Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Traveling With a Kitten

Sheba the Destroyer (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view of this blog) is taking a kitten-cation with some family while I get settled - causing a general ruckus, exploring the back of the refrigerator, discovering stairs for the first time, trying to climb up pant legs, and so on and so forth.  In the meantime, I thought I'd put a post out there about traveling with kittens (on airplanes) for those brave souls among you who enjoy that sort of thing.  Or, you know, have to do that sort of thing.

When I first really looked into the logistical side of taking a kitten with me on an airplane, I laughed the hollow laugh of the doomed.  Looking back, however, it was not bad at all.

To begin with, I was nervous about how Sheba would react.  The most she had traveled was the trip back to my apartment from the SPCA and several one-block trips to the vet's office.  I assumed that since I would be feeling nervous, so would she.  Here's my two cents, from what I learned along the way:

Consider getting a soft-sided pet carrier and a kitten/cat harness and leash.  I knew I had to have a carrier within certain measurements, in order for it to fit underneath the seat in front of me during the flight.  I'd already gotten a hard plastic one which Sheba loved hated, and was wary of buying something expensive that would be the wrong size and possibly prevent us from boarding our flight.  This Sherpa website was extremely helpful, with information about sizing and different airline regulations.  They even have a certificate called "Guaranteed on Board," which you can print out and have signed by someone from the airline if you're not allowed to board because of problems with a Sherpa carrier.  If you get it signed, you can be reimbursed for the cost of your carrier (I had no problems with my carrier and airline).  I got a plain black carrier on Amazon, though you can buy them at places like PetCo and PetSmart as well.  Kitten harnesses and leashes: They seem like the most ridiculous things ever, but spending like ten bucks to make sure she didn't leap to her death trying to escape my clutches? No brainer.  My vet suggested it, Sheba didn't mind it, and I felt better knowing I had something that might keep her safer while we were going through security.

Get a health certificate from your vet.  Most airlines require proof that an animal is old enough and healthy enough to travel, usually dated within 10 days of your travel date.  The vet checked Sheba out (healthy!), printed a health certificate (proof!), gave me medication to give to her before traveling, with instructions, and told me everything would be fine.  (Side note: If you do medicate your pet before flying, please please please follow the instructions of your vet.  Don't give them more than prescribed, even if you think they need more - this can cause serious respiratory problems.)

Call your airline.  After making my flight reservation, I called my airline and informed them that I would be traveling with my pet, since only a certain number are allowed on board/in the cabin per flight.  This was relatively straightforward.  If you do this, don't forget to ask for a confirmation number.  Also, many airlines consider your pet carrier as one of your carry-on bags and charge a fee. Bummer, but it is what it is.

Then the question is: how do you go through security with a cat? The TSA website and blog were helpful, in that they described how that happens.  Ok, so - here's the deal:

1. You take your cat out of its crate. 

2. You walk it through a metal detector, and then

3. You put it back in the crate. 

Which sounds totally reasonable, except to anyone who has ever owned or lived with a cat in the history of the world.

You want me to take my cat out of its crate? And then...put it back in the crate?

Sheba was a real trouper.  I got there early so I'd have time to get to my flight even if there was a problem getting through security (a.k.a. in case Sheba made a run for it and I had to follow, chasing her through every terminal, a.k.a. my worst nightmare).  Since my flight left at around eight in the morning, I ended up going through security at a quarter to six, when only military personnel and the elderly seemed to be around.  The TSA officers were exceptionally kind, respectful, and understanding, which made the whole thing relatively stress-free. 

I first got myself ready, then put Sheba's carrier in front of my things, and then took her out of her carrier (that way, when I was finished walking through with her, the carrier was the first thing out).  I walked through with Sheba, they then swabbed my hands, and I put her back in the crate.  She was more than happy to go back in and never ever ever come back out.  I consider this a minor miracle, and was anticipating deep scratch marks in my arms.  If you think your cat will freak out, you can ask for your cat to be screened in another room (with you).

We waited for our flight to be called, I brought her with me on board, pushed her crate under my seat, and that was that.

Friends who are traveling with dogs, check out Melyssa's post on traveling with her adorable corgi, Monja.  She was far braver than I and traveled with her pet internationally, all the way from Japan! I was such a nervous ninny I read it too, even though I was traveling domestically with a kitten.

Good luck, and let me know in the comments what your experiences have been like.  Any advice for fellow travelers-with-pets?

No Comments Yet, Leave Yours!