Short haul flight with two cats - any advice for the pre-flight and flight?

JimmyL

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
Nov 27, 2020
Messages
86
Purraise
65
Hi all

Not sure if this is the right spot for this post...but here goes anyway!

I am a UK resident, currently living in Belgrade. I will shortly be traveling back with my two inherited Serbian cats. One is 6 years old, found (almost dead!) as a kitten, and is blind. She has never really left the flat. The second, a sprightly two-year-old, spends half the time in our flat and the other half in the courtyard outside. Both have been sterilized and received all the necessary jabs.

In 5 weeks' time, my wife and I will be traveling with them (they will be in smallish cat boxes) back to the UK. The journey involves a taxi to Belgrade airport, then a flight to Paris - both cats will be with us in the cabin. We will then take a taxi from Pairs, enter the UK via the Channel Tunnel, and travel to the southwest of England where the cats will be introduced to their new home. We envisage the whole thing taking 16 -18 hours.

The journey will be stressful, but we want to minimize the stress for our cats. Here are our ideas:

- get the cats used to being in their boxes, with comfort blankets and familiar smells inside.
- build up 'trial journeys' with them in their boxes - a walk around the block; a short car journey; a car journey to the airport, and a walk around the airport ( all this is quite simple to do)
- sedate the cats (something in their food) before the journey
- leash train the younger cat so that I can walk him around the garden when we get to our new place.

I just wondered if any of you have any ideas, that we might not have considered? Any advice from anyone who has done this sort of thing would be most grateful.

Thanks

James
 

mrsgreenjeens

Every Life Should Have Nine Cats
Staff Member
Advisor
Joined
Aug 13, 2009
Messages
15,270
Purraise
5,235
Location
Arizona
Oh my. Is there any way you can make this trip in a vehicle? I'm across the pond so don't know if it's possible or not, but if it is, I would strongly suggest you drive it rather than fly. Too many things can happen on a plane, such as you could get kicked off if the cats are "unruly", and your Vet probably would not sedate them until they are unconscious, perhaps just a light sedation, if that. Also, remember you will probably have to take them completely out of their carriers at the airport at Security so they can inspect the carriers for sharp objects, etc. :rolleyes2:. Cats can bolt so quickly in that circumstance. I'm concerned for your blind cat that she will hear all these new sounds and be particularly frightened.

Here is a thread that discussing someone also wanted to fly with their two cats, and most people recommended driving: Moving to another state with a cat

And this article might be very helpful: Traveling With Cats [Inc. 36 actionable tips] – TheCatSite Articles
 

Margot Lane

Kitten at heart, not a Top Cat
Top Cat
Joined
Oct 24, 2021
Messages
1,768
Purraise
3,124
I drove once on a windy car ride w/ my cat for only 3 hours and was very glad I’d thought ahead to bring an extra fresh carrier as he pooed his first one. That allowed me to pull over and freshen up everything (and everyone).😃 Not sure how any of that could be accomplished on the plane part, but maybe you can get creative. (I will say I have taken this same cat on a 3 hour plane ride many times and he was a trooper, didn’t wee or poo once). I have also since found removable and replaceable ”wee pads,” for the bottom of the carrier, and recommend some kind of travel cleaning towelettes. I do have 1 question: could you break up the trip, or does it have to be done in one straight shot?
 
Last edited:

GoldyCat

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Messages
15,107
Purraise
3,777
Location
Arizona
It sounds like you've got a pretty solid plan in place. I would be very careful using a sedative. If you feel they really need something you could try a low dose before one of your trial journeys to see how they react. An alternative would be to spray the carriers with Feliway (or whatever similar product is available to you). Spray the carriers at least 15-20 minutes ahead and make sure they're completely dry before you put the cats in.
 

Margot Lane

Kitten at heart, not a Top Cat
Top Cat
Joined
Oct 24, 2021
Messages
1,768
Purraise
3,124
E01C4B0D-4452-4F98-A9B9-CA81A47D589A.jpeg If you do decide to stop overnight at a hotel, this charming, snappy foldable kitty litter box is great. Easy to clean.
 

Margot Lane

Kitten at heart, not a Top Cat
Top Cat
Joined
Oct 24, 2021
Messages
1,768
Purraise
3,124
Hi! It would be great if you could keep us posted as to how this went, or will be: I think from your original post you are just about to tackle the trip or have accomplished it. All advice welcome, for all kitties everywhere!
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #8

JimmyL

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
Nov 27, 2020
Messages
86
Purraise
65
Hi! It would be great if you could keep us posted as to how this went, or will be: I think from your original post you are just about to tackle the trip or have accomplished it. All advice is welcome, for all kitties everywhere!
Will do! We actually have a leaving date now which is Thursday, May 5. The journey will involve a taxi to Belgrade airport (30 mins) a flight to Paris (2.5 hours) and a car journey from Paris to Somerset in the UK (taking in the Eurotunnel) - which will take 8 hours. All in all, we expect it to be a 16-hour trip. I have been doing work with the cats and investigating the least stressful way of doing this. I must say I am dreading the flying bit!

