Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel

Cat in carrier in airline cabinYou are flying, your pet is traveling with you in the cabin of the airline, and, unless you have done this before, you have no way of knowing how your pet will travel. The last thing you want to deal with is a howling cat or a wimpering dog for hours until you land. So what can you do to keep your pet quiet during the flight?

The first thing to consider is that, under no circumstances, can you remove your pet from its carrier during the flight. However, the key here is to keep your pet calm, to isolate them from all of the crazy activity of people loading their gear in the overhead compartments and finding their seats. This is the perfect opportunity to keep your pet in its carrier on your lap, turn it towards the window, and hug it tightly (if your pet allows for hugs) and stroke it through the carrier (assuming you are using a soft sided carrier which we highly recommend). Keep your voice low and close to your pet while assuring it that everything will be ok. Lots of “good girls” and “good boys” are certainly a welcome sound for a nervous pet.

The attendents will tell you that your pet must be stowed under the seat in front of you during take off and landing and we must all comply with that. Hopefully, your pet is laying down at this point because you need to get the carrier under the seat in front of you. Leave the carrier between your feet for a minute and then slowly slide the carrier under the seat all the while offering plenty of vocal assurances.

Once the plane is in the air, you should be allowed to keep the carrier between your feet. If your pet is fussing, offer them a pet calmer by unzipping the carrier an inch or two and extending the treat to your pet. This should calm them down. The drone of the engines should encourage them to rest unless there is too much activity in the cabin. You should be able to extend a finger or two into the carrier for a head scratch so that your pet will know that you are still there. Also, a finger tip that has been dunked in a glass of water is a good way to keep your pet occupied.

Because you are traveling, you have not given your pet a full meal, so offering one piece of chow at a time can keep you connected with your pet as long as they will accept it. Don’t feed them too much; the object here is to keep them occupied, not to fill their belly. Remember not to open the carrier so that your pet can escape. This will never turn out to be a good thing.

Other tips for traveling pet owners: put a worn t-shirt or piece of your clothing with your scent on it in the carrier with your pet. Your scent is very calming to your pet. Pack light so you don’t have to fumble with other luggage and can move quickly to turn your attention to your pet. Groom your pet prior to travel. A clean, well groomed pet is a happier traveler. Also, try to prepare in advance for your trip. Get your pet accustomed to being in the carrier. It will pay off on travel day.

Pet travel on an airline can be challenging, but use a few tricks and a lot of love, and your pet will do just fine.


Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel — 250 Comments

  1. Hi, I’ve been searching to see which airlines allow pets flying in the cabin with me. So far I’ve only found Air Canada. Do you know any other? Thank you so much.

  2. Stephanie – it sounds like it will be difficult to find an airline-compliant pet carrier that will accommodate your Pug. Your pet needs to be able to stand up and turn around in your pet carrier. The airlines can be strict on the combined weight of your pet including the carrier on international flights. If your Pug is longer than 19″ from tip of nose to base of tail, then it will be more difficult to find a carrier that it can fit in. The largest carrier that we have is the extra large SturdiBag ( but you should contact the airline to see how much room you will have under the seat in front of you. It may or may not fit depending on the aircraft that serves your route.

  3. Hi I am flying to California with my pug . He weighs 25lbs can he fly in the cabin with me. What do I need for him.

  4. This is a good product, but be aware that, if your dog is traveling as checked baggage or air cargo, commercial airlines will not allow your pet to wear a Thundershirt.

  5. Tais – should other passengers complain, the flight attendant will likely request that you move to the back of the plane. It is their responsibility to attend to the satisfaction of all passengers and they will try to arrange a seat rearrangement. You may want to find an herbal pet calmer or ask your vet about this if you anticipate a problem.

  6. I will be going from Japan to Barcelona with Lufthansa and my cat is usually quiet when he is scarred at the vet for example, but I was wondering if other passengers might complain if he starts meowing non stop, or about allergies. If people complain, would the flight attendant change my seat? Or I would have to stay with the complaining passengers for 12 hours?

  7. The “Thundershirt” has got to be the leader of dog attire. My 100LB Pitbull loves 5he snug, adjustable., durable, quality fabric so much that he posts up and postures like a horse to be saddled. Its so cute on with its simplicity and high quality fabric. I believe it does help him calm down or remain calm during a commotion. 5 yrs old, and the Thundershirt is intact and smart looking. Its money well spent and I recommend it highly.

