Along with certain required travel documents, your cat or dog will need an approved travel carrier for his airline journey. It is very important that you use the right travel crate for your pet.
If your pet is small enough and your airline allows in-cabin travel, choosing the right travel carrier is simple. It can be hard- or soft-sided. The critical element here is the dimensions of the space under the seat in front of yours, because that’s where your pet will ride.
Many people don’t realize that under-seat dimensions differ from one airline to another, and from one seating section to another. So before purchasing a carrier (or assuming the one you already use will be OK), find out the under-seat measurements for the specific plane(s) on your itinerary. (Hint: a soft-sided carrier is easier to maneuver, fits more flexibly under any seat, and will probably be cushier for your little one.)
If your pet is flying as cargo, choosing the right travel crate becomes more complicated.
Why the crate is so important
Pets are not allowed to travel via air cargo unless they are in an appropriate kennel. Although this rule may seem like a hassle, it should give you extra peace of mind. Airline-approved crates are designed for maximum protection, to keep your pet safe and as comfortable as possible during his trip. For example, there is plenty of ventilation, but there are no openings big enough to expose any of his tender pet parts such as nose, toes, or tail.
You could build your own crate, but why?
You have better things to do with your time, especially if you’re planning an overseas move with your family. Besides, the specs are very detailed, so you’ll have numerous opportunities to make a mistake. If you wing it and your pet’s crate doesn’t meet required standards, his trip will come to an abrupt end before he gets off the ground.
Who needs one more thing to worry about before a major move when it’s so easy to acquire a commercial crate? They are available online, at major pet stores, and at some airlines’ cargo counters. Our PacPet team can also help you obtain the proper carrier.
Measure, don’t guess!
Just because a kennel looks “about right” for your dog doesn’t mean it is. Your guy must be able to turn around and lie down in a normal manner, but he must also be able to stand upright in the crate. The goal is a space that is not too cramped for comfort but not so roomy your pet could slide around and perhaps become injured.
To pick the proper size kennel, you’ll need to measure:
- His length, from his nose to the base (not the tip) of his tail.
- His width across his shoulders (or other widest point).
- His height when standing, from the floor to the top of his head or ears, whichever is higher. (Note that some airlines require extra head room, so you’ll want to ask about that.)
If he is a snub-nosed breed, add 10% to the measurements because he’ll need extra breathing room.
For travel, you’ll need to attach food and water containers inside, where they can be accessed from outside the crate. If your pet has a stopover, cargo personnel may offer him some water. If his trip will be long, the airline may also require that you attach a small baggie of food to the top of the crate (outside, of course).
You will also need to place something soft and absorbent in the bottom of the crate. Your pet will be happiest with something he recognizes – his own small blanket or some article of clothing that smells like you.
Get the crate early!
You will not be allowed to tranquilize your pet for air travel, for his own safety and comfort. However, there are many things you can do to get your guy ready for his overseas trip. One of the best is to purchase his travel kennel as soon as possible, so he has maximum time to get used to it. Weeks – or, better, months – of familiarization will assure your pup or kitty that this is “his” space.
His airplane journey will present him with plenty of new sights, sounds, and smells, but he will be less anxious about all that surrounded by his familiar crate.