Your primary consideration when selecting a carrier for air travel will always be the airlines. If you purchase the wrong carrier, you may find yourself stuck at the airport with a carrier the airline will not allow. Most airlines have similar requirements, but check your airline beforehand. Make sure the carrier you select meets their standards. And always check that the carrier has been certified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Most adequate carriers will have a sticker to prove that the carrier is Live Animal Regulation recognized. If not, the manual should say so. This certification ensures that the carrier is suitable for both cabin and cargo usage.
You’ll need a carrier that is the correct size for your cat. This doesn’t mean selecting the first carrier that your cat fits into. In fact, many airlines have specific requirements when it comes to the appropriate size. A carrier that is too small will result in a cat that feels cramped and confined. Your cat may even be injured trying to move. On the other hand, a carrier that is too large will not only cost you more but endanger your cat. In the event of an accident, your cat might be injured as it is tossed around the too-large carrier.
To choose the correct size, place your cat in the carrier before purchase. Your cat must be able to sit up, lie down, roll over, and turn around with no difficulty. The carrier should be just large enough to allow these movements. If it’s any larger, choose the next size down.
When selecting a carrier, purchase the best you can afford. Look for a carrier that is sturdy and durable, preferably with hard sides (tough polypropylene plastic is the best choice). Cardboard or fabric carriers are not usually allowed by the airlines, and they do nothing to ensure the safety of your cat. Some airlines will allow fabric carriers if your car carrying your cat in the cabin, but always check this with your individual airline first.
When examining the construction of your carrier, check the ventilation. Without adequate ventilation, your cat could become ill or overheat. Some cats have died on airlines due to improper air circulation, so always be sure your carrier makes the grade. There should be ventilation on three sides of the carrier, preferably four, as well as the top. Ventilation is generally provided through slits in the sides of the carrier and through the door, so make sure these slits are large enough to allow air but not large enough for your cat to stick its head into.
Check the handle before you buy, placing your cat inside the carrier and carrying the entire thing around the store for several minutes. You want to make sure that the handled won’t snap or otherwise break when you’re carrying your cat around the airport. Ensure that there is no warping of any plastic parts when the carrier is lifted. This includes examining the handle, plastic bolts, and even the sides of the carrier. If there is any warping, choose a different model.
Perhaps the most important point on your carrier is the door. Every year, countless pets escape their carriers and are lost or killed. Don’t let your cat be one of them. Examine the door carefully. The best doors will always be steel mesh, allowing for security and ventilation. Make sure the door closes snugly and that the hinge operates the way it’s designed to. You’ll also need to be confident that your cat can’t open the door. To evaluate this, take the carrier home and set it up as you would for a long plane ride. Then lock the cat in the carrier. If he gets out, take the carrier back. The last thing you need is for your cat to be escaping while locked in the cargo hold.
As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you cat will be safe and secure during air travel. Taking the time to select the right carrier for you and your feline companion will result in a relaxed and happy plane ride.