Pet Travel: Pointers for keeping your pets safe in cargo

Travel with a Pet via cargoOne of the most common concerns pertaining to pet travel comes with transporting a pet via cargo. Contrary to popular belief, pets aren’t crammed with luggage in a deep dark hole in the bottom of the plane. Actually, pets are loaded into a temperature and pressurized compartment separate from luggage. They are also the last to be loaded onto the plane and the first to come off. Usually before you even get to the gate! It’s understandable that the thought of having your pet transported without your supervision can be stressful for both you and your pet. But before you deny the idea completely, do some proper research. Know that thousands of pets are transported via cargo every year and as long as you and your pet are properly prepared, you shouldn’t worry. has created a list of pointers below to consider before and during your transport to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being.

Before Travel:

  • Introduce your pet to the cargo crate as early as possible. The more comfortable your pet is inside the crate the better. Also, remember to never use it as a scolding tool. The goal is to curb your pet’s anxiety and anxiousness while inside the crate.
  • If you are considering transporting a puppy or kitten, please be cautious, especially in the summer or winter. It’s difficult for younger pets to fully acclimate to weather conditions. Consider transporting inside the cabin whenever possible.
  • Traveling in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter create a whole new set of variables to consider. These times should be avoided whenever possible. If you can plan accordingly, do so.
  • Consider your pet’s age, health and temperament before travel and consult with your veterinarian. All 3 of these factors play a huge role in pet transport. If your pet has a history of being nervous, consider a sedative but NEVER a tranquilizer.
  • Water is extremely important. Be sure that your pet is hydrated. Consider beefing up the water a few days before the transport.
  • Replace any plastic fasteners with metal crate hardware. Although the plastic is sufficient, metal hardware will keep the crate locked and tight together. Some airlines even require the metal hardware.
  • Does your pet like to sleep on your clothes? That’s because your scent comforts them. Consider putting an article of used clothing (such as a t-shirt) inside the crate to help curb anxiety and stress.

During Travel:

  • It can never hurt to confirm your pet has been loaded on the plane. (We’ve actually heard of airline employees approaching pet owners on the plane letting them know their pet was loaded safely) This especially pertains when your pet is making stops in multiple airports.
  • If your pilot is available for a quick chat, let them know your best friend is loaded in the cargo hold. Your pilot will most likely be aware of this, but there’s nothing wrong with a reminder and it will give you re-assurance for your flight.
  • Consider dividing your itinerary into sections. If you’re on a long trip, pickup your pet and take them for a walk. Most major airports have a pet friendly section available on site or nearby. If you’re on an international trip, consider an overnight stay. Especially if the pet is not acclimated to traveling, easily stressed/nervous, or older in age. Just remember that if you plan to leave the airport, you will need to conform to the countries regulations on traveling pets.
  • Traveling with multiple pets? Consider transporting them both in the same crate. Some airlines will let pets of the same breed travel together as long as they meet the airlines requirements.

Traveling with a pet in cargo doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. In fact with a little preparation, your pet can be one of the thousand happy animals transported worldwide every year. Find out more about Pet Travel.


Pet Travel: Pointers for keeping your pets safe in cargo — 208 Comments

  1. Stephanie – we have never seen an airline-compliant pet crate with a divider for 2 pets, much less 3 pets. Every cargo crate must abide by regulations specified by the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) and divided crates are not listed for cats and dogs. Puppies and kittens that have been weaned can travel together in numbers more than 2. We have not seen airline pet policies that allow more than than 2 older pets in the crate; however, you should contact your airline to verify how many they will allow.

  2. I have three kittens (they’ll be about 9 months old when they travel). I’ve read that airlines don’t allow more than two in the cabin on flights, so I’m trying to look into shipping them cargo. I was wondering if you knew any places I could get a three-compartment crate to make sure they stay together…

  3. Anthony – if your cat is flying in the cargo hold, you need to speak to your airline about the layover. What facilities do they have to care for your cat in the layover airport? 23 hours is a long time for a cat to stay in a crate or carrier and your airline may have animal welfare requirements to adhere to. Also, the temperatures in Houston are pretty hot this time of year and many airlines will not fly animals in the cargo hold to Houston if temperatures exceed 85 degrees F (30 degrees C).