    CAUTION when washing Thundercoat! The velcro straps are heavy duty and if not adhered fully, act
    like sticky magnets to delicates.Trying to detach sheer panties from this velcro grip is a nightmare.

    1 Benadryl works great to relax my lg dog on long trips too.

  8. Matthew – you can speak to the flight attendant about changing seats at any time if you feel uncomfortable with your seat assignment.

  9. Korinne – as long as you are flying in and out of The Netherlands or Finland on the same airline, and, if your pet is traveling in the hold, the layover is not much over 3 hours or less, then the airline will transit your pet and it does not need to conform to regulations of the layover country. If you miss the connection, your pet will fly out on the next scheduled flight.

  10. Tania – off the record, if you need to change the pad, the bathroom is the place to do it. Just don’t let your cat escape into the cabin. It really upsets the attendants. Keep another pad right below it for easy changes. As for the calmer, our suggestion would be to try it at home first and observe your kitty’s behavior. Bring some treats, but remember that food will also stimulate bowels. Best to underfeed before traveling. Once at your destination and settled, your kitty can eat in a relaxed atmosphere.

  11. I have two cats who I want to bring from Japan to Sweden. There will have to be at least one layover in either The Netherlands or Finland depending on which route we want to take. What kind of paperwork will I need for the layover country? Also, is there a time limit for how long the layover can be? What happens if we miss our connection?

  12. Okay I know a lot of people have asked the same question persay, but here is mine. We are flying from Kansas to Japan. I have got paper work done and ready and approved. So the flight is just one connection then straight to Japan about a 16hour flight.So, here is what I was wondering on the pet calmers that you all suggest how often can they have them? Also, if I take my kitty to the bathroom can I let her out real quick to change the pad? Also I know you say 4-5 hours before flight for food. I just want to make sure all my ducks are in a row on things. We were thinking of getting the pet calmer from the vet they say it lasts 12 hours its not a sedative they said….what do you think. Welcome all suggestions

  13. Your dog is too big to travel in the cabin unless it is a trained service animal that assists its owner. Service and emotional support animals are expected to behave when traveling in the cabin. Dalmatians have a high energy level and may not be a good choice to travel in the cabin.

  14. I have a large Dalmatian, any suggestions for onboard conduct control? He’s too big to fit in a onboard carrier at 72lbs.

  15. Hi All! Could you recommend a transporter for a normal (ca.4,5kg) cat to be taken into the aircraft cabin? I’m probably flying with Lufthansa and their requirements for transporter dimensions are as that: 55cm x 40cm x 23cm. Additionally Lufthansa requires waterproof transporters so any transport bags are off.
    The closest one I have found is Petmate small kennel cab transporter, but I fear my cat won’t fit in it or if it will, it won’t have enough space to move around (another requirement for the transporter).
    Please help.

  16. Taina – Check with Finnair or SAS as to whether they will allow pets in the cabin out of Manchester. You can also try Lufthansa or Air France as they also fly the route.

  17. Hi,
    I am bringing two 8-9 week old cubs from Manchester UK to Helsinki Finland. Is it possible to take the puppyes inside the cabin?
    They are quite small (about 4 kg each).
    I am very reluctant to put young puppyes travel as cargo.

  18. Grace – if you are flying in and out of Russia on the same airline, and, if your pet is traveling in the cargo hold, your layover is not over 3 hours, then your airline will transit your pet through the airport and your Pom will not need to enter Russia. You can find all requirements to enter both countries here: Let us know if you have additional questions.

  19. Hi im traveling with my 4 months old pomeranian from the US to south korea, but we will stop in Russia twice, she is microchipped and has her rabies vaccination, I’m wondering what paperwork I will need to enter south korea or even Russia; also, since there will be layovers, will I be able to have my pet with me around the airport or how does it work? this is her first time traveling and im really nervous since its such a long flight, any advice would be really appreciated! Thank you in advance!