When I do it/ have done it, I will fill you all in on the details. In the meantime, I am going to put up another post asking how to make 'transporters' a happy place for the cats to be in...!
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10

JimmyL

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
Nov 27, 2020
Messages
86
Purraise
65
Hi Margot and others

Sorry about the late response...there has been a lot to sort out, in terms of moving house and moving countries too!

The main thing is that the cats are relatively settled.

It was a difficult journey at times; we took a taxi from our flat in Belgrade to the airport, then flew to Paris. There we were picked up by a taxi that took us all the way from Paris to the UK. This included a 40-minute journey via the Eurotunnel to get from Calais to Folkestone in the UK. From there it was a continued taxi journey to get to Frome in Somerset. 13 hours in total. We had to do it this way because, if you want to fly directly into the UK, you have to put pets in the hold. We did not want to do this; we wanted our cats with us at all times, so we flew to the nearest airport we could get to, which allowed cats in the cabin. This was Paris.

In preparation for the trip I had taken both cats out on separate short car journeys, and in transporters, walking with them to the local shopping centre so that they could get used to the noise and bustle of people. I also got them both used to wearing a leash and harness. In the build-up to the trip I tried Feliway spray but this didn't really work - in fact, one of the cats reacted quite badly so I abandoned it. In the seven days before, and on the day, I added Zylkene - a herbal calming powder - to their food but I'm not sure what effect it had.

I also made efforts to make their transporters safe and welcoming. I bought them about a month before our travel departure and used treats to encourage them to visit and sleep in the transporters so they would not be associated with anything scary.

I think all this prep was beneficial - one of the cats is blind and very nervous, and in her six-year life had never left the flat apart from going to the vets. So a lot of prep was about calming OUR nerves as much as theirs!

The first part of the trip was the most stressful. Both cats were whining incessantly in the 20-kilometer taxi ride to the airport. I had practiced car journeys with both of them, but not with them together. Maybe I should have tried this beforehand because the whining of one would set the other off.

We tried to get some extra help from airport staff, but this was not forthcoming. Even though it was 5 am the airport was very busy. We asked to be in the priority queue, explaining we had anxious animals but they made us queue with everybody else. The cats would meow once every 30 seconds, but you couldn't really hear them.

We had to take them out of the transporters to go through security. Both were on the leash/harness in case they bolted, but they clung to us! Again very unhelpful staff; I asked if the empty transporters could go through quickly so that we might get the cats back in but there was a reluctance to help.

At this stage, and during the take-off for the flight, the cats were very nervous. I thought both were yawning (You will see examples of this in this video I have posted below) but they were in fact 'panting' to help manage their anxiety. The little blind one was shaking a bit but not too bad.

But about 10 minutes into the flight they both seemed to calm down a little...accepting their fate so to speak. I let Bob (the two-year-old) poke his head outside the transporter a few times. I had him on a leash and harness so felt comfortable doing this.

(On the advice of Jackson Galaxy) one of the cases I had packed contained 'scent soakers' - cat towers, some used cat litter, and used cat litter trays, so they would have something familiar in our new home. Unfortunately, that case had not made the flight (it eventually urned up at our new home 8 days later!), so there was lots of waiting and general annoyance as we tried to find out what had happened. But generally, the cats remained calm.

When we got in the taxi in Paris we soon let them out of their transporters. It was a big vehicle, and we had them on their leashes so they could not go too far. They were both curious and nervous, but very happy to have a bit more freedom. They both had a couple of moments of anxiety but were more relaxed and even slept a little.

When we arrived they seemed to settle down quickly. We have now been here 10 days. The little blind one has taken more time to adjust, but again, not as much as I thought. The younger one is chomping at the bit to get outside.

Looking back, I think the journey choice we made was the best one. We were concerned about how they would react to the airport and flying - it wasn't great but it reduced a possible 36-hour journey to 13 hours. I think the short, sharp shock of a plane journey was preferable to many hours traveling in a car, which would have been broken up with an overnight stay in a strange place.

Being able to constantly pet and stroke the cats was very important - we were never separated from them and I think this helped manage their anxiety for the trip and has helped them relax more quickly in their new home.

Here is a 5-minute video of the trip. The initial footage is very dark, because of the time we set off in the morning, but the quality improves as the video progresses:


So there you have it. Feel free to ask any questions!

Many thanks

James
 

Tobermory

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.”
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Dec 13, 2017
Messages
6,303
Purraise
18,074
Location
Oregon
Wow! You’ve provided a case study for how to prepare and move cats in a way that keeps them safe and minimizes their stress wherever possible. And with a blind kitty! They were champs, and so were you. :hugs: I’m so glad you all made it safely.
 

