Advice on airline travel with geriatric cat

  1. I will be moving from Boston to Phoenix at the end of the month and have made plans for my kitty to travel with me on the plane. The decision to take him with me has been really difficult and I am still wrestling emotionally about how this move will affect him and if I am doing the right thing. He will be 18 in May. His recent vet visit including blood screen came back fine. Aside from slightly elevated kidney enzymes and some minor arthritis, which the vet said is normal in older animals, he is in good health.

    He has always lived with other cats and me only - a quiet, comfortable life. Now we will be moving in with my parents who have a large dog, an Australian Shepherd. Zack is gentle with cats but he barks a lot and I know this will terrify Furbie (my kitty). My Aunt also visits quite a bit and brings her 2 dogs, so I'm sure Furbs will be spending most of his time upstairs hiding in my bedroom. I feel l have given him a great life and have always believed that pets are for life. But I'm wondering if the stress of this move, coupled with his advanced age, will be his demise. I am terrified to get on that plane with him and as the move date draws closer (January 27th) my fears increase even more. I would feel awful if I didn't take him, and I would feel awful if he didn't survive the trip. People are telling me to put him to sleep now, knowing that he had a good life. That is not very comforting advice!

    My vet is no help at all; she is the calm earthy-crunchy type who insists he'll be fine and I'm over-reacting - that the most he'll feel is discomfort being confined for such a long journey. I worry about him being in such a small carrier, about whether or not there will be delays (nonstop flight but still...), about him soiling the carrier, about going through Security and having to remove him from the carrier (He is not leash trained and I'm afraid to put anything around his neck.) while it goes through x-ray. He's usually pretty docile being a Himalayan-Persian breed and travels fine on short journeys in the car, but what if the plane freaks him out and he goes ballistic in the carrier? I'm purchasing a hard-sided crate, but my Dad feels he'd be more comfortable in a soft-sided one. My vet won't give him a sedative because of a possible counterreaction and recommends some benedryl to make him sleepy instead.

    He's adjusted fine in other moves but again, those were short moves by car and the new homes had the same furniture, etc. I am not taking any of my furniture with me, nothing will be familiar to him in this new environment except me. Please relay your stories about major moves and traveling with cats in the cabin and give me something positive to think about!

    Thanks members!!
  2. Well, I dont have a cat but I do have a dog and I travel with him a lot by plane. He is a 1 1/2 year old min pin and he is a barker and does not like being confined to small spaces for a long period of time. My first travel with him was horrible because he barked and I had a connecting flight and I let him out of his carrier and as soon as I did that , he took a poop. but on the trip back, I put him in the cage for about one hour so he could get use to being in it for some time and Benedryl does work wonders. you could probably put Furbie in the carrier just to see how he reacts to being in it, so by the 27th he will at least know that he will be in it for a while. You will be just fine and since you dont have any connecting flights, it should be a smooth ride.
  3. I flew with my old man cat and he was just fine. I would recommend one of the soft sided carriers, easier to carry and more comfortable for your pet. Also line the carrier with a puppy pee pad and bring a few extras just in case. Also I would strongly recommend withholding food for a minimum of 12 hrs, a little water is fine.
    I would not recommend anything to make him sleepy, my cat did just perfectly without meds.
    Good luck, I'm sure he'll be fine and you'd be amazed how quickly they adjust.
  4. I traveled 2-3 times yearly (from CA to visit my family in MI) with my previous Persian cat (RIP) and she did just fine, up until she was over 12 years old. No sedatives. I will echo the previous posts -- get a soft sided carrier and make sure the cat fits under the seat in front of you. Never put an animal in cargo. Make sure you put something soft in the carrier, like a t-shirt that you have worn to comfort him. Maybe bring some of his favorite treats and toys.

    I currently travel with my current Persian and I have never had a problem. She has been on a plane about 4-5 times now. Your Furbie will be fine.

    Another tip: you may want to purchase a harness-type leash to help you keep a hold on him while you go through airport security.
  5. I agree with soft sided carrier, pee pads and towels. And NO CARGO for sure! I think you are allowed up to 20 lbs, so your cat should be fine, unless he is a fat geriatric cat! I think lori's idea of getting him a harness is good, too. There is one that is like a jacket. You can get them at cat shows or internet with sites like this -> Home of the Walking Jacket for cats, interactive toys, helpful articles and more. I have not seen them in Petsmart, PETCO kinda stores. And some comfort items in the carrier.
    I don't think you should euthanize your cat for the reason of fear of what if's in the future!!! Cats are resillient, and yes, they don't do well with changes and stress. But at the same time, they can adjust, too, as long as you are providing him with a comfortable place at the new home, even if that is just your room. Sounds like he is in good health overall. Just find a good vet when you move and take him there for a post-travel check up.
  6. I 100% agree with the above advice! Please buy a soft carrier and arrange to have him fly with you and not in Cargo. I believe American and Delta allow this! However, I think you have to inform them at least a week prior and sometimes they require a health certificate from your Vet. So call the airline and ask them before you book your flight!
  7. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and support! I bought Furbie a soft-sided carrier and the pee-pads. He is flying in the cabin with me. He doesn't mind a collar and the carrier came with a handle that doubles as a leash, so I'll use that to keep hold on him through airport security. Only one more week until we're Phoenix bound. He has been to two different vets and both cleared him to fly; the second said no sedatives because of his age and a heart murmer.

    We are flying Jet Blue airlines where no health certificate is required, but I'm bringing the veterinary records anyway as well as hanging his rabies tag on the front of the carrier.

    I'll bet he will do better than me. I hate to fly!!
  8. LOL, I hate to fly, too! Yeah, no acepromazine or sedatives if he has a heart murmur. Have a safe trip~~~~!!! We will be thinking of you two!
  9. Wow, you sound really prepared !! Your right, your kitty will likely be more calm that you and help you stay calm throughout the flight !