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We are currently arranging for our pet cat to join us in the UK.

We've gone through the process of organising the trip and fulfilled (or will do) all the requirements to have the cat in the UK (she is travelling within the EU).

The problem is that I'm worried about the flight itself. She's doesn't like being transported in containers, though we've taken steps to accustom her to her container by leaving treats there and occasionally keeping her in it. We also get her to travel with us by car.

I'm particularly worried about psychological trauma as the poor thing will be kept in her container for no less than 5 hours (albeit the flight is direct, the transport company have asked us to bring her several hours prior to it).

Do you think it could be too much? There's a possibility she could stay with family. Shall we not risk it and go for that?

EDIT: We received the cat on Friday, 2014/08/22 in good health and I'm very happy to say that everything went smooth and she is adjusting fine to her new environment. Many thanks again for the helpful answers posted here.

  • Is she traveling in the cargo hold or passenger cabin? – Zaralynda Jul 1 '14 at 14:03
  • @Zaralynda Cargo hold, the only way to transport pets to the UK is through British Airways and they always carry animals in the cargo hold. Hence our concern – Nobilis Jul 1 '14 at 14:30
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From my experience (I shipped a cat from Brisbane, Australia to Houston, Texas - which was a LOT more than a 5 hour journey), I can offer some suggestions.

Water is essential. Most of the places that handle shipping will ensure water is available. If there are any delays or long layovers, you'll need to arrange for someone to be with the pet in the airport (I had to do this - I ended up with a relative of a friend going to the airport in question).

Sedation depends entirely on the pet. My cat had to be sedated because she was a single-person animal, I wasn't there (I'd left to move to the US a few days earlier), and she panicked so much the transit company staff decided the risk of her injuring herself was greater than the risk of sedation.

I'd recommend you include an old (something you're willing to lose) unwashed piece of clothing in the carrier - it will smell of you, which will help to reassure your cat.

If you can have her do her business before the trip, that would help, although part of the reason the transit company is having you bring her in some time before the flight is so they can prepare everything and give her a final health check.

Once you collect her at the other end of the journey, you'll want to make a big fuss of her and reassure her.

You don't mention her age: the cat I shipped was 7 at the time (she's 19 now, and going strong). The older the cat, the more stressful the experience is likely to be.

From what I've experienced, pets being shipped are usually treated with care by the shipping and airline staff, and there are relatively few issues (of course, the ones that do happen will make the news).

If you're going to be in the UK for a long time and your cat is strongly attached to you, a day of stress for her is probably better than being without you for a long time.

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  • Thanks @Kate, we've decide to bring her over as you're right that having her away from us is probably the crueller option. – Nobilis Jul 3 '14 at 7:26
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    @Nobilis - I hope everything goes well for her and you on the transit. I received a pathetic bundle of fluff: the cat I shipped is long-haired, and her fur had been sprayed with something at some point, plus she was still half-sedated. She clung to me like glue for days after that, but she's fine now. – Kate Paulk Jul 14 '14 at 11:12
  • this is an all thread but thought I'd update some info in 2018. Nowadays it's generally agreed that it's NOT a good idea to sedate your pet prior to flying. In fact, many airlines won't allow your pet to fly if it even appears to be sedated. Also, a reputable vet also won't agree to sedate your pet if she knows your will be flying the pet. – PandaPants Jul 19 '18 at 16:18
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Some creepy words of caution. Airlines may or may not regard your pet as little more than baggage. There have been lots of incidents of pet deaths due to negligence of airline workers in handling the animals (not making sure they are in a temperature controlled place, or not giving them enough food or water, or accidentally crushing the animal....)

I would feel very leery about flying a cat for this reason and also the psychological stress (keep in mind cats also tend to be more noise sensitive than us and jets are usually nosier than vacuum cleaners (their arch enemy in the home)).

Whatever you decide to do, good luck to you and your cats.

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  • Thanks Dan, we've decided to bring her over, I think leaving her with family and away from us is the crueller options. – Nobilis Jul 3 '14 at 7:23
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I have never flown with a cat before, but I have volunteered with the Siamese Cat Rescue and helped with some of their cat transportations (driving), so my advice on preparing your cat will be based on that experience.

For longer journeys, such as you are expecting, your cat needs to have access to food, water, and litter. The rescue uses a larger container, so there is room for a small litter tray, and the cat can still move around without being in the tray.

The litter tray I've seen used (the carrier is set up by the foster) is usually about 6" x 4" and taped to the bottom of the carrier with sturdy tape (like duct tape) so it won't slide around as the carrier is moved. Not much litter is needed, just enough so that if they poop they can cover it (and aren't subjected to the smell for the rest of the trip because that will stress them out).

For a five hour trip I wouldn't worry about providing food, unless you think your cat would find a food puzzle distracting. You should provide water, but I'm not sure the best way to do that if you aren't there to manage a bowl (we offer water in a bowl at rest stops as needed).

Stress

There are really a couple of ways I've seen cats exhibit stress in carriers

  • Cowering. This can include literally shaking in fear. Often these cats will sit in the litter box area during longer trips, so that should be taken into account when preparing the carrier.
  • Physical illness. In my experience a cat who does this will tend to be vocal about their stress, but I have siamese (who are naturally vocal) so that may not be common with other cat types. The carrier should be prepared in a way that will minimize stress to your pet (a blanket that can be dug to cover the mess may work).
  • Panic. This cat will fight the cage to attempt to break out. This type of reaction is serious and may cause injury to the cat.

I recommend taking your cat out for a long drive to get an idea what type of stress your cat will exhibit (if you don't already know). If your cat gets sick or panics, you should discuss options for sedation with your vet. You don't want your cat to get injured while in transit.

We can't really advise you from here how badly your pet will take the stress from the flight, the only way to know is to take some trial runs in your vehicle and see how she does, then discuss those experiences with your vet to determine if she will be safe, what types of steps you should take to keep her safe, and if those steps require her to remain with family in her current location.

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  • We'll try to fit a tray in the container that the transport company approved as it's not really massive, I've seen recommendations on diapers which also seems sensible. For water, there is a small container attached which I think can be refilled by the staff handling the animals (I'm sure I saw something along those lines on BA's website). I also came across a piece of advice suggesting frozen cubes so that kitty has water for the duration of the journey. For sedation, there seem to be lots of arguments against so we won't apply any. What do you think about stress? Should we worry about it? – Nobilis Jul 1 '14 at 15:40
  • @Nobilis I'll edit my answer to discuss stress. – Zaralynda Jul 1 '14 at 17:03
  • Thanks @Zaralynda, we've decided to bring her over as we believe having her separate from us will probably be the crueller option for her. – Nobilis Jul 3 '14 at 7:25

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