Sunday, August 5, 2012

Flying with a Cat as a Carry On

Suki and I are flying across the country late tonight, so I thought I would blog about what we bring when we travel and how we prepare. Suki has flown cross country on 16 different airplanes since we got her 2 years ago (4 trips - 2 planes there, 2 planes back) and I have never given her tranquilizers and we have also never had any accidents. She is totally chill about traveling by plane.


What to Pack

Pet Duffle with Mesh Sides (the one we use is Sherpa brand, size Medium)
Calming Treats (for taking off & landing)
Regular Treats
A Blanket (I pack one that Suki sleeps with at night)
A New Toy
Wet Food (for when you get to your destination)
Dry Food (for when you get to your destination)
Identification (Make sure your cat is wearing a collar or has a chip in case anything should happen and you get separated.)
Rabies Certificate (I always bring this just in case someone asks)
Last Check Up Receipt/Summary (I bring this too in case someone asks for some reason)

What to do before you leave

The first and foremost thing you need to do before you even book your flight is to check with the airline and see if there is room for your cat in the cabin. Most of the time there is absolutely no problem, but sometimes flights have a 2-4 pet maximum in the cabin, so it is important to reserve your spot.

Pet Fees for Domestic Trips in the USA:
Delta: $125 each way -  View Delta Pet Policy
Jet Blue: $100 each way - View Jet Blue Pet Policy
United: $125 each way - View United Pet Policy
Southwest: $75 each way - View Southwest Pet Policy
US Airways: $125 each way - View US Airways Pet Policy
American Airlines: $125 each way - View American Airlines Pet Policy

Suki has never peed or pooped in her duffle bag. I don't pack litter or anything like that, but I do sometimes put in some newspaper just in case. The trick is to take food away 8 hours before you have to leave for the flight. This gives your cat 8 hours to visit the litter box, but then not fill up on anything that will make them have to go while you are on the plane. Think of it as a half-day cleanse with snacks. Suki is too stimulated at the airport and on the plane to eat more than a few treats anyway. Figure out when you need to leave to be at the airport on time, and set a cut off time for food & water for the cat.

What happens at the airport

When you are traveling with a cat as a carry on, you have to go to the counter to get your tickets. They sometimes stamp your ticket that says "Fee Paid" with a dog or cat face, and that lets everyone you give your ticket to know that you're pet is approved. If you weren't asked to pay the fee over the phone when you checked with the airline, this is also when you would pay the pet fee.

After you get your tickets, you make your way to the security check point. This is the only part that I find nerve-racking because you need to take your cat out of the duffle bag, and carry her through a metal detector. Suki is normally pretty freaked out and clings to me, and I also hold her super tight, so we never have a problem. After the duffle goes through the scanner, you can then put the cat back in and keep her in until you get to your destination.


Taking Off

Most airlines don't let you sit in the middle seat when you are traveling with a pet, so hopefully you have reserved an aisle or a window. If you didn't, try to get reassigned or ask to switch with someone. The duffle goes under the seat in front of you. I have the medium size Sherpa bag which fits perfectly under airline seats. I am not sure how well the large size would fit, so I would not recommend getting that one. Place the bag under the seat in front of you with the mesh facing you so that your cat can watch you the whole time and feel safer.


After the duffle is in place, I usually put a calming treat in Suki's bag while people are boarding the plane. She meows quite a bit here because she knows what we're doing at this point and is not thrilled. Most people will notice you have a cat at this point, so have your speech prepared. Mine is something like this:
"Yeah, she's Siamese. We're visiting family and I hate leaving her behind. She's flown like 15 times. Yeah - she's never had any accidents or anything. Its hard to hear the meows over the plane engine, so thankfully its not too annoying for everyone."
Suki meows a little crazily when the plane is taking off, most likely because her ears are popping. Once the plane straightens out, she calms down a bit. I pet her occasionally and slip in some regular treats every once and a while so she knows I'm still with her. Suki mostly sleeps once we are up in the air though.


Landing

Same as taking off, Suki meows a little more here. Once the plane has landed, and you are allowed to move a little bit, I put the duffle bag on my lap and put my hand back in it to pet. When you are exiting the plane, make sure you say Thank You to the stewardesses and the pilot! They kept you and your feline safe so they deserve it!


Few Last Things... 

Don't be afraid to take a cat as a carry on on flights with stops. I've done it before (it is pretty unavoidable when traveling across the country). Suki knows once she is in the bag, there is no getting out until we get home, and I think she feels pretty safe in it.