    To prepare her, you need to get her acclimated to her carrier or pet crate. Always leave it open near where she frequents. Put treats, toys or anything else you can put in that will attract her. (a “used” t-shirt is good so she will catch your scent). Take her for short trips in the car out of her environment. The more preparation you give her, the better.

    If you fly in and out of your layover airport on the same airline, then your cat should not need to be claimed and rechecked unless you are traveling on Air France or (sometimes) KLM. Other airlines do not have this requirement. If you are changing airline companies, you will need to clear customs and enter the layover country to recheck your cat. (not an ideal situation).

  4. Hi, I have a 1-year-old Siamese cat that I need to bring her with me from Kuala Lumpur to Houston TX. The total flight time is 23 hrs including a 4 hr layover. What should I do to prepare her? Do connection Flights that operated by two airlines require two separate bookings and payments?

    The cat weighs 4 kg and is normally very nervous when traveling in a car.

  5. Haly – it is always best to get your dog to its destination as quickly as possible. The more handling, the more chance for error and the more stress on your puppy. It will likely sleep most of the way. Check with your airline to be sure that your pup can fly on this specific flight.

  6. I will be travelling with my husky Akita from Toronto to Egypt. It a 12 hours flight non stop. And from 22-31 hours with layovers. Don’t know which flight should I book the non stop or the long one what would you advise me? She will be travelling in cargo. I don’t want her to get hurt

  7. Margarita – you should have acclimated your Schnauzer to its crate before travel. Get it a good pet pad. Fill the water bowl with water and freeze the night before travel. Get a good crate and make sure the door is zip tied close. Remind the crew that your pup is in the hold. The airlines fly hundreds of thousands of pets each year in the cargo hold safely.

  8. Our one year old schnauzer will be coming in a cargo from Lima to Los Angeles in a 8hours flight,it is safe? The puppy was never in a crate for many hours.

  9. Wendy – if the cat is flying unaccompanied, it will be claimed at the airline’s cargo facility. The consignee must have official identification (driver’s license or passport) to claim the cat. The consignee will take the cat’s papers to the customs facility for clearance, then come back for the cat.

  10. does anyone have info on international pet travel from Russia to LAX? A coworker purchased a cat from a breeder in Russia & its arriving on a flight tomorrow. Trying to find info on U.S. Customs entry requirements, cargo release/pick up requirements, etc so that they can quickly get the cat released to them, calmed, watered & pee’d and on its way home with them…. trying to avoid causing the animal any more stress from delays that could have been prevented….

  11. Fidd – we do not have information on importing cats to Somallia, but will research and update this post if we find information. We will say that returning to Australia from Somalia will be extremely difficult for your kitties if you plan to do so.

  12. Fardosa – we do not have information on importing cats to Somallia, but will research and update this post if we find information. We will say that returning to Australia from Somalia will be extremely difficult for your kitties if you plan to do so.

  13. Hi im going to be relocating to Somalia from Melbourne for work and am planning to take my two kittys with me. they’ll probably be traveling in cargo. I’ll be traveling in feb next year and just want to get a head start. what exactly should i do so that this whole thing goes

  14. Hi im going to be relocating to Somalia from Melbourne for work and am planning to take my two kittys with me. they’ll probably be traveling in cargo. I’ll be traveling in feb next year and just want to get a head start. what exactly should i do so that this whole thing goes smoothly.

  15. Ashishwangh – one tip is to freeze the water in the container the night before you travel which will avoid spillage during handling and loading. Get the largest container that the airline will allow (a margarine tub?) and zip tie it to the door of the crate.
    Know that the airlines should check the water if you have a layover.

