How To Fly With a Cat

How to fly with a pet cat in a way that is safe for both you and your pet, and free, or relatively free of stress for you both.

Each airline has a policy on cats on aircraft. [Adobe Stock]

If you want to bring your cat with you on flights, make sure you have an airline approved cat carrier/kennel to put the animal in. Travel by air can be stressful for your pet, so make sure to keep the cat in the kennel and near you. Avoid putting your animal in the cargo hold.

Can Cats Fly on Planes?

Each airline has a policy on cats on aircraft. Some require a certificate of health from a veterinarian. The cat must be in an airline approved cat carrier/kennel and kept in the kennel. The kennel must be kept with you in the aircraft cabin.

Is Flying With Pets Expensive?

Getting a cat on an airliner can cost between $95 and $125 for a ticket to the main cabin. You should check with the airline for details. Another option is to get in touch with an organization like Pilots and Paws which transports pets by air in small aircraft.


To prepare your cat for flight, make sure the animal is healthy. Take the cat to the veterinarian and you may need a certificate of health to verify the animal is healthy enough to travel. Have the animal microchipped and it’s often a good idea to have the animal wearing a harness within the kennel just in case. Line the kennel with absorbent material. Make sure the kennel door is secure and keep it closed during the flight.

It can be helpful to give the cat mild sedation before flight – this is like the cat version of having a glass of wine. Let your veterinarian guide you.

7 Tips for Flying With a Cat

  • Line the kennel with a piece of clothing you have worn so the cat knows you are close by. The familiar smell will help calm the animal.
  • Keep the cat with you at all times in the terminal.
  • Keep the cat in the kennel at all times.
  • Get to the airport extra earlier so you can breeze through TSA. The cat will pick up on your stress if you do not.
  • NEVER put the cat in the cargo hold. Buy a ticket for first class if you have to.
  • Get a window seat as far away from the engines as possible.
  • Consider a flight with a group like Pilots n Paws.

Preparing the Kennel

Make sure the cat can lie down in the kennel. You should line the kennel with something absorbent that has the scent of the owner on it. That t-shirt you slept in for two nights will do the trick. The scent of the human they trust will have a calming effect.

The Cat in Flight

While it may be tempting to put the cat on your lap during the flight, DON’T. Keep them in the kennel. Not everyone likes cats, and some of the other passengers may get hostile.

Always keep them in their kennel, and have them chipped just in case they escape. Do not let anyone pet the cat, as they may last out in fear.


Arrive at the airport extra early so you can get through TSA quickly. Carry the cat through the gates that are used for service animals.

While dogs are accepted as service animals, cats are not.

Cats in the Cabin

Cats are placed in the passenger compartment as a general rule. 

Pick Your Seat Carefully

The cat kennel will likely be under the seat in front of you, so pick a seat that has a space in front of it for you to put the cat under the seat. Try to be away from the engines and next to a window so there will be less commotion from people walking by.

Pilots n Paws

Pilots n Paws is a not-for-profit organization that provides travel for pets that are relocating and their owners do not want to drive them or fly them on an airliner. For these flights, the cat is in a kennel and strapped into the back seat. You may even be able to ride along with the cat.

Cats in the Sky

It is possible to take a cat on an airliner. Just follow the rules and you should be all set for a smooth flight with your feline. If you are interested in learning more about aviation, subscribe to FLYING Magazine.



How much does it cost to take a cat on a plane?

Taking a cat on an airplane can cost $95 to $125, depending on the airline.

How do you go through TSA with a cat?

TSA has gates that service animals are permitted to go through. The cat in the kennel uses this gate as well.

Do planes hurt cats’ ears?

The cat will not like the noise, but the pressure should not bother them.

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