How to Travel with a Cat (incl. Flying with a Cat)

How do you travel with a cat on a plane? How do you take a cat on a road trip? How do you teach your cat to walk on a leash? My cat does all these activities on a regular basis and he behaves. 

If your cat is still a kitten, you’re in luck of making him a true adventure cat. Kittens can adapt easier to new situations than adult cats. However, don’t worry, an adult cat can be easily trained as well, even if your furball is grumpy.

My Poofy loved to travel and is actually getting mad at us when we leave him at home. Strangers are still stunned by the view of a cat walking on the leash, but I’m telling you that it’s all normal. My cat is basically like a dog in this sense, he even scratches the door if we don’t walk him every day.

road trip with pets

How to Train Your Cat to Walk on the Leash?

First things first, leash training is important when it comes to traveling with your furry friend. When we think of dogs, we think of walking them on a leash. When it comes to cats on the other hand, not so much. I can’t tell you how many times I got stopped by strangers saying ‘omg, it’s a cat on a leash!’.

Others kept asking questions how did I train my cat to do this since their cats don’t move when they put a harness on them. Leash training your cat is a process but it’s totally achievable, regardless of what kind of cat do you have.

Read More on How to Teach Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

My cat is actually a Ragdoll, a breed that’s known for being an indoor cat. When I first took him outside the cat was falling off trees not able to keep a balance, birds were basically hopping around him because he was so hopeless.

cat backpack
Cat Backpack – our back-up for when Poofy is tired. (This one is also recommended and airline approved as a carrier).

walking a cat on a leash
best cat harness

Flying with a Cat

First of all, let’s clear up the air here, as there are a lot of misconceptions about flying with pets. You CAN bring a cat (or small dog) on a plane in the cabin for an extra fee on many airlines. Your pet does not need to be an emotional support animal to fly in a cabin.

Several of the biggest airlines in the U.S. charge $125 each way for an in-cabin cat, $200 for an international flight. On European flights, the fee is usually between $50-70.

Check which airlines allow pets in the cabin. I highly advise against shipping cats as cargo (unless you’re going to UAE, Iceland or UK and there’s no other option), as they’re small enough and fit under the seat. If a pet in its carrier can fit under the seat in front of you, it typically can travel in the cabin. The size of the carrier varies depending on the aircraft though.

If you’re flying domestic, you don’t need any documents. If you’re flying internationally, it’s a completely different story as there are more requirements and a topic described in a separate blog post

flying with a cat

Call your airlines before purchasing your ticket to make sure that they have space for your kitty on the plane. There are limits on how many total pets are allowed on each flight and as you can imagine, buying an extra seat for your cat isn’t allowed.

A cat in its carrier technically counts as your allowed carry-on bag, but I’ve never had an airline telling me that I can’t bring my regular carry on as well.

My Tip: Book yourself a window seat if you can, so then your cat can have some peace and quiet if he decides to sleep in his carrier. If you have an aisle seat, he will be constantly near the aisle with people walking through and flight attendants serving drinks. It might cause some unnecessary stress.

Flying with a cat and a baby.

What to do if you get a seat next to someone allergic to cats?

The correct answer is you do NOTHING. It actually happened to me many times and once we were also sat next to a little fluffy dog. A person whose allergic should call a flight attendant and they’ll find them another seat, further away from your cat.

If they’re unhappy with the situation they can deplane and be rescheduled without an extra charge. These are the rules (not my rules, official airline rules).

That said, upon further research if you have a severe allergy to cats and dogs always be prepared with anti-allergy pills. Even if there are no pets on your flight it doesn’t mean that they weren’t any pets or service animals on it before that and allergens are circulating in the air. Planes are rarely deeply cleaned and definitely not fully after every flight.

Poofy has been on 17 flights and , so he’s a veteran. Here are my best tips:

IMPORTANT: Always dress your cat in a harness and have a leash ready to go, even if your cat isn’t fully leash trained yet, or you have no intentions of getting him out of the carrier.

You will need to take your cat out of the carrier for security check and carry him through the X-ray screening, while your belonging and his carrier are being X-rayed (please do not leave your cat in his carrier and x-ray him like luggage!!).

This is the most stressful moment for any kitty because there are a lot of people around, beeping noises and things are happening around. Cats can sneak out, so it’s best to keep your furry friend safe on the leash then. Poofy just hangs around my feet on the leash when I pack my stuff. And everyone says ‘aww’ when they see him.

