Dogs, cats and other pets are carried in a special area of the plane specifically designed for animals – not where the bags and luggage are stored. This area is usually in the tail of the aircraft, and is insulated and heated, sharing the same cabin air conditioning as the other passengers. The area is separate from the main cabin, and is not accessible during the flight.
Cats and dogs are generally very good fliers, and it’s rare to hear of problems during the flight. Research has shown that there is often a little anxiety during take-off and landing, but for most of the flight pets are relaxed and sleep.
How should I help my pet have a comfortable trip?
Firstly, I’d recommend getting the travelling crate a couple of weeks before the trip. Pets need to travel in an approved (IPATA Certified) carrying crate, available from most pet exporters. I’d leave this in the living area with the door open, and possibly put some toys or snacks in there to encourage your pet to go in and become comfortable. Also putting one of your worn t-shirts in the crate as a blanket can really help relax them.
I’d recommend a good walk on the day of the flight before they go to the airport – nothing too strenuous, but enough to relax them, allow them to go to the toilet and tire them out. I generally recommend owners feed a light meal (about half the normal portion) about 12 hours before flying, and of course water should be available at all times. The pet exporter will also put water in the travelling crate, but I don’t normally recommend food as it’s rare for an animal to eat on the flight and the food usually spills.
Pets should never be sedated during the flight, this is not allowed by the airlines and it greatly increases the risk of the trip. However, many people do use Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs) spray. These are completely safe pheromone products that release a natural signalling chemical to help calm your pet and reduce anxiety. These are not drugs or sedatives, and are approved for use on the flight. They are usually applied to the inside of the crate before shipping, and to the new house after arrival, and can really help.