Traveling with Cats: 16 Essential Tips (from experience)

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Moving to a new country every two years

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Travelling with cats can be a stressful event, for both you and your cats.

I have taken my cats from Beijing, to Shanghai, from Amsterdam to Erbil (Kurdistan, Iraq). They are real world travelers! If they could type, I’m sure they would start a travel blog.

But there are many ways to make it as smooth as possible for your cats, and for yourself! From my own experience: I’ve made this list of crucial tips to do just that. These are 16 crucial tips for flying smoothly with your furry friends:

Table of Contents

is it cruel to travel with a cat?

First of all, is it cruel to travel with a cat? In my opinion it is not cruel but it is certainly not a pleasant experience for your cat. 

For a big part it will depend on your cat, your breed and if he or she is used to travelling.

My two cats are ragdolls and are very social and can be a bit sensitive as well. when I’m travelling with them I take them with me inside the cabin so they can be with me and I can calm them down. This really helps.

So are cats OK with travelling? Try to let them get used to it at a young age and take them outside so they can get accustomed to being on the road.

If you get a cat at an older age ask the previous owner if the cat has traveled before.

how long can a cat travel without peeing?

Many ancestors of cats originate from the desert. Cats don’t drink a lot and they can go without peeing for 24 hours. So if you are travelling on an 8 hour flight your cat will be fine. Keep in mind how long your cat didn’t pee before leaving.

What I always do is clean the cat litter box an hour before leaving home. They will notice it and might use the cat litter box. This will make the journey more pleasant for them.

how to travel with a cat internationally?

Many airlines allow travelling with cats. You can take them inside the cabin or in a special crate in cargo. In the cabin would be the best choice in my opinion.

Make sure you have all the require documents. More on that further on.

Cat Chipreader

Perhaps the best advice I got when we took our cats with us the first time is: buy a chip reader! Seriously, buy one. It happens sometimes that the chip reader from security or customs at the airport does not work, can’t read your chip or they can’t even find the chip reader. So don’t depend on that! Buy your own chip reader and keep it with you at all times, in your hand luggage or in one of the side pockets from your cat’s travel bag.

If you are confronted with the task of taking your cats with you on your trip. Make sure that they are chipped. This is required by all airlines.

Transporting your cat in Cargo or Cabin

If you’ve made the decision to take your cats with you on your journey you will have to decide if you want to take your cat with you inside the cabin, or transport your cat in cargo. Let me start with probably the least favorite option, cargo.

There are some advantages and disadvantages about transporting your cat in cargo.

Advantages cargo:

Your cat might experience less stress because in cargo it will be dark so your cat might fall asleep.

There aren’t any passengers around of course which will also help to reduce stress. From my experience, when our cats travelled from Shanghai to Amsterdam in cargo, they were surprisingly calm when we saw them again at the airport. They didn’t look stressed or tired at all.

Disadvantages cargo:

Saying goodbye to your cat at the airport is really hard and sad. Your cat might be ok, but I personally felt stressed, probably more than the cats!

Your cat may experience stress throughout the process of checking in and being transferred from the staging facility to the aircraft. (But a similar stressful process will happen anyway when you go through security when you take the cat inside the cabin).

The cargo area is air pressure and temperature controlled. Nevertheless, there is always a minimal chance something is defect and might go wrong with bad consequences.

If the airplane is delayed suddenly, it might lead to a very stressful situation to you and your cat.

Travelling with your cat in the cabin

We had to bring our cats with us when we relocated to Erbil, Kurdistan.

After a long time, we decided to take them with us in the cabin after weighing out the advantages and disdvantages. The main reason was that we had a transfer in Istanbul.

It was 40 degrees outside at the time. If something would go wrong during the transfer, it would become too hot for them, which would be quite dangerous. We also liked the fact that we could calm them down ourselves during the flight. That helped a lot.

One of our cats was trembling during the flight, when I tried to calm him down by petting him, he stopped shaking.


You can keep an eye on them and calm them down or give them their favorite snack.

In case of a transfer, it might be better to keep them with you instead of in cargo because of handling at the airport and temperatures outside.


There will be many people around, in the plane, at the airport, transfer and at the gate. This might cause some stress for them. It depends on how accustomed your cat is to people.

Remember that you are only allowed to sit next to the window and not isle due to safety.

Most airlines allow only one cat per person.

All in all, I would say taking your cat with you inside the cabin is the best option. You will have much more control over unforeseen situations and you can help your cat to relax

Best travel bag for your cat in the cabin

There are many bags to take your furry friend inside the cabin. I’ve had several different bags to transport my cats. In my experience the bag below is the bast travel bag for your cat to take them with you on a long journey.

The size is just right for most airlines (they never check the size) and you can extend the bag to make it almost twice as big. This was super convenient. During the first flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul the seat next to me was empty so I was able to put the bag next to me and unfold the sides so my cat had plenty of space.

It’s easy to take you cat with you in the bag pack when you need to walk to the gate. There is enough space for them to lay down and turn. When you’ve arrived to a spot where you have some time you can easily zip open the back end to make it twice as big.