Make sure you are prepared if you are traveling to a colder place than your cat is used to - have a blanket or a little vest so they don't shiver. Suki has traveled from California to New York in the middle of winter, and she did not have a winter coat so I had her wear a vest. She was fine with that on.

That's pretty much it! It's not as difficult or traumatizing as you might think. My cat just likes to be included and hates being left behind - so if your cat is like that, you'll be good on the plane. Plus, once they do it once - they will be fine in the future.

Have you ever flown with a cat? Leave a comment!

61 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. It is SO good to have a post about someone who has been flying, not just spouting the theory!

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    Replies
    1. Favorite Airline Kennel Pet Carrier from Bizarkdeal
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      Delete
    2. This is so amazingly helpful! Thank you for posting this! I am taking my cat, Willis on an 8 hour flight and am so worried about what to bring to make the trip easy for him. This was very helpful!

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    3. Thank you SO MUCH for this VERY valuable info.!!!! I am moving from S.FL. to Hawaii with 2 service cats & I don't know what to expect...fortunately our 2 layovers are short! I didn't know about the check in process, so now I'll be getting them harnesses & some treats, maybe some Feliway...FANTASTIC HELP!!!!

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    4. P.S.- I use the assistance of a wheel chair, due to a knee issue, & THAT really moves thru things fast!!!

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    5. I also left the reply above these 2, & also bought the very same soft sided carriers, am flying American...THANKS AGAIN!!

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    6. Hi

      If you’ve got a cat that keeps peeing all over your house, it becomes annoying after a while.

      The bad smells and the effort involved in cleaning up makes life a misery.

      So much so that some people consider getting rid of their cat...

      Cuz that seems to be the only logical way to solve the problem.

      But the great news is you don’t have to do this.

      You CAN keep your cat and stop the problem.

      How?

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      And it’s also backed up by a 60-day money back guarantee, so there’s no risk.

      Go here to find out more… VET Reveals How to Stop Your Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box PERMANENTLY!

      Talk soon.













      .

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  2. You are so welcome! I wrote it because I had to learn all of this just by experience, and I really wish I read some first hand stories before hand.

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  3. Very helpful post for people who may be traveling with a cat. I would be so afraid of her slipping away while they were using the metal detector (visions of Jack the cat)!

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  4. It is a little nerve-racking, but you'd be surprised how tight you can hold them in those kind of situations! There is no way she'd ever slip out of my arms! :) It also makes them feel more secure / less likely to want to bolt I think.

    One time one of the security guards pet her and told me all about the two Siamese she had at home! Haha

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  5. My older kitty was a frequent flier between NYC and LAX. A few of the flight attendants got to know him and often joked that he should be earning frequent flier miles. I too used the soft carrier and he was good on nearly every flight, the one time when he freaked out a little or wasn't feeling well I told a staff member and we got to go sit in the bathroom where I could take him out for a bit. They will also remove that noxious air freshener thing for you if you ask. Most people are very cool with it - - more curious than anything. I never sedated either but if absolutely necessary you can use baby Benadryl, just check with your vet. Bring all your papers too, even if not needed some people try to ask 8000 questions and it's easier to thwart with appropriate backup.Best of luck kitty fliers!

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  6. Thank you for posting this. It's great to get advice from someone who actually travels with their pet. I just got my little guy, and we live in Hawaii right now. Someday we will probably need to move back to the mainland, and I know I'll use this as a reference. My little Yuki has a Pet Gear I Go 2 Traveler which is great for trips around town and doubles as a car seat, but it wouldn't work for flying.

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  7. I do not plant to fly with my cat but enjoyed reading how it works. Similar sounds like a sweet cat.

    Thank you.

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  8. Sorry, not similar sounds sweet, SUKI. Darn phone.

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  9. thx for the post it had been very helpfull.i have 2 questions when i am on the plan do i put diapers for my cat on the plane just in case. and when i go to a friend do i use pet diapers tooso my cat wont pee on the floor. and which pet diaper brand is the best

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  10. Thanks for these great tips. I'm just about to travel with my two cats from NYC to LAX direct. I'm freaking out! I have given both of them tranquilizers before for car trips- they haven't traveled well, so I will probably opt to do that again.
    Have you ever used the thunder shirts or Feel-a-way spray? Has your cat always traveled well? I got the large bergan carrier. I thought they ran really small. I also will be traveling delta. Have you ever flown with them before? Any other tips? Thank you

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  11. We are moving 1/2 way across the country and my son and I will be flying with two kitties (while my husband, daughter and SIL are driving - hehe). I appreciate your post VERY much!! We will be flying on Southwest and have the early boarding option on our tickets. I sure hope my son (age 7) can hold the more timid kitty through the metal detector and not let her go! That's my big worry, right now. Thanks again for your post!