  16. Hi
    I will be traveling from Madrid to Santiago, Chile in a few weeks. The direct flight lasts 13 hours plus the wait at departure and arrival. I am very worried about dehydration. What are the different options – preferably non spillable – to keeep water at all times in the kennel? Thank you for your support!

  17. Kimberly – you will have a problem finding an airline that will fly your Shih Tzu domestically. Delta will not do it and neither will American or Alaska Air. United’s PetSafe program is on hold until May 1 and we don’t know whether they will further restrict snub-nosed breeds. We sell many pet carriers in our store that are 19 inches long and have never been refused. ( The carrier that offers the most room is the SturdiBag carrier. If you need the XL, you will need to contact Delta and ask what the room is under the seat in front of you on the aircraft that serves your route.

  18. Hi I have a 8 year old, 20lb, 19in long, shih Tzu. I’m travelling from LAG to FLL maybe a 3h flight. I bought my tickets from Delta and supposedly 18inx11in is the largest carrier they allow. My dog doesn’t fit in one of those. How safe is he travelling in cargo? Please keep in mind he isn’t like most dogs. He’s usually only around me, my mom and my husband. Not other dogs, and he’s never travelled before, not even by car. Please help.

  19. I would never travel a long distance, like overseas with a dog in the cargo hold, never. There is far too much that could go wrong.

  20. Thanks dears it was indeed a very good information that i have received from here. While We Moved from UK to Dubai the most thing that troubled me a lot is about my Cavia, Its an Norwich Terrier Breed and for sure shipping this puppy was really a great stressful Job for me. Even though My brother persuade me to leave Cavia there out I rejected it. and the main thing that I Finally approached my International Movers team who has pet relocation service for FREE…

    1)My Cavia was tagged with a ID Micro Chip: Pets with microchips are entered into a pet recovery system so if your pet gets loose, You can tracked through GPS.

    2)Health Checkups 0f Cavia: They did arrange a veterinarian to Get My Cavia’s pet’s health records to ensure the best care for pet as its relocating from its native home town to another.

    Here is the link of my Pets relocation services team

  21. Neha – you can find lots of information on flying your dog in the cargo hold here: Air Canada flies the route between Mumbai and Toronto non-stop. This is far preferable to a flight with layovers. You may want to discuss a very mild sedative with your veterinarian. Most all pets sleep to the drone of the engines of the plane during the flight.

  22. HI,

    I am planning to travel with my 4 years old mix Lab, in the month of August from India to Toronto, Canada. which would be a direct flight of 18 to 17 hours.
    I am really worried for him. he gets very anxious when not with me. will travelling in cargo safe for him? what airline I should prefer? And what measures i should take for his safety??

    Is there any way he can travel with me in cabin?

  23. Mo – if the weather conditions are stormy and cold, the airlines will not transport the puppies in the cargo hold anyway. Temperatures must be over 45 degrees F (7 degrees C) for the airlines to transport live animals in the cargo hold. Keep in mind too that the puppies’ respiratory systems are not fully developed. It will be tough on them to fly in the cargo hold at this age.

  24. Hi.
    From what I am reading here, I do not think what I was intending to do is a good idea. I was going to fly from Fredericton to Toronto, pick up 2 (11 weeks old) mixed breed pups and cargo them to Fredericton, same day. I am sad because I have not met them and they will not have a chance to acclimatize to a carry crate which this blog suggests is best to reduce their stress. I would prefer to drive up but it has been a stormy winter and next week is predicting lots of potentially bad road conditions.

  25. Stuart – the QM2 would be a preferable solution if you are concerned about stress for your Collie. It is a longer trip but you will be able to visit your pup and take it for a walk, etc. Cunard books up for this service way in advance, so contact them to find out availability. As for flying, it is important that you acclimate your dog to its crate well in advance of travel. Most pets fall asleep during flight; however, this will be a new experience if your pup has not flown before and will be a bit stressful for it.