Best Cat Carriers

I went through a lot of cat carriers, as some fell apart and some turned out to be too big, despite being promoted as ‘airline approved’. The best one turned out to be the Sherpa Carrier, as it fits under the seat, it’s not too wide, and more importantly – it’s Poofy approved. They’re available in different colors and different sizes. Poofy uses Medium because he’s a giant cat. Most cats would fit in a small one though.

IMPORTANT: When you call the airline to pre-book your ‘pet ticket’ you’ll be asked to give dimensions of your carrier. Give the dimensions of the small carrier, even if you use medium when flying on smaller planes. No one actually measures them at the airport, but the lady on the phone won’t book your cat if the dimensions are exceeding ‘recommended’ ones.

best cat carrier

Flying with Cats: Checklist

On top of a carrier, you might want to pack a few things. Depending on the cat, your cat might want to sit in his carrier or be a lap cat. Poofy is usually a lap cat when it comes to flying. He peeks through the window in the beginning but then falls asleep.

I’ve never seen Poofy expressing even the slightest interest with any toys when we travel – too many things are going on, so you can leave those for later.

Have some snacks ready and a foldable water bowl. Most cats tend not to drink and eat much when they travel, but at least try to offer some.

What about pooping? We equipped ourselves with a foldable litterbox and some litter in a ziplock bag, but so far the only time we actually used it was during a road trip at hotels. Poofy has never pooped or peed at the airport, on the plane or in the car. He waits until we get to a hotel, or back home to do his business.

I read somewhere that cats can last up to 24 hours without going, and I’ve seen Poofy lasting 12 hours already. He just refuses to go. Again, it’s better to be prepared. Take your cat to the restroom, prepare his litterbox and see if he goes.

road trip with a cat
Poofy in an Uber getting to the airport.

Road Trip with a Cat

If your cat suffers from motion sickness he will be quiet and drool. Most cats can overcome motion sickness, but it’s best to calm your kitty before putting him in a car for the first time. I didn’t do it with my previous cat and she hated cars forever. We gave Poofy calming snacks a few times, but these days he doesn’t need them anymore.

We road tripped and moved across the country with Poofy many times and he doesn’t mind it. He loved to walk around the car and explore the car, look through the window, hangs out on a windshield and eventually falls asleep down by the passenger’s feet.

We usually stop often and walk him so he has a chance to spread his legs, but he never really poops or pees when traveling.

road trip with a cat
Basically his seat for almost an entire ride…

Staying with a Cat at a Hotel

Staying at a hotel with your cat can be more fun than you think. Cats love staying at hotels. They have new spots to explore and places to hide.

If you leave the room without your cat, leave the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door. You don’t want to risk having housekeeping open the door and have your cat escape. Some pet-friendly hotels even have a ‘Pet in Room’ door hanger available.

Place the litter box in the bathroom, as the litter can be hard to get out of the carpet. Then feed your kitty and give him some time to explore.

cat at UFO museum
Poofy meeting Aliens at UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.

Which Hotels Allow Cats?

Finding a cat-friendly hotel can be a challenge. It’s definitely easier in Europe where most hotels accept pets, but in the US you need to double-check. Many hotels that state their pet-friendly status or say ‘we welcome furry friends’ turn out to accept only dogs and not cats, so remember to call the property before booking your room.

The hotel will most likely charge you a deposit or fee for each pet. But, you also might be a charged a surprisingly huge cleaning fee for your cat, so ask about all the fees involved beforehand.

Here are some US chains that always accept small pets:

  • La Quinta
  • Travelodge
  • Motel 6
  • Red Roof Inn
  • Extended Stay
  • Best Western ($20 per night, max $100 per stay)
  • Ace Hotel ($25 per night for the first pet)
  • Loews (most will charge $25 per pet)
  • Fairmont
  • Four Seasons

In NYC I can recommend Hudson New York. Pet stay for free and it’s super close to Central Park where you can walk your cat or dog.

cat in central park
travel with a cat

Do you have any questions about traveling with a cat? Ask me in the comments below!

37 thoughts on “How to Travel with a Cat (incl. Flying with a Cat)”

  1. I’ve always been interested in traveling with my dog however the whole process has seemed daunting to me. This article has a lot of really great information that I can use for next time! I’m wondering what place that you’ve visited has been the most pet friendly. Also, is there insurance required for you pet when traveling? Thank you for all the information!

