There are a lot of things I wish someone else had told me about flying with cats. So here, I’ll tell you. Bookmark this shit. Spread it around.
There’s basically one and only one kind of pet carrier that you can get for this. They’re called Sherpas, and they’re pretty nice. Just buy them now and save yourself the looking.
Don’t put your cats in checked baggage. Just don’t. Ever.
Pick up their food 12 hours before, and their water about 6 hours before; or at least that’s what my vet recommended.
You may think you’ll be able to just sedate your cat. You’re wrong. While your vet will probably be willing to prescribe you something to calm your cat down, it’s not going to knock them out. Our vet gave us Xanax, which had the hilarious effect of making both of the cats stagger around like drunken, boneless frat boys. I recommend you be prepared to take some videos, because there is not much funnier than watching a cat fall off a windowsill.
Drugs make them easier to get into the cat carrier, but do not guarantee they’ll sleep, or even that they’ll be quiet. Even with half a milligram of Xanax aboard, Tengu was more than capable of airing every grievance he’d ever had, and loudly, in the plane cabin.
However, since the cats go under the seat and there’s a lot of background noise, not many people can actually hear them, which is the only saving grace. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll be on a flight with a baby and everyone will be too annoyed by that howling to notice the feline protests. So don’t worry too much about meowing. Constantly trying to talk to the cat is probably not going to make them any quieter and will annoy the people around you more (or at least the one weirdo not wearing headphones). Just do your best to ignore them.
I had people recommend Rescue Remedy to me. I took a look at it; it’s a homeopathic remedy with alcohol listed as its inactive ingredient. Maybe that’s what actually makes it work. Personally, I stuck with the Xanax.
For you personally, I’d recommend the application of two beers about an hour prior to your flight.
There’s another reason to want the cats to be on some kind of pharmaceutical to smooth them out. That’s because of:
THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT
We tried looking at the TSA website and even calling the airport ahead of time. They do not tell you this shit, and they should. It’s more excitement than I want to have at the airport.
You have to take your cat out of the carrier at security.
No, I am not joking. If you are smart, you will take the time before travel to get them used to a harness and then you can have them on a leash. (And hey, then you can take them for walks and let them frolic on the lawn later and it’ll be adorable.)
Not only do you have to take them out of the carrier, you have to carry a terrified animal through the metal detector, then basically sit on them for an extended period of time immediately on the other side. Where you will wait for someone to come swab your hands for – I don’t know, explosives? cat pee? catnip? – one at a time. Which means you need to have to be able to manage your cat one handed, because they will have to swab both of your hands.
Then you wait some more, sitting on your scruffed and upset cat, while the swab processes. You are not allowed to put the cat back into the carrier until you have the all clear. You’re not allowed to get assistance with keeping the cat from fleeing by anyone, except if you’re lucky, a friendly TSA agent who doesn’t have a good self-preservative instinct.
This is where drugging the cats paid off. I have no idea if they would have made more or less noise with the Xanax. But I know they sure as hell couldn’t fight me as much when I had to restrain them on the other side of the checkpoint.
Oh yeah, for bonus, you can’t wrap the cat in a blanket going through the metal detector. So make sure you trim their claws the night before if you possibly can. (And recall, you’re not allowed to wear a sweatshirt, coat, or shark suit either, so you’re SOL there.)
I really, really wish someone had told me this shit before I went through security.