Traveling internationally with your beloved pet by airline comes with certain requirements. Unless you are traveling with a medically approved companion animal or your pet is too large to fit comfortably in the cabin with you in an under-seat carrier, you must provide an airline standard crate to protect your pet in the carrier section of the plane. This can be stressful to think about, but for the most part, pets don’t mind short trips in the security of a comfortable crate.Keeping your pet safe during airline travel
The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association advises that airline travel is getting safer for pets all the time. According to reports from the US Department of Transportation, the number of airline accidents involving pets is decreasing annually. Choosing the best pet crate that is rated for airline safety standards can keep your pet safe and happy during the trip.
How do you go about selecting the best crate for your pet’s air travel? Let’s first see what the major airlines have to say about this, based on current guidelines, and then talk more about the types of crates available for pet travel.
Basic airline guidelines for pet travel crates
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, only certain types of pet crates are valid for traveling by airplane. These can be purchased from a local pet store or the airlines themselves. Pet crates should be:
- Roomy enough for your pet to stand without touching the top, with the ability to turn around and lay down comfortably.
- Have a leak-proof bottom, and an absorbent pad added for comfort and cleanliness
- Be well-ventilated on all sides to allow plenty of fresh air and no blockages on any side
- Strong and secure enough to carry the animal without fear of the crate falling apart during carrying or rolling
- Sturdy handles and latches that do not protrude either inside or outside of the container
- Ability to attach a leak-free water dispenser to the cage or crate to give the pet hydration during the trip
- A place for storing a copy of pet paperwork and owner contact information on the top of the crate so that airline staff can identify the pet quickly
- Arrows and signage that says ‘Live Animals - this end up’ on the crate on at least 2 sides
Before you buy a pet crate for traveling
There are a few things you will want to do before shopping for a pet crate. First, it's important to measure your pet well so you can pick the most comfortable crate. To do this, simply grab a long piece of string and get the following measurements:
- Tip of nose to base of tail
- Shoulder to shoulder
- Elbow joint of leg to bottom of foot
- Top of your pet’s ears to the ground when standing
Line the string up against a measuring stick to get the correct measurement in inches. Add 3 inches to the height to give your pet good head clearance. If your pet is a snub-nosed breed, allow 10% more length for breathing.
Next, you will want to know the current weight of your pet. You can do this at home or take your pet to your veterinarian. At home, simply weight yourself alone, then weigh yourself holding your pet. Subtract the lower weight from the larger weight to get your pet’s weight.
When visiting the retailer to purchase your pet crate, bring these measurements along.
Choosing the right pet crate for your traveling buddy
Now that you have the basics of airline requirements for pet crates, it’s time to choose one for your best friend. Take the time to look at several pet crates with your pet (if possible) and try them on for size. Look at the quality of materials and if the latches look difficult to open. Review the safety rating standards of each crate. This should include information about crate drops, falls, heat/cold limits, and approved weight. If your pet is heavy, you may also want to consider buying a set of add-on castor wheels with brakes, to tow the crate around the airport safely.
Accessories for pet crates
Make your pet feel comfortable by buying a crate pad that fits snugly in the bottom of the crate. Clean the crate well before the date of your trip to remove any lingering plastic smells. Let your pet imprint on the crate for a week before the trip, so that he or she has a chance to add their scent to it, sleep in it, and confidently enter and exit the crate.
By carefully selecting the proper crate for international travel, this can be a pleasant experience for both you and your pet. It will be his temporary home away from home for a while, so make sure you buy from a reputable source with a solid reputation for selling quality pet crates.