    • No insurance required for pets. Italy so far has been very pet friendly, but taking Poofy to Poland next week so will report back on that 🙂

    • Hi! This is awesome! I never thought about traveling with a cat but after reading this article I changed my mind! Thank you! 🙂 in one month I will be traveling with my cat in a train. I already bought her an expandable carrier so she will be as much comfortable as possible as this will be 12 hours long ride. I have to admit i am a little ( read a lot) concerned how to do this. My biggest concern is how/where to put her litter box. I mean, she has to pee somewhere in those 12 hours right. And next thing, she is not so used to traveling and I know she will be miawing a lot so she will disturb another passengers.
      I am from Slovenia and due to work i have recently moved to Germany. Now i am going back for a visit and i wanted to make a reservation in my own coach but there is no such kind option for this connection. So now i have to travel in a train with other people and I am not allowed to take her out of her carrier. I already booked my tickets and now i am not sure if i should do this? (Sorry for a long post)

      • If she’s like my cat she wouldn’t pee. Mine prefers to hold it, no matter how many times we try. You can get these disposable litter trays and bring litter in the ziplock as I mentioned in the article and let her try it in the bathroom.
        Don’t worry about her meowing. If she’s allowed on a train then there’s not much you can do to calm her down. I guess you can pet her, which helps my cat, but each is different.

  2. Thank you so much for open my mind about cats traveling. Next month my kitten is arriving and I will do all you did!
    Can eait!

  3. Hey,
    Have you ever had problems when other people were walking their dog? Like did they try to chase your cat?

    • Dogs are usually interested, but they’re on leashes so even if they try to chase him they can’t. Many dogs are actually smaller than my cat, so they’re actually afraid of him 😀

  4. Hi, my cat is an adventure cat but has never been on a plane. We are not too worried about him, because he travels very well. However, we are planning on traveling from Spain to London, then London to Vancouver, BC. After our trip to Canada we are planning on traveling to the Caribbean. Have you travelled within Europe to England, it is only a connecting flight but, are they strict? Look forward to hearing from you, Hilary.

    • I’ve traveled around Europe with my cat without any issues, but your case is quite different.

      First of all, even if you’re connecting in the UK you still need to fulfill all the requirements for the UK. And since Brexit they became ridiculous including having to test cat’s poop. Plus, your cat cannot travel in the cabin to or from London, so you’d have to put him in cargo regardless of the airline. Which is more expensive and stressful to the cat 🙁

      In terms of the Carribean travels, it’s fine and your cat could go in the cabin with all the necessary paperwork (unless it’s Jamaica or Barbados, then also only in cargo).

  5. Have you had any issues with the harness or leash setting off the alarm in security? I have the puppia harness

    • Nope, never. However, for some reason every time I fly through Warsaw Chopin Airport they tell me to undress the cat before I carry him through.

      • I’m planning on traveling from Pennsylvania to Utah, my cat is decently sized. He’s a bit fat, put on a lot of weight. Currently have him on a diet but I don’t expect him to lose many pounds before our trip. I was wondering if I needed to have him checked at the vet beforehand. Like, will I need to get documentation of him being updated on all his shots/etc.? I’m using the Mr. peanuts airline approved cat carrier. I think I got the normal sized one, since I wasn’t sure how small the underneath of the seats would be. I THINK I’m going on American Airlines. Another question, do they also allow me to have him on my lap? I’ve also never flown before so what counts as carryon? I’m not sure what all I can bring 🙁
        It’s all very stressful for me, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’ll be alone.


        • Hi Emily, you need to know your cat’s weight and carrier’s dimensions because they’ll ask you for it when you call the airline to book the cat. Within the US they never check cat’s documents, it just matters internationally. You can bring a standard size carry-on as well, but the cat counts as your secondary smaller carry-on item. In terms of taking him out of the carrier officially, it’s a no, but it’s up to flight attendants. On some flights, we cannot take him out, on some everyone loves him and he’s good. Don’t worry – you guys will be fine!

  6. Thank you for the useful information about traveling with cats. We’ve taken our indoor cat outdoor to public places in her favorite stroller, but never at hotels. We are vacationing with her in a hotel that accepts cats and allows el fresco dining. I plan to keep her in the stroller, but have a leash should she get the courage. Also bought a collapsible carrier with littler box and food bowl. We are excited to vacation with her for the first time.

  7. Hi Anna! Thanks for this article! I’ve been trying to figure out if I can live a location independent life in SE Asia/Australia next year, and my cat has been the major thing holding me back. I discovered Matt’s blog on quitting being a digital nomad, then Poofy’s instagram, then this article! You’ve inspired me to put more effort into her training, especially while summer lingers. If there’s one piece of advice I would add to this article, it would be for folks to spray Feliway in their carriers before putting in their cats (unless they are completely used to it, like Poofy!). You mentioned calming treats–can I ask what brand that is? I’ve been starting to leash train Miette, but man is it a slow process! I’m also worried about fleas and worms etc. Did you get any worm vaccinations for Poofy? And what flea prevention do you use? Backpack training has also been a challenge. Did you find that your cat preferred the open-back backpack than one with a bubble or mesh? I’m also curious how you taught the ‘walk’ and ‘stop’ commands. Miette has responded to clicker training in the past, but typically more to body language than actual language. Gosh, I have too many questions. If you happen to have any advice about traveling with a cat in SE Asia, that would be very appreciated too! (I have gotten her a rabies shot a month ago and am about to get the (expensive) blood test done. I wonder too if the order of countries visited matters.) Thank you! ?

