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Traveling With Pets: 12 Need-to-Know Tips

Posted on 12/9/2014 10:41 EST

With an automatic feeding dish and a friend to check in occasionally, cats are probably fine staying home alone while you travel for the holidays. Their proud independence notwithstanding, you may not want to leave them all alone. Dogs need a lot more attention. Boarding is a pricey option -- sometimes prohibitively so -- and not suitable for every dog. Instead, let's bring along our feline and canine friends. Here's what you need to know when traveling with pets this holiday season.

flying with pets
Photo by Fly_dragonfly/shutterstock

Don't Sedate Your Pet.

Although a loud pet, like a loud child, can be a nuisance on an airplane, never sedate the animal while traveling. Just as alcohol affects people differently at high altitudes, a sedative can be dangerous, even deadly, for pets when they're flying.

Not All Airlines Can Accommodate Large Pets.

Most airlines impose a weight and size limit for pets allowed to be carried on board, and only a few airlines have the necessary heated and pressurized compartments to transport pets in the belly of the plane. Check the rules before buying your ticket.

Outside Temperatures Matter.

It's best to book mid-day flights during the winter if your pet needs to travel in the cargo hold. The compartment is heated but precautions should be taken if it's too hot or cold outside. At Delta, for example, animals are not allowed to fly if the high or low for the day is expected to be 85F or 10F, respectively.

Not All Pets Should Travel.

See a vet and get a checkup before buying your ticket. Old and very young pets may not be healthy enough to travel and short-nosed breeds, such as Persian cats and pugs, are more sensitive to changes in the air and at higher risk while traveling. A health certificate is also required for pets being checked as baggage.

Meal Prep.

To avoid motion sickness it's best for pets to fly on an empty stomach. Give them lots of exercise and food the day before traveling, and skip the morning meal on departure day. When pets are flying in the cargo hold it's wise to tape extra water and a bag of their favorite food to the outside of the crate where airport employees can easily access it if there are delays.

Have a Suitable Crate.

Airlines and the USDA have strict requirements for crates. When transported inside the plane, it must fit underneath the seat in front of you. Among other rules, checked crates must be made of rigid material, closed but not locked (use releasable zip ties to make sure it stays shut), have ventilation on three sides plus an opening door, and be large enough for the pet to stand.

Prepare Them for the Crate.

If your pet has always seen the crate as someplace it goes when misbehaving, the message needs to change. Take a few weeks before the trip to make the travel crate a safe place where the animal receives treats and gets to play with favorite toys.

Plan Ahead for International Travel.

If you're heading overseas for the holidays and haven't already made preparations to bring your pet, it's probably too late. Countries have specific requirements that must be met before a pet is allowed entry, often including a microchip and vaccinations. You'll also need to wait several weeks after a vaccination before the pet is welcome to enter.

Buy Plastic Tags.

Remember that your pets will need to go through security. Make the process easier by buying non-metallic collar and plastic tags that won't set off metal detectors.

Take Your Shirt Off.

Pets will be frightened by all the new smells and noises. Help ease their travels by wearing an old shirt to bed the night before and leaving it in the crate -- the familiar scent will be reassuring.

Avoid Layovers.

Some airports now have "pet relief areas" inside the security zone but layovers are still a hassle. The extra cost of a direct flight might be offset when flying with pets because some airlines charge a fee for each segment flown.

JetBlue's JetPaws Program Rewards Parents.

Although JetBlue only allows pets that are small enough to fit in a crate under the seat in front of you, the carrier rewards pets' parents with 300 TrueBlue points for each segment flown with the animal.

by Louis DeNicola (Google+ Profile)

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