  26. Hi, I’m trying to decide between Virgin Atlantic flight – London to Washington DC or the ship – Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York. Which one is safer/less stressful for dogs? On flights, even though the cargo area is said to be the same pressure as the cabin, don’t dogs suffer from the ‘ear pressure’ effect that we as humans experience? Isn’t their hearing/ears more sensitive? I will have to drop my border collie off at Virgin Atlantic cargo 4 hours before the flight, then there’s 8 hours flight time, then however long until I can see her the other side, so quite a long time in the sky kennel. On the ship there are visitation times throughout the day and exercise areas but during a flight, dogs are not checked on at all. Is the ship a safer option? How do I decide?

  27. Jessica – millions of cats and dogs fly in the cargo hold each year. You cat should be in good health and be acclimated to her crate. Get her a good pet pad in case of accidents. Make sure that the crate is secured with hardware and the door zip-tied closed after the cargo agents check the crate. She should have a good-sized water bowl attached to the door. There are many tips for flying with a cat in the cargo hold here:

  28. I am traveling from LAX to London, England in the middle of August with my cat. She’s not allowed in the cabin with me so I will have no choice but to put her in the cargo part. Do you think she’ll be okay? She’s about 4 and is fairly calm in her crate.

  29. Despina – it is always best to fly dogs and cats directly to their destination if possible. Generally, the drone of the engines will put dogs to sleep. Acclimating them to their crate is key so that they consider it their “safe place.” That said, if you are planning to travel soon, the temperatures in EWR will not be suitable for live animals traveling in the cargo hold and likely your airline will not accept them. If you decide to fly to Paris, then drive, your dogs will not need an EU Pet Passport. The EU health certificate they use to enter France is good for 4 months of travel within the EU as long as their rabies vaccination does not expire.

  30. Traveling from USA with ultimate destination of Greece. The EASIEST way would be to fly directly to Greece, but the shortest time for a direct/non-stop flight is 9 from EWR to ATH, but the 9hrs worries me. I have two larger dogs (a Lab and a Shepherd mix) and wouldn’t want the stress or possible temperature to affect them negatively. I have nightmares about this. The other option would be JFK to Paris and pick them up in Paris, get a EU Pet Passport and drive to Greece (long drive, but could make a trip of it). Any thoughts? Any airlines have better track records?

  31. Hi. I am planning to travel by plane from Oslo, Norway, to Newark in late March/early April with a 4-5 month old border collie who will probably have to fly in cargo for the 8 hour flight on SAS. We live in Bergen, but will travel by train to Oslo to avoid plane changes. I’m rather nervous about how such a young pup will handle the flight. Are there extra precautions/preparations I should make? Thank you!

  32. Linda – you need to know the requirements when importing a dog to Hong Kong: Depending on the country you are entering from, there could be quarantine. Your dog must arrive in HK as air cargo, so you will be dealing with the cargo department of an airline that flies the entire route. As a pet owner, you need to acclimate your Beagle to its crate; this can take a long time depending on your dog’s personality. More details here: Select a topic from CARGO/CHECKED BAGGAGE.

  33. I may be relocating from the USA to Hong Kong. I would be taking my beagle/spaniel mix with me (approx. 35 pounds). I am very concerned as I have never taken her on a plane before and she tends to be anxious when not with me. I was looking at maybe Cathay Pacific airline. Perhaps you could advise me/put my mind at ease??

  34. Hi, I have a 1-year-old Pomeranian, he will be flying in the cargo for 15 hours or 16 hours. I am very nervous for him. Are there any ways to calm him down before the flight? We are flying on December 31st so I am not sure of how much warmth I must give him. Can I put on a sweater for him or do I just put a few blankets in his crate? I’m not sure of what to put in his crate for him. Thanks a lot, please answer soon.

  35. Lisa – if your Spaniel is flying as accompanied checked baggage, then you will check it at the ticket counter in LHR and claim it at baggage claim at BOS. If it is flying as air cargo, you will drop if off and pick it up at your airline’s cargo facility.

  36. I would like to travel from LHR to Boston with my 16 month old Springer Spaniel. Do you have any specific tips/opinions about the drop off and collection at either airport?