  20. Ana – it is always better to have your pet in the cabin with you, but it does depend on whether your pet is acclimated to its carrier. Hyper pets can be a lot to handle after 8 hours. If your pet has a calm personality and is used to being in its carrier, then try to find an airline that will accept it in the cabin. Would also mention the importance of staying on the same airline once you leave the US. Otherwise, you may need to clear customs and conform to the regulations of the layover country.

  21. Hi, I would like some info on the paperwork I’ll need to get a corgi from the U.S. to Peru.
    it’s usually a 17hour trip with two stops. The longest flight lasts 8hours.
    Is it safe to take my dog in the cabin with me? Or is it better to have him travel in cargo? He’s two and this would be his first flight. Please help!!

  22. Bhooma – getting your cats accustomed to their crates is the most important thing you can do. Once they are acclimated to their crates, take them out of their environment in their crates as much as you can. Get them in the car and bring them back home. They need to see their crates as their safe place. On travel day, insist on knowing that they have been loaded onto your plane. Tell the crew that there is important cargo in the hold and to monitor the temperature and pressure. (they do, but it does not hurt to remind them.) Put an unwashed t-shirt that you have worn in their crates; your scent will be comforting to them. We hope that your trip is uneventful and that your cats get to Singapore safely.

  23. Hi,

    I am travelling with my three grown up cats (2 boys – 7.5 years old and 1 girl – 10 years old) to New Zealand. The country has a lot of restrictions on pet imports and because we are Indians – these rules are much more stringent. My cats will need to go through 6 months in quarantine before flying to NZ.

    They will be leaving mid-Feb for Singapore. I have brought in their travel crates for them to get familiar. What else can I do? I am terribly worried about one of my boys. He gets so stressed out on a visit to the vet.

    Sedatives are not an option and I need to know what I can do to get them to me healthy.

    Please help?

  24. Karen – if you have not already, you need to become familiar with requirements to enter China. The quarantine facilities are finishing up in Guangzhou, so it is not long until there will be quarantine there as well as Shanghai and Beijing. You can find requirements here: As for the flight, we have some all-natural cat calmers in our store ( and advise you try them at home first. To expect kitty to be totally behaved on her first flight is asking a lot, especially considering the time. Get her used to her carrier as soon as you can and take her out of her environment often. As for your last question, if you do not speak the language or are unfamiliar with local practice, we would advise getting an agent to clear your kitty through customs as it can be complicated. You can find one at if you decide to do that.

  25. Hi, I would like to take my kitty from California to China. I don’t want to enter at bejing or Shanghai so I can avoid the quarentine but this is kitty’s first flight. She will be 10 months old when I go in a month. She’s a little feisty and is known as a domestic med hair but has calico and Maine coon in her. Is there anything I can do if she starts crying? Doesn’t the change in pressure hurt for them? Is there anything I need to know in specific for entry into China?


  26. Maria – You can take him in the lavatory during the flight and change the carrier pad if he eliminates in the carrier. (normally this does not happen, but may if there is a lot of food in the system.).

  27. Hi Maria – it is not a bad idea to taper his food content a bit the day of and the day before the flight. (don’t feed him within 4-5 hours of flying). Hydration is very important and you want to make water available as you usually do, but better off to do small amounts. Also be sure and layer 2 pet pads in the carrier in case of accidents.

  28. i would also like to know how should he go to the bathroom since 16 hours of waiting and flying is a long time without bowel movement.

  29. good evening,

    im traveling with my baby cat (6 months) from France to Colombia having a layover in
    Madrid. I’ll be flying with iberia all the way. I would like to know what should i pack with me in cabin. I’m taking him in a sleepypod air and i was wondering when should i start reducing his food intake and how to give him water during the flight. Normally he is very calm and doesn’t cry when i take him to the vet by car or even metro but should i take any other precautions? thank you very much for your help

  30. Hello Konstantina – we do have all natural pet calmers in our store which you may want to try in advance: You will need to get your Maltese accustomed to its carrier as far ahead of time as possible. Take it to the pet store in it; to friend’s house as many times as you can. You can either layer pee pads in the carrier and/or use a diaper. Yes, you can take your pup into the lavatory to change the diaper or pads.