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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're an asshole Sakib. Don't click on his link. It's malware people. Get a life!

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this out. Oh my gosh, I have done lots of research on this, but I'm so glad you got straight to the points and told it like it was. I feel so much better. Thank you!! I just took my cat's food away in preparation for our international flight, and her cries were the saddest thing in the world, but I need to remember this is best for her, so she doesn't get stomach problems or accidents on the plane. We are moving from USA to South Korea.

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    1. My boyfriend and I are interested in teaching in Japan and we have a cat that I can't bear being separated from. I'm just afraid of accidents because no one on the plane wants to smell cat poop or urine. But that's such a long flight, did you give them water on the plane or in the 8 hour "no food" window? I'm afraid of dehydration and him being too hungry, he's a chunker haha

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  15. Also, the nickname of mine is a joke! I had no idea it would post like that!! Haha! I originally chose that to make me laugh, like 6 years ago. :)

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  16. nice information you have mentioned so far into this blog, i must Travelling pet is really a tough task.

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  17. How large is Suki (weight, height)? I plan on moving from Maryland to California and i have a medium(?) sized kitty.

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  18. A Blanket (I pack one that Suki sleeps with at night) ... dogcarrierfrontpack.blogspot.com

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  20. Thank you so much for this post. I was really nervous about flying with my two kittens for the first time, but reading about your experiences and advice was extremely helpful! I wanted to share my experience as well if there are other travelers with cats who are nervously reading all of the comments like I did!

    I decided to take the kittens with me when I visited my family during a longer summer vacation. The kittens are adopted brothers, one 4 months and one 5 months old. The older cat is very outgoing and curious, and the younger is more skittish though very affectionate. I had a long list of things I worried about when bringing them, wanting them to have as stress-free of a trip as possible, but this post and the experience itself made a huge difference. I took away food and water the night before to prepare for a morning flight. In the morning, I played with them for a while to get out some kitten energy, gave them each a treat with a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy, put on their harnesses (have practiced with these for a number of weeks), and off we went. I work at an animal shelter and was able to bring them to work for several weeks when they were smaller, so they have gotten used to car rides and like sharing a carrier.

    I flew Southwest, and check-in was easy. No scrutiny, just some curiosity and otherwise indifference. I had copies of vaccination and vet information in both the carrier pocket and in my suitcase, but no one asked for them. My boarding pass didn’t need a stamp – just a sticker tag to put around the handle of the carrier. My soft carrier had slightly larger dimensions than specified on the pet page of the Southwest website. I had imagined people with measuring tape hounding me at security, but the size was no problem. For security, I got the attention of a security attendant who ushered me through and scanned by hands. This was a little comical while holding a kitten on either side, but the kittens and security attendants were all great about it.

    The carrier shoulder strap in addition to handles was a life saver while I juggled my belongings and carried 9 pounds of kitten around the airport. The kittens were completely quiet the entire time, just looking around. The carrier fit under the seat very easily with plenty of room to spare. The kittens napped while waiting to board, and then slept the whole way on both flights (the other flight was in the evening). Didn’t hear a peep! I’m not sure how much the Bach Rescue Remedy had, but I wasn’t about to travel without it the other way to find out!

    People were either indifferent or curious about the kittens, saying how cute they are and then sharing about their own cats at home, which was nice. No disruptions, no accidents – nerves but no issues. I used the small pockets on the carrier for a few oops bags just in case, some treats (didn’t need, they were asleep!, but glad to have), their vet papers, a spare printed boarding pass, and my wristbands for motion. Inside the carrier, they had a cloth napkin that they like and a few toys, though they didn’t show interest in them while traveling. I also purchased a collapsible water bottle for myself that I filled once past security and clipped to the carrier so I had it for the flight. The kittens won’t be able to fly in the same carrier again – growing too fast – but I’m glad I was able to introduce it to them while they could be together.

    Sorry for the long comment! I hope it is helpful to others. Thanks again for this post!