Eurocat

TCS Member
Kitten
Joined
Dec 8, 2021
Messages
14
Purraise
20
Location
Germany
Hi JimmyL
Thank you so much for posting this. It‘s quite an insight for anyone deliberating a longer kitty trip using various forms of transport.
You did absolutely wonderfully with everything and you must be so relieved now that this is behind you. I‘m sure this whole adventure will have bonded your cats more to you both and will have prepared them well for possible other small trips if necessary. Leash training is a great help and allows so much more freedom in other situations.
Just out of interest - How did you manage with the cats needing to use the litterbox on the trip - or didnt they?
I also have a similar cat journey experience behind me, but the background is quite different.
In contrast to your already very bonded kitties, my little cat was a very skittish 5 month old semi-feral cat which I had found in quite a desolate state on a small Greek island last August. I had totally fallen in love with her but spent quite a few sleepless nights deliberating if I was doing her any favours putting her through the stress of taking her back home (and consulting with vet and cat protection) or if it would be more in her interest to TNR her.
Finally deciding to fly her back to Germany with me was quite a feat and involved an incredible amount of (shorter term) organisation and was only possible due to the amazing help I received from the vet, cat protection organisation and the airport staff who allowed me to put her carrier through the security scanner with her in it. At her stage of skittishness and fear of humans a harness wasn‘t at all possible and letting her out of the carrier would have been a disaster.
Although having had a thorough vet check and getting all her vaccinations and paperwork, she had started suffering from some diarrhea a couple of days before the flight (vet still gave me the go ahead to fly) and I was terrified that despite all my efforts to rectify this and to time/restrict her food on the day of the big trip, the stress of travel would add to the problem and she would soil herself with explosive!! diarrhea on the (very full) plane. Being semi-feral it would have been quite an adventure to replace soiled puppy pads in the plane‘s toilet and the last thing I wanted was to traumatize her even more if she had to spend any time in her own excrement, or have to bathe her when we arrived home.
The result was that I was a nervous wreck the whole time expecting the worst.. (I should have taken the Zyklene she was on) but she did amazingly well and remained calm and just went into herself and slept. And she didn‘t soil herself at all.
We got through solid 9 non stop hours of travel including a taxi ride, getting thru the (smaller) airport, 2 take-offs and landings with short stay in the lounge of connecting airport and a final 45min car trip at our destination.
Prior to the final 9 hours, the whole trip back to her final destination had taken over 2 days and had included one ferry ride and one overnight stay in a holiday flat (in a dog crate).
Now 6 months down the line, despite some (journey unrelated health set backs) she‘s doing amazingly well, so it was all worth it…
For each trip or vet visit we now go on, I‘ve set up a carrier with small litter tray. It makes such a difference not to have to worry about having to expose a fastidiously clean creature to the stress of having to soil herself (and it‘s better for my stress levels too!). We are also going to start leash training.
All the best to you and kitties! :)) and enjoy your (re?)settling into England, a green and pleasant land (where I was born..:))
 

JacobinCat

TCS Member
Young Cat
Joined
May 30, 2018
Messages
40
Purraise
97
So glad you made it safely!!!! The video really shows how much you care for your kitties -- they are lucky to have you as their humans!

Traveling with cats is just unbearably stressful -- probably even more for the humans than the cats. I moved with two kitties (Charcoal and Dominique) from NYC to St. Louis in 2004, an ostensibly simple, direct 2.5 hour flight. When we got to La Guardia Airport, all the computer systems were down, and there was an incredibly long line to check in by hand. The cat sedatives had worn off by the time we finally got to security several hours later, and Dominique got scared and wiggly going through security, and got her claw (briefly) stuck in the side of my nose. I was bleeding and the security people were ... laughing. We missed the flight, of course, and were told that the next flight would be from a different terminal, which would mean that we'd have to go through security a second time. I refused that option -- they had little leashes on, but I was terrified of someone bolting in panic if they had to come out of their carriers a second time. The only alternative was to fly via Dallas Fort Worth -- for people who don't know US geography too well, that means making the trip southwest and then north, rather than simply west :) By the time we got to Dallas we'd missed the connection to St. Louis. But there was one last flight that night, and we caught that one. As we settled into our seats I started hearing sneezing in the seat in front of me. The man in the row in front of us was allergic to cats. Luckily it was a short flight and he was very sweet and understanding. We'd been supposed to get to St. Louis by 1 pm; it was 11 pm by the time we arrived home at last. Charcoal and Dominique jumped out of their carriers in the new apartment, completely nonchalant, no peeing in their carriers, looking as if they hadn't been through anything at all. And I collapsed in a puddle of emotional meltdown on the floor.
 
Top