What Are the Airline Rules for Flying With a Cat?

Airline travel can be a stressful experience, not only for humans but also for our feline companions. Cats are creatures of habit, and sudden changes in their environment can lead to anxiety and discomfort. However, with proper preparation and the right equipment, you can make your cat’s journey by air a much smoother and less stressful experience.


According to The Humane Society of the United States, taking steps to familiarize your cat with their carrier and planning ahead can significantly reduce their stress levels during the journey.



Are backpack cat carriers allowed on planes?

Yes, backpack-style cat carriers are generally allowed on planes. Many airlines accept soft-sided cat carriers that can be stowed under the seat in front of you. However, it’s important to check with your specific airline as their policies might vary. The carrier should still comply with size regulations and fit comfortably under the seat.


How do I know if my cat carrier is airline-approved?

Airline-approved cat carriers typically have specific dimensions and weights that comply with the airline’s guidelines for under-seat storage.  In general, all airlines demand a soft-sided cat carrier or backpack with enough ventilation, secure closures, and a waterproof bottom to contain any potential accidents. A cat carrier backpack with an additional safety tether is an advantage.


What size of cat carrier is airline-approved?

Most airlines require cat carriers that can fit comfortably under the seat. Most international and domestic airlines allow below 12” H, 18” L x 12” W.   


    • How strict is Southwest about pet carrier size? Your soft-sided pet carrier  must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Pet carrier dimensions are 17” (L) x 10” (W) x 9.5” (H).  Southwest welcomes small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs, but they don’t require documentation.  Other hard-sided cat carrier  has maximum dimensions of 18.5” (L) x 13.5” (W) x 9.5” (H).


    • What size pet carrier is allowed on Delta Airlines? The pet carrier must have a waterproof bottom, have room for your pet to stand up and turn around, must fasten securely, and have adequate ventilation. The maximum dimensions of the cat carrier backpack for Delta Airlines are 18” x 11” x 11”. Cats must usually weigh less than 9kg / 20 pounds and must be at least the age is ten weeks old. Carry-on cat fees are $125 as of Feb 28, 2022.


    • How strict is Alaska Airlines cabin pet carrier?  The cat travel backpack with window allowed size is 17″ x 11″ x 9.5″, while the hard-sided dimension is 17″ x 11″ x 7.5″. The big cat backpack carrier should be lined with an absorbent material to avoid leaks during travel. The big cat backpack carrier must fully enclose the animal and be escape-proof. It has adequate air ventilation and is free of tears, cracks, or breaks. A cat travel fee of $100 USD/CAD1 each way, or call 1-800-252-7522 for early reservation.


    • Can I bring cats on United Airlines There are no weight or breed limitations for pets, they must travel in either a hard-sided or soft-sided cat carrier. This carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. United Airlines allowed 18”x 11”x 11” for soft-sided cat backpack for large cats and 7.5” H x 17.5 L x 12” W for hard-case pet carriers. There is a $125 fee each way or another $125 for more than 4 hours of travel.



      • How do I take my cat on JetBlue Cats may travel in the cabin in an FAA-approved pet carrier backpack that fits comfortably under the seat in front of you. Only one pet per customer is allowed. Your pet and pet carrier count as one personal item, and the pet fee is USD $125 each way. Your cat carrier cannot exceed 17″ L x 12.5″ W x 8.5″ H and must not exceed 20 pounds. Vaccination document requirements vary from state to state, while Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands require a vax document.


    • Hawaiian Airlines pet carrier requirements.  Only dogs and cats are permitted to travel in the passenger cabin using airline-approved cat carrier backpacks, not to exceed 16” long x 10” wide x 9.5” high. The pet and carrier combined may not exceed 25 lbs total.  International flights do not accept pets, while short-nosed dog and cat breeds are not allowed on domestic flights.


What airline allows the largest pet carrier in the cabin?

American Airlines offers one of the biggest dog and cat carrier dimensions (18 inches x 11 inches x 11 inches), so your pup can enjoy a bit more space during the flight, though the total weight limit is half what Spirit allows.  They allowed small excesses in the size of the large cat carrier backpack without excessive collapse on the pet carrier.

Do airlines check pet carrier size?

Airlines won’t take the time to pull out a measuring tape to check your cat carrier backpack size. It is a more likely rule of thumb. If the cat can stand on a cat travel backpack with window, that will be 100% to pass with the airline staff.


Can I put my pet carrier on my lap during a flight?

No. Pets are required to stay in their carrier throughout your domestic flight, stored under the seat in front of you.


Can pets be denied boarding?

A pet that shows disruptive behavior may be denied boarding. These are scratching, excessive whining or barking, growling, biting, lunging, urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area.


How do I calm my pet on a plane?

  • To keep them calm on the flight, it always helps to have a favorite toy, blanket, or pillow that smells familiar.
  • A Thundershirt® which swaddles the dog much like swaddling an infant and can reduce anxiety.
  • A pheromone calming collar to help lower anxiety.
  • Trazodone (brand name Desyrel®), gabapentin (brand name Neurontin®), and alprazolam (brand names; Xanax®, Niravam®)  are examples of medications that are sometimes prescribed by veterinarians to reduce the anxiety that some dogs experience when traveling.


What size backpack carrier is TSA-approved for cats?

TSA recognizes that for many pet owners, their animals are an extension of their family, and they want to travel together,” said TSA Deputy Federal Security Director for Colorado Anne Cross. 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not have specific regulations regarding cat carrier backpack sizes, as their focus is on security screening. TSA requires you to use a pet-friendly carrier bag large enough for your pet to stand, sit, and turn around comfortably.


What kind of cat carrier can you take on a plane?

For in-cabin pet travel, soft-sided pet carriers are recommended by airlines. These extra large cat backpack are more flexible, making them easier to fit under the seat. Make sure the big cat backpack has ample ventilation to ensure your cat’s comfort throughout the journey. Additionally, carriers with a removable, machine-washable liner can be very practical in case of any accidents or spills.


Up, Up, and Away!

Airline travel with your cat doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. By taking the time to acclimate your cat to their carrier, selecting an airline-approved cat carrier, and familiarizing yourself with airline policies, you can help ensure a smoother and more enjoyable journey for both you and your furry friend. Remember, planning ahead and considering your cat’s needs will go a long way in making the travel experience as stress-free as possible.



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