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  21. This is a great post. Thanks for the level of detail. One thing I was wondering is whether anyone posting here has experience with asking TSA to pull you aside and take you to a private room for screening. I'm traveling with three cats who are very nervous passengers and have never been on a plane before, and I don't want to hand-carry them anywhere.

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    1. Hi.Have you traveled with the 3 cats yet? I am about to do that sometime next year from Singapore! Do you need to have 1 person to a cat?

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    2. It varies by airline...I read that on southwest you can actually have two cats in one carrier (which my cats would HATE), but otherwise it can only be one pet carrier per passenger. You would want to check airlines operating in Singapore. Also, i did notice that some had different rules for interntational vs. domestic flights. good luck!

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    3. I know it's been some time since this original post, but even a year later it helped me so thought I'd reply to marmaladefille -

      My mom just flew w our cat, Chili, and I suggested she ask an agent to bring her and Chili aside during the out-of-carrier portion of security check. She did just that and they happily accommodated her. They brought her to one of those glass inspection "rooms" and (I think) wanted them both there. While Chili's normally VERY good - calm, friendly, loyal to us, it put made my mom more comfortable and ensured Chili wouldn't go missing just in case she did find all the action too overwhelming. Definitely ask!

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    4. ****wanded them in the room (not "wanted") :)

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  22. Thanks! I feel a lot better now about bringing my cat with me! I was surprised by the prices but you gotta do what you gotta do I guess. I dont see why they are so high though!

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  23. Hey, thanks for the helpful post! How many pounds is Suki?

    Also, do you prefer the window or aisle seat?

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  24. Thank you so much for writing this! I'm moving from Florida to California very soon with my cat. She is a spoiled princess that is used to her lovely daily routine :) She does not like car travel (at all!!) and I'm pretty sure being on an airplane will terrify her, so thinking about this journey with her has been incredibly stressful. You have given me some hope :)

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  25. this was a wonderful post thank you soo much.

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  26. About to fly with new kitty. This helps a lot. Thanx.

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  27. Debbie December 22, 2015
    We will be flying for the third time with our cat. Every other time has been smooth sailing. However, this time we will be on a much longer flight so I found the idea of withholding food 8 hours prior to boarding a great help. Also, I found that when going through security, it's best to have a halter and leash (which we put on and off several days before to accustom him to it). My greatest fear is that even though Simon is very calm going through security, he might just surprise me and bolt out of my arms. I've heard some horror stories of cats running away and having a nightmare of a time finding them. It's another security feature that makes me feel calmer and hopefully transfer to my furry friend.
    Happy flying!

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  28. Do you know if Jetblue allows a 3oz wet cat food in a can in my carryon? I am not checking luggage... thanks!

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  29. Hi! I am gonna travel with my cat for New Year's Eve. The flight is pretty long, 1 hour + 1 hr. break + 5 hours! I have never traveled with her before, so no idea how she is going to react. I have a few concerns, if you would be kind and give me some suggestions...
    1. i have a pet carrier not USDA certified or something like it, which was actually a dog carrier, not well rated on the internet. The brand name is PetChampion. Will I have a problem with that as a carry on?
    2. should i carry with me sand (litter) which she can use in our 1 hour break? for example, going to the bathroom and allowing her to use the mini-litter over there. I worry for the 7 hours + 1 hour before when boarding is a very long time..
    3. should i get a health certificate? airline is not requiring it as carry-on (American airlines) but just in case..
    What other useful tips?..
    thanks so much

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  31. This is really great information. We are about to travel a three flight trop from California to the Virgin Islands back to our boat and I was concerned about what I should do about food and littering. I have been training our kitten (as big as a small adult cat now) to use the toilet and considered bringing him into the bathroom. But withholding food eight hours before seems a good solution.

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  32. This is really great information. We are about to travel a three flight trop from California to the Virgin Islands back to our boat and I was concerned about what I should do about food and littering. I have been training our kitten (as big as a small adult cat now) to use the toilet and considered bringing him into the bathroom. But withholding food eight hours before seems a good solution.

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  33. I have to travel soon 15 hours from Shanghai to Toronto! I'm worried about the long duration of the flight. It sill be closer to 18/20 hours with the airport waiting. I also got stuck in the middle seat since it was the only seat available when booking! Will have to see about changing now. I'm wondering if I can put carrier on my lap once in the air? And also if I should bring a bag of litter onto the plane just in case!

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  34. Your post and all comments are very helpful to me, I'm traveling with my Bubba butt on Monday nyc to Reno.
    Thanks all!!!