    • We actually tried a few brands of calming treats but stopped after two trips (honestly don’t remember which one), as there was no point anymore. Poofy gets regularly vaccinated and when he scratches himself we buy the regular flee drops at a vet and put it on him.
      Poofy prefers to walk on his own, but he wasn’t a fan of a bubble. He needs to be able to peak out and feel like nothing is blocking his view.

      In terms of traveling in SE Asia I know that Bali is basically impossible to bring a cat to.

  8. P.S. I got distracted by your other articles 🙂 and forgot to ask one important question: Have you tried moving around frequently with Poofy? What would you say was the sweet spot in terms of Poofy being happy and you still being able to move? Cats don’t normally like to move and get very stressed out by it, but I want to live abroad and travel next year, so I’m considering staying 3-4 months in one place at a time (with frequent side trips), and hopefully that will keep the cat happy. Thoughts/experiences? Thank you!

    • Yes actually. We had to move 3 times in one year, plus he stayed with his grandparents as well, and he was fine. He’s better knowing he’s coming with us rather than staying home, so these days when we pack we have to keep telling him that he’s coming and showing him his carrier.

  9. Hi,
    Do you have any tips on how to avoid flying with cats. I am very allergic, and have tried every antihistamine that you can buy in Australia, as well as different inhalers as cats flare up my asthma making it difficult to breathe. I have seen an immunologist and tried many treatments over the past 10 years, but nothing seems to work.
    Flying with a cat, even a short haul flight would be an awfully uncomfortable and make me feel quite unwell for days after. (I wish this wasn’t so, but unfortunately it is what it is).
    So my question is, do you know what airlines don’t allow pets on the flight? Or do you know if i could request a flight I’m on to not have pets? What would happen if a person whose allergic to cats wanted to fly the same flight with someone who wanted to bring a cat on with them? Which person would have to change flights?

    Thank you in advance for any advice 🙂

    • Hi! Yes, I have a few tips 🙂
      You can let the airline know you’re allergic and they’ll put you on another flight if the cat or dog is scheduled (that’s why you have to book your pet a few days in advance). If you don’t call up in advance and find out when you get to the airport YOU will be the one having to reschedule your flight, not the cat/dog/any other animal.
      We sat next to someone who’s allergic a few times and they asked the flight attendant to switch seats and it was never an issue, as there was someone who wanted to sit next to the cat in exchange.
      It works like with peanuts though – most airlines cannot guarantee dander free flight because of service animals, emotional animals or other pets. Planes aren’t cleaned all the time and definitely not deep cleaned, so that’s an issue here. These days if someone has a deadly allergy most airlines won’t fly them and take them off the flight (google “nut allergy off the flight”).
      Also, service animals and special emotional animals can just show up unannounced all the time without any carriers also in business class – if you see one at the gate you can ask for a seat far away from the animal or be rescheduled for a different flight. Animals won’t be rescheduled I’m afraid, because that’s the law.
      Airlines that don’t allow pets are: Norwegian, Qatar, Emirates (those two with an exception of falcons 😛 ), all cheap ones like Ryanair, Spirit, WizzAir, EasyJet, also on routes flying to the UK, South Africa and Australia because they need to fly in cargo to those destinations. But, again service animals can fly on all these airlines. Lufthansa will only allow pets in two last rows so you can also sit on the front of the plane if that helps.
      From my experience, I’d avoid a few airlines that are the most pet-friendly and frankly I’ve seen pets on many many flights with them: Alitalia (once we sat in one row with a cat, dog and bunny, LOL!), Delta, Southwest, JetBlue.

  10. Thank you for the useful information about traveling with cats. Really it was a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing this information.

  11. Hi Anna! I just found this wonderful article! I’m flying soon with my cat and I loved all the details and advice you gave. I want to fly inside the cabin with my cat (who I believe has some ragdoll and is also a giant measuring 17Lx12H 18.1lb) and I’m looking for a big enough carrier. You say your cat is a giant and he looks huge! I would like to know how big he is to compare with my cat and get him the same carrier. Thank you, again!