  37. Dhenz – when the airlines have live animals traveling as checked baggage, they do everything they can to keep animals traveling with their owners. The fees for this type of travel are much less than air cargo and, basically, the airlines do not want to be responsible for holding pets for the next flight. What we can say is that you can confirm that your cats will be boarded when you check in. If they cannot be boarded, you should have the option to defer to the next flight so you can stay with your cats. Make sure they have plenty of water as they are a snub-nosed breed and subject to dehydration when flying.

  38. Hi. We are traveling from Riyadh to Philippines hopefully by next week. We inquired today at the Philippine Airlines regarding on their pet travel policies. I’m worried on what the agent told us that there will be 2 reasons that our 2 persian cats will be denied to travel if: there’s no plane ventilation (I’m sure there is) and if there’s a body remain scheduled on the said flight. We will just know this things during check in time only. I’m worried if this factors will happen, we can’t bring our babies with us.

  39. Amanda – first of all, you need to get your dogs microchipped, then vaccinated for rabies with a 1 year rabies vaccination. If you are returning to Spain with them, wait for 30 days and have your veterinarian do a rabies titer test. Get them EU Pet Passports and have the results recorded in the Passports. That way, you can return to Spain and not have the 3 month wait.

    You can find requirements to enter Cambodia here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them: You will need to wait at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination before traveling. The other vaccinations should be administered as well.

    Your dogs may be able to fly as accompanied checked baggage depending on their size and weight, but if they are too large, they must fly as air cargo. In that case, you will be dealing with the cargo company of a commercial airline. Routing will be tricky and we would caution about flying Air France as they require that pets be claimed and rechecked on every layover. The airlines will not interline pets so when you change airline companies, you must claim and recheck your pets. You may want to consider flying Emirates out of Madrid.

  40. Hi there please could you give me advise on flying my dogs from málaga Spain to phonm pehn Cambodia via Paris. ..3 large dogs..first time I have ever transported pets so a little concerned for it 3months before flying they have to be vaccinated ? Are their special water container you have to have for them in their crates? Any information would be a great help many thanks ps I have a contact in Cambodia that can do their papers before travelling that is needed…also one more thing iv never kept my pets vaccines up to date as they don’t mix with other dogs…how do I overcome this on their passports

  41. Dima – you must not change airline companies in London from TAP to British Airways. Your dogs will need to clear customs in London and that takes a long time and is expensive because an agent must handle the transit. Best to put them on another airline that flies your route directly or avoids the UK.

  42. Please I am travelling by tap Portugal airline and I will pass transit to uk so its tap to British airway.. I have to 2 pets dogs please I just i need to know are they acceptable on the plane atleast cargo they are acceptable from Bissau to lisbon by tap airway in cabin but I
    Am not sure if they are acceptable in cargo at least tap to British airway.. Transit.. They are small dogs.. Waiting ur reply please I need to know..

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  45. Vashka – what cities/countries are you traveling from and to? What airline are you flying? Many dogs and cats take long trips. Generally, if the layover is more than 3 hours, the airlines will walk, water and clean up your dog, but it depends on the facilities available to them in the layover airport. We would advise flying KLM through Amsterdam or Lufthansa through Frankfurt where great facilities are available and your dog can still transit the country. Not sure if these airlines fly your route.

  46. I have a 5 month old Siberian Husky. All his paperwork is set as far as passport for up to date shots and flying international but I’m worried as the travel we have planned is very long distance (28 hrs with one stop over / 18 hr then 6hr flight) is the shortest flight I could find 🙁

    My main concern is bathroom. He is kind of a clean freak puppy and I’m scared to have him be basically sleeping in his own feces or urine. I’ve tried to find other transport crates but they all look the same and I don’t know why the bathroom situation is something no one is asking.

    At the moment he is 14kg… is there a way I can just buy a seat for him instead? And if that’s a possibility is there dog diapers since I’m with him and can clean him? It’s just so new to me. Thanks in advance <3

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