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What You Need to Know About Moving Your Pets

How to Fly Your Cat or Dog


What You Need to Know About Moving Your Pets

Our pets have moved several times and usually the moves are across the country or even to a new country. This means we normally fly them and have, over the years, come up with some tips on how to ensure they arrive safely.

If you haven't decided yet on how best to move your pets, I usually think about which situation will be less stressful. Keep in mind that when you fly pets and are not flying with them, that is they won't be on the same flight as you, your pets must be checked in at cargo at least three hours before departure time. Add this time to the flight time, plus another hour at the destination to have them released from cargo. Sometimes it is less time for your pets to drive them rather than fly. Also, check with your vet to see if flying is safe for your pet. In our situation, one of our cats has a heart condition and our vet does not recommend flying due to the stress involved and the change in air pressure (altitude).

If you are planning on moving your cats by flying them to your new home, be aware that most airlines will insist you use an IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved carrier to transport your pet. An IATA approved carrier requirements are based on a species needs and animal size. The IATA Live Animals Regulations describe minimum standards for carrier construction for all types of animals, ranging from insects to elephants.

Also, space for your animal should be booked a minimum of 48 hours in advance. Most airlines have restrictions on the number of animals they will carry per flight.

Only small dogs and cats can travel in the cabin with you or if the airline will not allow this due to space limitations, your pet will be sent as special baggage in a heated and ventilated hold. The hold provides a quiet and darkened area, which can be less stressful than a noisy cabin.

Important Questions to Ask the Airline

  • I prefer to have my pet travel in the hold instead of in the baggage area. Do you have space available for the flight I need?
  • If there isn't any room in the hold, what is the temperature in the cargo/baggage area?
    Critical Note: When booking our pets with an airline company, I never thought to ask this question, until my vet mentioned it. I immediately called the airlines and found out that the baggage area where our pets would be was not heated, and since they were flying in February from San Francisco through Minneapolis to Toronto, they probably would not have survived. Make sure you ask!
  • Will you provide appropriate stickers and labels for the pet carrier?
  • What if the flight is rerouted? What happens to my pet?
  • Where do I go to check in my pet?
  • How far in advance does my pet need to be at the airport?
  • What is the cost to fly my pet?
  • Which papers should accompany my pet?
  • Which papers do I bring to pick up my pet?
  • Will my pet check through customs here or upon arrival?
  • Do you have any weight restrictions?

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