I'll admit it: I think my dog is better than 90% of the humans I know. Maybe 100%. I love spending time with him, he's always happy to see me, and all I have to do in return is feed him and pick up his poop. It's a good deal! Those with pets will know what I'm talking about. Our animals are our best friends, and we're not ashamed to admit it.
When it comes to travelling, it's always bittersweet, knowing that my furry best friend is in a dog hostel while I'm seeing the world. But it doesn't have to be this way! You can take your dog or cat travelling with you. While getting out of airports is always a hassle, Doing so with your pets requires a little bit extra planning, and a some preparation. Some big airports are difficult to leave such as JFK airport or Ft. Lauderdale Airport and are known to be complex even without pets. Knowing what to do and what to prepare for, will make getting your good boy to you destinage that much smoother - Bon voyage.
Entry Requirements of the Country You're Travelling To
Before you book flight tickets, it is important to look at the entry requirements and regulations for the country you are travelling to. Each country has a different policy regarding pets entering the country. You can find the regulations for each country on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website, or on the government page of the country you are travelling to.
Some countries require the pet's vaccination process to begin 6 months before entering the country. For example, Australia has strict quarantine laws because the native animals are vulnerable to introduced species. It requests that cats and dogs receive rabies vaccinations and a scan of their microchips 6 months before flying, with monthly appointments after this for follow up vaccinations, tick and tapeworm treatments, blood samples and written records of every procedure. For a full checklist, go to the country you are travelling to on the IATA website.
In addition to this, every country has it's own quarantine regulations. Some countries, like Australia, require all animals entering the country to be kept in a quarantine facility for 10 days before being released. This costs around $2000 AUD, or around $1400 USD. Other countries don't have a mandatory quarantine process. It is best to research this before flying, in order to factor in possible quarantine times to your holiday.
Get The Necessary Vaccinations and Paperwork Ready
Once you have figured out the entry requirements and quarantine process for your pet, it is time to start getting the vaccinations, blood tests and paperwork ready for flying.
To begin, make sure your local vet is government approved. Get your cat or dog up to date with all vaccinations required, then begin to get the shots needed to travel. This varies depending on which country you're leaving from and traveling to, but your vet should have the information. If not, check the IATA website, which has printable PDF checklists.
After every visit to the vet, get your vet to write an official note stating which vaccinations they have administered to your pet. This will be needed later and you cannot travel without these papers.
Choose an Airline That Accepts Pets
Not all airlines accept pets on their planes. It is very important to make sure that your pet is allowed on the flight with you. Most airlines that fly larger planes accept animals as cargo or on board with you if they are small. She Knows lists a number of airlines that accept small animals in carriers on board with their owners.
If your chosen airline does allow pets on board, most airlines will charge you anywhere from $75 to hundreds of dollars for having your pet on board. This cost usually increases if you have a larger animal that must be stored in the cargo area.
Airlines that do allow pets on board or in the cargo area usually have weight restrictions, which can vary widely. Check directly with your airline to make sure your cat or dog isn't too heavy. Certain breeds (mostly stub-nose dog breeds such as pugs and bulldogs) aren't allowed to fly at all, due to their inability to breathe as easily in high-altitudes. There have been a few unfortunate deaths of pets on airplanes (not to mention all the strange emotional support animals that have been brought onto planes), so bringing your pet on board isn't as easy as it once was, but it's a lot safer.
Choose a Carrier For Your Pet
Once you have determined that your airline does accept pets on their planes, you must choose a suitable carrier to store your pet in during the flight. IATA has a series of requirements for pet carriers, all of which are met by Pet Travel, a website that has travel carriers for cats and dogs of all sizes.
It is imperative that you have the correct size carrier for your pet - it must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. Pet Travel provides a guide for measuring your pet correctly, so you choose the correct carrier for your pet. Extensions are able to be added to 'extra large' and 'giant' carriers. This website has everything you'll need for travelling with your pet, and they've made it easy with this all inclusive pet travel kit. Keep in mind that you don't just need a carrier - you'll need stickers that say 'live animal', food and water bowls, the correct kind of locks for the carrier, and more. The IATA has a full list of everything you need to have with the carrier.
Get Your Pet Familiar With it's Carrier
A week before embarking on your trip, get your pet familiar with it's carrier. PETA suggests opening the carrier's door and put some blankets, toys and treats inside, making it a cozy den that your dog or cat will associate with comfort. If possible, encourage your pet to sleep in the carrier during the week before flying. You don't want your pet encountering the carrier for the first time when he or she is boarding the plane - this will be too overwhelming for them.
Preparations Before the Flight
On the morning of flying, don't feed your pet their normal amount of food. You want them to have a relatively empty stomach so they won't need to go to the toiler. Around 4 hours before the flight, don't give your pet any food (but you can continue to give them water up until boarding the plane). On the day of the flight and a few days before, you shouldn't give your pet any new food they haven't had before, in case this causes an upset stomach. You'll want everything to be as predictable as possible. Immediately before putting your pet into the carrier, give them another drink of water to prevent dehydration.
Make sure you have everything required for the carrier, including food and water for your pet on the flight. For your pet's comfort, include a mattress or pad for them to sit on and a soft toy (nothing that can endanger them if the flight gets bumpy). An extra tip is to write your dog or cat's name on the carrier, so the airport staff can call them by name and hopefully make them feel more comfortable.
Another important thing to attach to the carrier is your pet's documents, all signed by the vet. Your pet won't be able to get into another country without these. Make use of the printable checkout mentioned above and double check everything before you leave.
What If Your Pet Gets Anxious?
Many dogs and cats get anxious when in unfamiliar, stressful situations. If your pet tends to get anxious, put one of your unwashed t-shirts into the carrier. Smelling your scent will give them some comfort. If you are thinking about giving your pet tranquilizers before the flight, thoroughly research before giving your pet anything.
While many online sources say it is okay to give your pet tranquilizers during a flight, the internet is not always a reliable place for medical advice. Even your vet might not have all the answers! Pet Relocation says that it is dangerous to tranquilize your pet while flying, because the altitude may increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. It is largely unknown what effects high altitudes can have on sedated animals and, furthermore, every animal reacts differently to sedatives.
There are natyellural alternatives if you really feel that your pet would benefit from something to calm them down while in the cargo. Rescue remedy is a well-known natural sedative that calms animals when they are stressed, but does not knock them out like perscribed tranquilizers. PassPawt suggests other natural methods for calming dogs for travel, including smelling essential oils.
Cats require different remedies to dogs, with catnip being the most well-known natural alternative to sedatives (but there are also many other natural remedies). Only 50% of cats respond to catnip, so it is highly recommended to test these remedies on your cat before flying. This goes for dogs too - you should know how your pet will react to herbal treatments, and you should give the treatment to your pet a few times before flying. Your pet should be as safe and calm as possible.
Turn Your Guilt Trip into a Real Trip!
If you follow the steps above, travelling with your pet will be a breeze. Remember to double check that you have all your pet's documents, get your pet comfortable with any natural sedatives you might want to use, let your pet spend time inside it's carrier before flying, and most importantly, stay calm. During this new experience, your pet is going to look to you for guidance. As we know, animals are very good at picking up on human's emotions, even if you try to hide them. So stay calm, and have a wonderful trip!