Traveling with a companion animal, whether in a car, train,
plane, or boat, can sometimes be an ordeal. However, with careful planning,
your trip can be successful. Here are some tips:
Be sure your companion animal is in good health and has all his or her
Keep a recent health certificate and rabies certificate on hand and make
sure your cat or dog is wearing identification that includes your name,
address, and phone number.
When packing, don't forget your companion animal's food, food and water
dishes, bedding, litter and litterbox, leash, collar and tags, grooming
supplies, a first-aid kit, and any necessary medications.
Many hotels now welcome companion animals, but others do not. Be sure to
check their policies in advance.
Carry a current photograph of your cat or dog with you. If your animal is
lost, a photograph will make it easier for others to help you locate him or
Ideally, you should have your veterinarian microchip your animal.
Microchipping is without question the best way to ensure that a lost dog or
cat will be reunited with you. In Israel, microchipping is required for all
dogs when they are given their first rabies vaccination.
On the Road with Your Cat or Dog
Take your cat or dog along in the car when he is young, so he will get
used to traveling.
Put your cat in a plastic, canvas, or metal traveling carrier, fastened by
a seat belt.
Consider using a crate with padded fabric for your cat, instead of a
plastic or wire crate, to provide additional safety in case of an accident.
Dogs don't usually need a carrier, but if necessary and possible, secure
your dog with a restraining harness.
Take care that your companion animal does not get dehydrated. Take along
ice cubes to lick, which will not upset your cat or dog's stomach as much as
large amounts of water.
Keep feeding to a minimum during travel.
Stop every few hours to let your dog walk around on a leash.
Even if you don't expect to need it during the journey, always be sure to
have a leash in a convenient spot in the car.
Take along plastic bags to clean up after your dog.
Never leave your cat or dog unattended in a car. On a warm day, your car can
heat to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in minutes, even with
the windows open enough for fresh air to enter, causing brain damage and
even death. The problem is so serious that in some areas the police and
animal control personnel are authorized to break the window of a car to
rescue an animal on a hot day.
In the Train or Bus with Your Cat or Dog
In Israel, animals are permitted on trains and buses. On trains, dogs ride
for half price. Cats ride free. Companion animals are also allowed on many
buses, for an additional charge. Cats must be in a carrying case and dogs
must wear a leash and muzzle.
Some larger train and bus companies in the United States, such as Amtrak,
do not accept companion animals. Check with the railroad or bus company you
plan to use to ask if it permits animals on board.
Flying with Your Cat or Dog
If you are flying to another country with your companion animal, be sure to
learn the following health regulations well ahead of time:
The animal quarantine policies of that country, if any
The required health certificates and vaccinations of that country
The required health certificates and vaccinations of the specific airline
You may be able to find out a country's legal requirements through your
veterinarian, on the Internet, or by contacting the consulate or embassy of
If your traveling companion is a cat or small dog, most airlines will allow
you to take the animal on board for an additional fee. Check with the
airline to learn their regulations, and book a space for your animal as far
in advance as possible. Some airlines allow only a limited number of animals
in the passenger area of the plane. If you have a choice, avoid putting your
dog in the cargo area of the plane. Some animals are injured or die each
year in transit, and almost every major airline has been fined repeatedly
for violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act. Some animals become
frightened, escape from their carriers, and are never found again. Upset
nerves from turbulence can cause heart attacks, and the lack of oxygen in
the cargo area can be fatal.
Be aware of the difference between bringing an animal as
"baggage" on a flight accompanied by a passenger, and sending an animal
unaccompanied, as cargo. On a domestic flight, the difference can be
minimal. However, on an international flight, because of customs and other
required procedures, the process of collecting the animal is likely to take
If a flight is absolutely necessary, here are some rules to follow:
Tranquilizers are not recommended. They should be used
only if they are prescribed by your
veterinarian for your specific animal on that specific flight. Some airlines
will not accept an animal who has been sedated. NEVER tranquilize an
animal before a flight with a central nervous system depressant, such as
acepromazine. Although this was commonly used in the past, it is now
known to be responsible for a high percentage of the cases of serious illness,
not always immediately apparent after the flight, or death of animals
transported by airplane.1,2,3
Do not feed your companion animal for at least six hours
travel. Small amounts of water can be given before the trip.
Make sure you have an airline-approved shipping crate/kennel. Expensive
crates are constructed of heavier fiberglass, and they have stronger doors
that will not open accidentally. Your dog should be able to stand, turn
around comfortably, and lie down in a normal position.
Your dog will feel more comfortable if she has a chance to get used to the
crate before the flight.
The crate must be appropriately labeled with "TOP" clearly written on the
top, "LIVE ANIMAL" stickers on all sides, feeding instructions, and water
and food bowls attached to the door.
Attach a travel label to the carrier with the animal's name, your name,
permanent address, telephone number, final destination, and where you or a
contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
Use direct flights and travel on the same flight as your dog
or cat. Try
to actually watch your companion animal being loaded and unloaded into the
cargo hold. If possible, fly with an airline that has special handling
available for companion animals.
If your dog's regular collar can get caught in the carrier doors, replace
it with one that cannot. Put a permanent ID with your name, home address,
and telephone number on this collar.
Be sure to choose flight times that will accommodate temperature extremes.
Early morning or night flights are better in summer; afternoon flights are
better in winter.
Do not transport your dog when air traffic is heaviest, such as on
Make sure your dog's nails have been clipped to prevent them from getting
hooked on the carrier's door and other crevices.
Do not ship pug-nosed dogs in cargo holds. The short nasal passages in
these breeds leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat
When you arrive at your flight destination, open the carrier as soon as
you are in a safe place, to make sure your cat or dog is all right. Make
certain to have a leash and secure collar or harness with you at landing,
because most airports require that the animal be removed from the carrier at
the security screening checkpoint so the carrier can be sent through the
If anything seems wrong with your dog or cat after the flight, take him to
the veterinarian immediately.
See, for example, United Airlines' animal acceptance checklist, number 6:
2 International Air
Transport Association, Live Animal Regulations, 27th ed.
Montreal: IATA, 2000.
Renée Bergeron, Shannon L. Scott, et al, "Physiology and behavior of dogs
during air transport," Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, 2002 July; 66(3): 211–216.