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  35. Hi! I'm glad I came across your post. I'm flying home to NY from Cali to visit family and I've been debating on whether or not I want to bring my cat Chai (she's a siamese too!) or find a cat-sitter. She meows like crazy when we travel in the car, so I can't imagine what she would be like on the plane. but after reading your post maybe it won't be so bad!

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    1. Hi Marilyn, I just read your post and I was wondering if you flew with your cat already. I'm planing on moving to another country and I want to bring my cat with me (of course), and she meows a lot while traveling by car.. So I'm a bit scare.. And want to know experiences with meowing cats on a plane :) Thanks!

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  36. Thank you for posting this. We are moving to Ecuador from Anchorage, Alaska, with 3 cats. We'll have to make a couple of trips to get all three down there. Reading this was very helpful.

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  37. This is so very helpful! Thank-you. :)

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  38. Very interesting post. Do you have a cat transport bag which is smaller than 55x40x20? (these are Condor's max. measurements, with which I'm going to fly with my cat) If not, did you have any problems with the size of your bag?

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  39. Hi all,
    I'm planing on moving to another country and I want to bring my cat with me (of course), and she meows a lot while traveling by car.. So I'm a bit scare.. And want to know experiences with meowing cats on a plane :) Thanks!

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  40. Hi everyone
    This is a very helpful post.
    I will be moving with my siamese cat cookie and it will be the first time my cat travels my plane. I'm nervous about the plane ride as she is a nervous cat and don't really know what to expect

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  41. Hi everyone
    This is a very helpful post.
    I will be moving with my siamese cat cookie and it will be the first time my cat travels my plane. I'm nervous about the plane ride as she is a nervous cat and don't really know what to expect

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  42. Hello again! Or I should say Aloha! We, my 2 cats & I are now counting down in days till we move to The Big Island...and I wanted to THANK YOU again for ALL your tips, etc.!!We leave Oct.15, and I am hoping & praying that someone will allow me to put my #2 cat under the seat in front of them..............They are "Therapy" cats & have all their paperwork, from Hawaii,the airlines, everything that's needed. I & they are prepared for the time they have to "be on me" while their carriers go thru the "radar", as I call it, well, they have their harnesses & leashes.....I'm sure they will be terrified. I don't look forward to our layovers, one isn't bad, the last one is almost 2 hours....Please cross your fingers for us, it's a very long trip. Mahalo nui loa!

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  43. I'm travelling with my 4yo male cat from Seattle to Detroit. He does not do well in cars and meows the whole time. Does anyone recommend a good kitty calmer/kitty sedative? The vet suggested giving him 2 tsp of Baby
    Benadryl but told me that the airlines won't let me fly with him if he looks too out of it. I'm almost considering skipping Benadryl though because I don't want to take a chance.

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  44. We found a spot to put the house and while it might not be our dream location, http://www.mmovers.ca/

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  45. Hi! Thanks for this helpful post! Question: have you or anyone reading this ever flown with a head plastic kennel? Is it smarter to travel with a soft duffel? Kitty once clawed his way out of one of those so I'm freaked out about putting him in a zippered carrier. Any clever observations or suggestions?! Many thanks!

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  46. I have been so worried about flying to Tennessee from NY with my kitty. Hes very timid and I'm terrified of how he'll be on the plane. I am so afraid he'll meow and be freaked out :( whats the best calming spray or option for that? I've been doing harness training for a few minutes each day hoping he'll get used to it

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  47. Hi

    One of the worst things about looking after a cat, is the putrid smell of urine they can leave all over the house.

    The problem is some cats completely ignore their litter boxes. They don’t even know it exists (despite your best efforts of showing them).

    But it’s not just the smell that’s frustrating.

    What about the time, effort and cost of having to clean it all up as well?

    It can be a nightmare…

    So what can you do?

    Well, instead of getting rid of your cat…

    I recommend you give “Cat Spraying No More” a try.

    It’s a step-by-step system that’s proven to get your cat to pee in its litter box permanently.

    And it includes a 60-day money back guarantee, so there’s ZERO risk.

    If you’re ready to remove the problem for good, you can find out more here…

    >>> No More Cat Urine Everywhere <<<

    >>> Use THIS and Your cat will ALWAYS pee in its Litter Box <<<

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    >>> Peace of Mind For A Messy Cat <<<

    Talk soon,

    [Ana]

    ReplyDelete