Flying is inherently stressful. Add your beloved cat to the mix and it can be a downright painful experience! Preparation is key to reducing your pre-flight jitters…and your cat’s.
There’s a lot of information out there about what you need when flying with your dog on a plane. And that’s great! But what do cat owners need to be aware of that dogs owners don’t? Is there a different set of standards?
Travel Certificates for Cats (A.K.A. “Certificates of Veterinary Inspection”)
The long and short of it is that yes, if you are taking your cat on an airplane, you need a travel certificate before you fly. Actually known as Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and sometimes referred to as “health certificates,” these documents are simple and easy to get from your vet. Almost all airlines require that your cat’s health certificate be issued within 10 days of your trip.
Your cat’s travel certificate will simply state whether or not she is up-to-date on all her required vaccinations (namely rabies) and that she’s in good enough physical health to travel. It will also state that she’s not currently suffering any signs of disease. Health certificates for pets exist to keep other travelers and your animal safe throughout your journey.
Do All Airlines Require My Cat to Have a Health Certificate?
Very broadly speaking, yes. It’s always important to check with your specific airline before you book your ticket to inquire about any and all pet-related regulations. Some airlines allow ferrets in the cabin as “emotional support animals,” for example, while others don’t.
Every airline has their own set of specifications regarding the size and type of carrier you can bring, the identifying papers and tags you’ll need, and directions for how to make reservations for your cat as well as pay for any associated fees. Even if your cat will be traveling with you in the cabin (which is highly recommended), you’ll probably have to pay a fee – sometimes more than $100! – to bring her with you.
If your cat is too big for the cabin of the plane and needs to travel under the plane in the cargo hold, talk to your vet extensively about the risks. You’ll also want to ask about an Acclimation Certificate, which some airlines now require. Many airlines have restrictions on which breeds of cats are allowed to travel under the plane, so be sure you check well ahead of time and to be specific.
Does My Cat Need a Health Certificate if We’re Not Flying?
It’s important to remember that CVIs aren’t specific to air travel. In fact, some states require animals from out-of-state to have a health certificate in-tow which means you might need one even if you’re driving or training in. Airlines choose to require certificates across the board both for health and sanitation reasons and to more easily comply with laws in all the states they operate in.
Don’t forget that CVIs are U.S.-specific documents. If you’re flying domestically with your cat, a simple health certificate is usually all that’s required by your airline before you board. If your flight is going out of the country, however, you’ll need to check that country’s specific regulations regarding paperwork, quarantine, and registration before you show up with your cat.
One of the most common requirements for international pet travel is an international health certificate. And there are other regulations to be aware of, too. Pets traveling to the UK, for example, have to be microchipped. And traveling with a pet to Hawaii? It’s…complicated.
Before any trip with your cat, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet about how to prepare. She’ll likely advise you to print out your medical records, stock up on medications, and start getting your cat acclimated to her carrier well in advance of the trip. You should, of course, check in early with your airline and show up for your flight with plenty of time to spare.