Air travel is surprisingly inexpensive for small animals like cats and its speed makes it an excellent way of getting from A to B, when A and B are a long way apart. This means that the period of distress for the cat is minimised and it is subjected to far fewer alarming experiences than it would be in, say, a car or a train. It is essential to check the airline’s rules, which may require a health certificate and a particular design of cat carrier.
Your cat is unlikely to be able to travel with you in the cabin: much of the time cats have to be kept in the freight area. Holding facilities with specially trained staff are to be found at major airports.
If your cat is travelling abroad, you should check with the consulate of the country that you’re going to regarding any health certificate and quarantine regulations. You should also check with the airline concerned to find out what their procedures are.
Certain regulations are laid down by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), while others are applied by particular airlines.
Are there any age restrictions that apply to cats? Do they travel in the passenger cabin or in the hold? Are there any regulations governing the material and construction of the containers that they are required to travel in? You need to find out all these things –and comply with them – before your cat can travel.
If the trip that the cat is going to make involves crossing either national borders between countries or state lines in the USA, you should consider employing a shipping agent specialising in the transportation of small animals. They will deal with all the documentation and insurance, and advise on any necessary vaccination.
They will also provide a special container and check the animal on and off the plane. This service will obviously cost you extra, but it is well worth it in terms of the time and aggravation that it can save you.
The cat will probably have to be booked in at the freight department within a certain time before departure. The animal should be given a light meal and a little drink two hours before you deliver it to the airline office. Holding areas in major airports have special runs for the cat, and handlers to provide food and water. Your cat will, however, spend the flight in the cat carrier that you provide.
DEALING WITH NERVES
If you expect your cat to be particularly nervous, you should speak to your vet about this, who may suggest that you give it a prescribed tranquilliser. Administer this before departure according to the instructions that the vet gives you.
It may help your cat to feel less afraid during air travel if you put a familiar item, such as a favourite toy or blanket, in the cat’s container.
According to statistics, air travel is by far the most common form of transport used by animals making international journeys.
There are regulations covering the export and import of cats to and from almost every country in the world. Some are stricter than others, with those in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii being among the strictest. These are all countries where rabies does not exist and which are therefore keen on keeping it that way.