During the next flight from Istanbul to Erbil the seat next to me wasn’t available. But, I was still able to extend the bag between my legs so there was a lot of space for the cat to lay down. I was also able to pet him by putting my hand through the opening on top.

  • Extendable bag to make the available room for your cat twice as big
  • Even extended it fits between your legs and below the seat in front of you

Travel case to transport your cat in cargo

If you are taking your cat on your journey on the plane in cargo, it’s a good idea to buy an extra-large one so there is enough space to move. Many airlines have requirements for the case. It needs to be big enough for the cat to be able to stand. We bought two huge crates, big enough for a very dog.

Check airline policy

Always read the pet policy very careful. Call the airline and double check! Make sure there are no surprised at the airport. We flew with Turkish Airlines. They have a good reputation on flying with animals. I can honestly sat that the staff on board was helpful and friendly. Let them know when you enter the plane that you have a cat.

This is a list of things we double checked with the airline:

  • What is the price of 1 cat of …kg?
  • What is the required size of the bag?
  • Which documents do I need to prepare?
  • Is an EU pet passport sufficient?
  • How many days before departure does the cat need the rabies shot?
  • Are there any extra checks at the airport?

Book tickets at least two weeks upfront

The airline needs to check if cats are allowed on your specific flight. If someone else already has an animal on that plane, you will probably have to book another flight. Turkish Airlines specific that if there is a bird on the plane cats are not allowed. Which is understandable, you don’t want some Warner Brothers Tweety & Sylvester situation on a flying airplane!

You can book the ticket, and then call the airline right away so they will check. When it is confirmed that it is allowed to have your cat in the flight, you can do the payment.


It’s important to make sure your cat has all the required vaccinations. The most important one is a vaccination for rabies. What’s even more important is that if you are traveling with your cats frequently, is that they receive a rabies shot every year. If the cats don’t get it every year, they will need to undergo a blood test which will be a quite stressful for them.


One of the documents that is required for flying with your cat is the “certificate of veterinary inspection”. The thing is, it is really unclear what this document looks like and what the requirements are. I couldn’t find a clear answer online or on any forum. I asked our local vet, who has a lot of experience, and they couldn’t tell me exactly what kind of document it was.

What I eventually did was, I printed out a document that I bought on this website:

I had no idea if this is an official document or not, but I went to my local vet with it and asked them if they could fill it in and sign it. At the airport they looked at the document and luckily everything was fine!

Apparently, this document works. And in my opinion, it’s always better to have too much documents than too few.

Prepare the travel case or bag

It’s recommended to make the bag as cozy as possible. What we did is, we put a toy they like or a small T-shirt from ourselves in the bag with the cat. The smell reminds them of you and can help them to relax down a bit. Some recommend using Feliway but I didn’t use that. I did use it when we arrived at the new house, but I didn’t notice any change in behavior. Maybe it depends on the cat but I don’t think it’s worth the money.

Make sure to buy the travel bag a few weeks ahead of departure. Put it in the living room and leave it there so the cat can get used to it. The more comfortable they get with it, the less likely they will be to be scared of it.

Prepare essentials

It’s a good idea to be over prepared while traveling with cats in case of any mishaps or crises. You don’t want to come in the situation that the cat does a big number 2 suddenly and you don’t have any wet wipes… You should bring a leash with harness, wet wipes, and their favorite snacks. It’s also smart to write down your name and phone number on the bag just in case.

Litter box cleaning

Right before you will leave home and go to the airport. Clean the litter box. Your cat will hear the sounds and notice the clean box which will help them to go sit on it. It will be their last opportunity until they have reached their new home!

Each their own bag

If you have more than one cat, make sure to have one cat per bag. If they cat stressed a lot they might fight even if they are friends. There’s also a chance that the bag or case will get too hot if they are together in one bag.

Be on time at the airport

It’s smart to be on time at the airport for extra checks and for not needing to rush too much. Your cats journey might be a bit longer but it doesn’t weigh up to the stress it will feel so just be on time and take it easy.

Transferring at the airport

It is possible to take your cat or dog to the “Pet restroom” at certain airports, where they will have some space to stretch their legs. In my view, it’s more suited to for dogs than cats. Just keep the bag closed and don’t bother taking out your cat. It will be even more stressful for them to put them back in the bag.


Touch down! You have finally arrived at your new place after a long journey. When we arrived in Erbil, Kurdistan (7-hour long flight), I immediately set up a cat litter box. I had a foldable cat litter box with me. It’s a very simple handy bag that you can unfold and put cat litter in. I also brought just enough cat litter to fill the cat litter box one time. The cats went to it right away. Time to relax.

useful websites

Travel documents:

Information to prepare your pet for departure:

Flying in and out the EU:

More tips on traveling with cats:

More info:

Useful website:

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About the author

Chris Oberman is the founder and author of Moving Jack and has been traveling the world for over 20 years to 40+ countries.

He lives in a different country every two years which allows him to gain unique in-depth insights and experiences in new places abroad.

Quoted on, NRC Newspaper, Vice,and Feedspot.

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