Traveling with your cat for the first time involves a lot of preparation. Aside from consultations with your vet and the documents to submit to the airline authorities, you must also see to it that your cat will be able to adjust well and stay calm during the travel.
A big part of preparation is to feed your cat at about 4 to 6 hours before the flight so she won’t feel nauseous and uneasy during the flight.
Recommended pre-flight feeding schedule for your cat
Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to your cat’s feeding schedule before your travel:
- See to it that you maintain your cat’s regular feeding time as much as possible so your pet won’t have an upset stomach during the trip.
- Try to select a flight that will coincide with the feeding time of your cat.
- If possible, make gradual adjustments to her feeding time on the month that you’re scheduled to travel together so that it will coincide with the flight time.
- You should feed your pet cat 4 to 6 hours earlier before the flight.
Why is there a need to maintain your cat’s normal feeding schedule?
Studies reveal that cats hate change so be wary of sudden changes and try to maintain your cat’s normal feeding schedule. If there are abrupt changes in her feeding time, it will not only upset her stomach but it may also have behavioral effects such as stress and anxiety. Some cats may even tend to “play sick” when there are sudden changes in their feeding time and environment.
Once your cat is inside her carrier on the actual flight she won’t be able to empty her bowels and bladder just as easily until you reach your destination.
Water intake is important for cats so make sure to give her water and she may drink it until at least an hour before the actual flight. If traveling with several connected flights, you may give your pet a bit of dry food or treats in between the layovers and upon arrival at your destination, she should be given fresh food and water as well as a clean litter box.
How to prepare a cat before a flight?
People naturally become stressed during a flight so just imagine how much stress and anxiety a cat may undergo, too, especially if she’s a first-time traveler! Here are some foolproof ways to prepare your cat before a flight to make sure that it’ll be a smooth ride.
1. Bring your cat to the vet.
If you’ll be traveling with your cat especially if it’s the first time you’ll tag her along then make sure to bring her to the vet at least a week or two for a thorough check-up. This is to ensure that your cat is healthy and fit to travel with you. If your cat is undergoing treatment or currently on medication then make sure to ask your vet how to properly manage it while you’re traveling.
Your airline may require a health certificate for your cat and requirements may vary depending on the destination so be sure to coordinate this with the airline. Also, ask your vet to microchip your pet cat or if she’s already microchipped ask your vet to scan it to make sure it’s readable and working well.
2. Get an airline-approved cat carrier.
Airline-approved cat carriers are usually made of nylon or any other durable fabric, should be well-ventilated, and with zippered top and side doors. Some airlines require cat carriers to have soft and removable bottom pads. It should also be large enough for your cat to be comfortable and be able to move around.
3. Encourage your cat to spend time in the carrier.
Let your cat get used to the cat carrier and allow her to spend as much time in the carrier as she can during the few weeks leading to your flight. Make it comfortable for her by placing her favorite bedding and toys inside. Allow her to explore it any time she likes by leaving the carrier door open at all times and positioning it near a place she often hangs out to like her bed, cat perch, or scratching post.
Try spraying cat pheromones so she’ll feel calm and smell familiar in it, enough for her to lounge around and stay inside it. Give her food while she’s in the carrier so she can associate being there with something positive. Try to close the carrier door once she’s inside and open it after a few seconds then give her treats and repeat the process, increasing the amount of time that the door is closed and observe your cat throughout this process. For more tips on getting your cat used to the carrier, read our article on how to get an aggressive cat into a carrier.
4. Let your cat get used to loud noises.
Before the actual flight make sure that your cat is already used to loud noises because the plane and the airport are both noisy places so you should acclimate your cat to loud sounds. You can do this by taking her a few times to the airport just so she becomes used to the noise around her. Give her treats each time she exhibits good behavior while you’re both there. Make sure to do this routine a few times in the few weeks before your actual flight.
5. Tag your cat along for some quick car rides around town.
If your cat is not yet used to traveling outside your home then it’s time for you to tag her along and bring her on car rides around a few blocks and if she gets used to it then you may also take her along on longer rides. By doing this your cat becomes used to being on a moving vehicle and reduce chances of motion sickness. Try to do this at least a few weeks before your day of travel.
6. Be sure to trim your cat’s nails.
Make sure to trim the nails of your pet cat before your day of travel so she won’t be able to scratch the carrier’s interior and her nails won’t get stuck on the carrier’s bars if she’ll be placed on the cargo area.
7. Be sure to check your cat’s ID collar.
See to it that your cat’s ID collar contains complete information such as your contact information including tags for vaccinations and her license. It’s also advisable to have your cat microchipped. Consult your vet on the steps to do for this process.
See to it that your cat is calm and relaxed during your air travel by preparing her for it at least a few weeks before the actual flight, if possible. Sudden changes in her feeding time and environment can be stressful for cats so make sure to maintain her normal feeding schedule and on the actual day of travel, feed her at least 4 to 6 hours before the flight. It will prevent her from having an upset tummy but continue to give her water at least up to an hour before the flight. Air travel does not need to be stressful for you or your cat as long as you make the necessary preparations.