  12. Hi Anna,
    Great post. I’m amazed that a person can take a cat into the cabin of a plane. I always thought our fluffy friends had to travel cargo. Even if Ryanair did allow cats, I don’t think my Juno could behave appropriately. Thanks for sharing.

  13. As an owner of two cats, I found your article to be very informative. Although I have yet to travel with our cats, I am thinking to move soon and of course will have to have them travel with us. Our little guys ( one female and one male, both Siamese ) are house cats and don’t go outside. They are very vocal when we take them to the vet. I think an airline would be too much for them emotionally. Travel in my car would be better and I think they could adjust to that better. We agree with you on the accessories to bring along to make them comfortable. Thanks again for your travel tips with cats. It will definitely help!

  14. Hello! Greetings from the Caribbean, found your post and it’s really nice to see that other people travel with their kitties. I’ll be traveling in two weeks with my two cats. One will go on cargo and the other one with me. Unless I can make them fit in one carrier and staying calm (which I doubt)..But I bought a bigger (backpack) carrier and I’m waiting for it to see if I can do so.

  15. Enjoying and learning from you. We will be relocating with cat (very nervous and a handful) from west coast to east coast. Any recommendations on how we handle the time on an airplane? Would you recommend a direct flight, a flight with a “break” and change of planes, or even going half way and staying over at a layover location, and finishing next day? Needless to say we are hesitant 🙂

    • I’d say pick whatever works for you, the cat will be fine. However, personally I’d probably pick a direct flight to get it over with because at the airport you’ll need to carry the cat around and my own cat hates that part but once on a plane he just goes to sleep 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for your article. I think this information will be very useful even though it is two years later.
    I am moving from Japan to the US with my one year old cat, Nutmeg, next month on ANA and United Airlines. The total travel time will exceed 24 hours, so I am really nervous for poor Nutmeg. Nutmeg is about 11″ tall weighing about 8 pounds. I have the same Sherpa medium carrier, and she loves it, playing and sleeping in it at home. But, even in her carrier, she really doesn’t like riding in the car, did you have to do any special training with Poofy for car rides? Did you just start taking him on lots of drives while he was young? Did he meow a lot the first few times before he got used to it?
    I have started taking her for very short car rides to walking spots in an attempt to normalize car rides for her.

    Nutmeg likes going on walks around my house and around quiet roads in my neighborhood but she is very skittish whenever cars, mopeds, or people pass nearby (she lets kids approach her, but apparently old ladies and delivery men are scary). I try to pick her up when I hear a car or a bike, but she tends to go into full panic mode and wriggle out of my arms. My harness has a metal clip attached to it, and I am worried that I will be asked to remove the harness and she will escape my grasp at security. I saw above that someone asked about metal, so I hope it isn’t a problem, but do you have any recommendations for harnesses? My harness doesn’t have a detachable leash.

    During your longest flights, did you let Poofy try to go to the bathroom?

    • Don’t worry, this article keeps getting updates 🙂

      I’ll be real: some cats meow a lot, some don’t. Poofy is mostly quiet, but my previous cat hates car rides no matter what and she would scream for 10h straight (not even joking). We’ve never been asked to remove the harness for security to be honest. The more you do it though the less scary it will be for the kitty.

      Poofy never goes to the bathroom when flying, road trips, or anything. He waits until it’s all done. Officially, if your pet flies in the cabin you’re not allowed to let him out in the bathroom.

      P.S. ANA only takes animals in cargo on international routes (not sure if you’re taking ANA domestically in Japan or internationally), and you need a plastic cage for that. The cage must be made of strong plastic or metal material and have a solid top. It must be durable enough to withstand air transport.

      • Oh awesome! Thanks so much for the response!
        I can only imagine that a 10hour drive with a crying kitty is very stressful. I will take Nutmeg on a 3 hour drive soon and see how she behaves.

        I am so glad you have never had to remove a harness! That’s some peace of mind. And also that Poofy can hold it for a long time. I will try to give her a bathroom break during my layovers if time permits.

        And about ANA, I was able to get ANA just for a short domestic flight. I asked them to prepare a rental carrier with cooling packs when I called to reserve a pet ticket. The plan is to pick her up after the ANA flight, put her back in her Sherpa, then head off to our Animal Quarantine appointment. I will have a five-hour layover in Haneda and the Quarantine office has been very helpful and prompt in confirming my documents and answering all my questions about the bureaucratic side of things. I hope that once we get through security and on the long United flight it will be smooth sailing.

        Thank you for putting my mind at ease!


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