  31. Tracey – if your pup will be 12 weeks when entering the US, it will need to be vaccinated for rabies and wait for 30 days before entering the country. You can ask for a home quarantine from the Center for Disease Control (

  32. I am traveling to Greece from the United States in the summer. Our 3.9 pound Maltese (which will be 1 year old at time of travel) has never traveled with me via air. I have three questions. First let me explain my concern. I’m petrified she will start barking just at the sound of the airplane’s engines. I know I cannot take her out of the carrier and my vet does NOT recommend using a prescription. Is there something natural/over the counter that has worked? And has anyone used a Thundershirt to help calm their pup? And one final question, do you recommend pee pads in the carrier OR a doggy diaper? One more question-can I take the carrier (with dog inside obviously) to the airplane’s lavatory with me (in the event I need to change her pee pad/doggy diaper)? The longest leg of the flight will be 8.5 hours. Thank you kindly.

  33. Hi I am planning a 3 month trip to stay with a friend in Kansas but I have a puppy which will be 12 weeks when I fly I’m worried she maybe quarantined because she has not had a rabies vaccination but she is chipped and upto date with her other vaccinations. Also she is a toy Yorkshire terrier and I wanted to take her in cabin with me is this possible? Is there anything else I need to know too please.

  34. I want to travel from Lebanon wich is in the middle east to the U.S with my monkey. Is it allowed to stay with me? Is it going to make a lot of noise? Words of help…

  35. Noelle – the US is very cat-friendly. Your kitty may be subject to an inspection, but clearing customs should not be an issue.

  36. Hi There,
    I’ll be collecting my 12 week old kitten and flying him home (2 flights). IThis will be his first flight, and my first flight with a pet. Can you advise any natural calming remedies to try. I have looked into the Feliway Spray and Rescue Remedy. Anything else out there that would be an option. He is already comfortable in his Sleepypod, and I will have extra pee-pads.

  37. I’m travelling with my 9 year old house cat from Norway to california she has been on a plane twice before so lm not really worried about her, but l wanted to know what will she go through at animal control when we land in Newark before flying to Lax

  38. Bibi – your tortoise can travel in the cargo hold in an IATA compliant crate, but you should really hire an agent who knows how to transport your tortoise. You also need to verify that CITIES regulations do not apply. If you can afford to do this, try This is an organization of licensed pet transporters all over the world. If you cannot, then contact the cargo department of an airline that flies the entire route and discuss their requirements with them.

  39. Hi Kristine – you will not be able to take your cat out of the carrier during the flight. You will need to limit the amount of food that you give your cat the day of the flight. Most cats will not pee in their carrier, but we suggest that you carry an extra pet pad just in case. You can take your cat to the lavatory if you need to change the pad.

  40. next year i will be taking 2 cats and a tortoise to kazakhstan and I’m not sure what will happen to the tortoise (he is quite big.)

  41. hi. im planning to travel with my stray rescues cat on May. I was wondering if I can take him out while inside the cabin? and how will he poop and pee during the flight? thanks for the reply in advance.

  42. I will be taking my nearly 3 year old Pomeranian on her very first flight Wednesday night- Denver to Charlotte and then Charlotte to Chattanooga. It’ll be a long trip, but luckily it’s a redeye so the noise levels will be minimal. I’m incredibly nervous as she is a barker, particularly in public and to strangers. I’ve gotten her accustomed to her carrier, and have the appropriate documents but I’m worried about her barking. I’ve tested a mixture of things from natural calming treats to Acepromazine and she still barks some under stressful situations like checking into a hotel, or walking into a store etc. I use a mussel to soften the volume of the barking, and eventually she calms down, but I have no idea what to expect from her, especially going through TSA security. I think her barking is mostly out of curiosity and wanting to get out and take ownership of the place, but this CAN’t happen at the airport. Has anyone ever been allowed to keep their pet in the carrier as they go through security? I can see her doing well in her carrier with the sides covered with a blanket so she can’t see, but as soon as I have to take her out I just know she will become overwhelmed. I’m just worried about us getting kicked out. Please send encouragement πŸ˜€

  43. Claire – it is tough when you have to travel with an uncooperative kitty. Your vet may be able to help with a mild sedative. If this is not appropriate, then you may want to fly her as checked baggage in the cargo hold if she really needs to go. If it is not really necessary that she accompany you, then leaving her at home is really the best thing. If you have a trusted neighbor or friend who can feed her and clean the litter box, this may be the best solution.

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