Air travel with a cat might sound terrifying and complicated – like something no one would ever want to attempt – but air travel is possible with a cat on many airlines, provided you present the appropriate documentation.
This article will help you get ready with tips on what to bring, what to provide to the airline ahead of time, and how to prepare your cat for the experience. These tips are sure to make the flight with your feline friend as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.
Air Carrier Access Act Update
The Air Carrier Access Act previously stated that emotional support animals, including emotional support cats, were always allowed with you in the cabin of an airplane free of charge.
However, as of January 11th, 2021, the Air Carrier Access Act has been amended. All emotional support animals are now treated the same as other pets by airlines, even if you have ESA documentation. This means that pet reservations are necessary, and the airline may charge a pet fee for your furry friend.
The Air Carrier Access Act still protects service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs. Unfortunately, cats aren’t able to be recognized as service animals which means that you’ll only be able to bring your cat with you on the plane as a pet, even if they’re a certified ESA.
If planes or flying cause severe mental distress (and that’s why you registered your cat as an ESA) it may be worth looking into the process for acquiring and training a psychiatric service dog. Psychiatric service dogs can help with any mental illness and have more legal protections than emotional support animals—plus, they can be just about any breed, so your service dog can stay comfortably on your lap during takeoff and landing.
When it comes to taking your cat on the plane, read on for tips and tricks that can help keep both of you stay calm through your trip.
What Should I Do to Coordinate With the Airline Prior to My Trip?
Coordinating with the airline starts when you get your tickets. Booking a pet reservation is usually possible online when you book your own tickets, and doing so as early as possible will better ensure that there will be space in the cabin for your furry friend.
Each airline has its own documentation that’s required for you to take your cat on the plane with you. Typically there’s a form to fill out and the airline may want veterinarian records–the specifics of these things will be available on the airline’s website.
It’s also imperative to look at the size and weight restrictions for cat carriers, especially if you have a large cat. Many airlines require the carrier to fit under the seat in front of you, so check the measurements against the carrier you plan on bringing to be certain that you won’t have issues. The airline’s website will have this information readily available, and that will be one less thing to worry about.
If you want to be completely certain that you have everything you need or if you have any questions that the website doesn’t answer, giving the airline a call and talking to a representative may ease your mind.
How to Prepare Your Cat for the Flight
You might be ready for the flight, but is your furry friend? Don’t forget to get them ready for the experience; often all the loud noises, bustling around, and stimuli can be overwhelming for them, which is why it’s important to do your best to get them accustomed to the situation.
Make Sure They’re Comfortable
Start by purchasing a carrier that is approved by airlines, and try and get your cat used to it beforehand. You want the carrier to be familiar to them. This will help them feel more comfortable when you depart for your flight, as they will be used to the immediate space around them.
You can further ensure their comfort by placing a favorite blanket and some toys in their carrier. This should be done a few weeks in advance to ensure they have properly acclimated to the carrier.
Make Sure They’re Healthy
Schedule a vet appointment no less than two weeks prior to your flight. A trip can be a grueling feat on your cat, especially if they are in poor health. Your vet will check on their health to ensure the experience is minimally taxing on your cat. They will also make sure your cat is up to date on any required vaccinations needed for the flight and/or destination, and they will fill out any health certificates that the airline or country you’re visiting requires.
Make Sure They’re Ready
Other things to help prepare your cat for the flight include getting them used to loud noises and traveling in their carrier. Exposing them to loud noises similar to what they will hear on a flight is quite easy nowadays with tools like YouTube. Try searching titles like “Airport Noises” and play it for a few minutes every day up to a few days before the flight.
Also, take your cat on car rides in their carrier to get them used to the feeling of moving while in their carrier. A few minutes of preparation each day will do wonders for your cat’s comfortability during the flight.
Other Useful Information You Should Know
Following the tips above should be enough to ensure you and your feline fly safely and happily, but there are a few other things you might want to keep in mind.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
If flying takes an extreme toll on your mental health and makes underlying issues much more severe, you may want to consider a small psychiatric service dog to help you on planes. A service dog is a highly trained dog that works or performs tasks that help you with your disability.
If this is something you want to explore or that you have questions about, USSA can help you with that too–just give us a call or reach out on the live chat feature on our website.
Registering Your ESA
If you register with USSA, you will receive both a card and certificate to protect your rights as an ESA owner in nearly any scenario. The certificate acts as an official document that confirms your animal is registered as an ESA in our database and contains all the necessary information, such as the date of issuance and the animal’s name.
We supply numerous resources to help you secure a support animal; this includes a variety of things, such as a licensed medical professional, should you need an official letter for a landlord. We also have on-staff attorney connections in case you need your rights protected.
Registering your animal allows you to carry accessories that indicate your ESA is an emotional support animal; this includes items such as a leash, collar, tag, vest, crate, and so on. As a bonus, you can get $60 off your consultation with any medical professional in our network when you seek out an official letter for your housing or travel if you register your animal with us.
We care about your privacy and want to help you protect it. No person or business is allowed to invade your privacy by asking about your disability or requiring medical documentation, a special identification card, training documentation (in the case of a service dog, for instance), or a demonstration of your ESA’s service to you (i.e., perform a task).
You should never be required to disclose any details about your disability. While applying for housing, however, the proprietors and agents will have access to the basic information provided on your emotional service animal’s ID card and in your letter from a licensed medical practitioner.
Fair Housing Act
Even though ESAs are treated as regular pets on airplanes, they’re still protected by the Fair Housing Act. Under this act, landlords are required to permit the resident to keep any animal that provides a benefit to persons with disabilities, including emotional and psychological, even if they otherwise restrict animals on the premises.
This means that your emotional support cat will always be able to live with you. Your task is to only register your ESA and procure a letter confirming its role in your treatment from a licensed medical professional. At U.S. Service Animal and Support Animal Registry, we are here to help you with every step of the process.
While you have the right to live with your emotional support animal, if your ESA or service animal escapes your control to the extent of disrupting others, proprietors or their staff members can request your animal be removed from the premises.
Therefore, all service animals must be either harnessed, leashed, tethered, or confined to a carrying container while in public places, unless such containment interferes with the animal’s task or role as it pertains to the disabled person, including the emotionally and psychologically disabled.
Lastly, we want you to beware of scams. Just like any other industry or company, there are imposters everywhere. Therefore, if you have any questions about anyone acting or pretending to conduct business on our behalf or have your suspicions regarding any questions or actions of any person claiming to be a service animal authority, don’t hesitate to contact us. At U.S. Service Animals we are here to protect, help, and support both you and your ESA.