him through the metal detector while the carrier is x-rayed. I did hear someone say that you can somehow request to be in an enclosed room for this, but I really have no idea about that. If it were me, my biggest concern about the it would be getting through security. Of course you will probably need to be pretty careful about the cat in the car as well.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun. 14, 2006


    I would rather drive, even if it's a little uncomfortable. At least you are there with your critter.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov. 10, 2003
    Here again...


    Quote Originally Posted by Casey09 View Post
    I have heard that you have to take the cat out of the carrier and carry him through the metal detector while the carrier is x-rayed. I did hear someone say that you can somehow request to be in an enclosed room for this, but I really have no idea about that. If it were me, my biggest concern about the it would be getting through security. Of course you will probably need to be pretty careful about the cat in the car as well.

    Yep, that has been my airport experience (domestic and international flights). Cat goes through the metal detector with you, carrier goes through the x-ray machine. Cat clung to me pretty tenaciously though beforehand I was concerned about him running off.

    I have driven and flown with my cat, and I prefer to fly. My cat howls non-stop in the car unless he is allowed out of the cage which I don't think is safe. I have flown with him both inside the plane and as cargo (check the specs for your flight--I found they were different for international flights than for domestic ones). When he flew inside the cabin he was very quiet inside the plane, but it was a very short trip. Whenever he has flown as cargo, he has been just fine once we reach our destination. My vet recommended against sedation for air travel (he was concerned that the animals can smother themselves if they are too deeply sedated and there's nobody around to notice), and I've found that my cat doesn't handle sedation all that well anyway.

    My cat has lived lots of places and has travelled around A LOT (by car, bus, taxi, plane and subway). He has always adapted fine to his situation; YMMV, and I may change how I do things as he ages.
    Founder of the "I met a COTHer in a foreign country" clique!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May. 20, 2008


    I have both flown and driven long distances with cats while showing. For airport security, I would have to take the cat out of the carrier and hold while they looked in the carrier for whatever. Luckily, each time, the cat was cooperative (or too scared to move!). If I had a sensitive cat, I would do the flight. It's over quicker, so less stress time.

  14. #14


    I send my cats by plane, usually cargo/unaccompanied.

    Either a friend watches them until I arrive, and then they ship them to me, or I find a boarding kennel in the new city that does airport pickups and then they pick them up and keep them for a few days until I arrive.

    Given how much my cats hate car rides, I can't imagine subjecting them to days of driving. At least by plane it's over much quicker.

    Also, I second whomever said no sedation if flying. Every vet I've talked to recommended against it, and one or two flat out wouldn't prescribe sedation if they thought the owner would use it for the flight.

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