We have four birds: two cockatiels and two domestic doves. We are snowbirds with a summer house in the north and a winter place in the south, so these little guys go everywhere with us. The birds travel very well with us in the car, but it’s a long two-day trip both coming and going. We are both licensed pilots and recently bought a small airplane to make the trip quicker. We are worried about the effect of the loud noise and the high altitudes on the birds. Do you have any words of wisdom?
— Monica, Tucson, Ariz.
Your birds should easily adjust to plane travel because they are already so well-traveled via a car. The altitude will be fine. After all, they’re birds. But there are things you can do to help them adjust to being a passenger on your flight. Here’s my advice, along with some recommendations from my friends at the Parrot Conservation Alliance (PCA) who travel with birds all the time.
First, consider purchasing a travel cage. These cages are often sturdier and have additional locks on the doors and latches on trays to prevent accidental opening during travel. If traveling with a regular cage, secure all doors and trays and consider adding an additional locking mechanism on the door to thwart an especially industrious bird from escaping.
PCA advises removing anything from their cage that has sharp edges or hard parts. Bring along their favorite foods and toys to distract and entertain them. Secure the toys so they won’t be jostled around in the cage during the flight.
Once on board the plane, buckle the cage so it can’t slide around or go flying into the air if there is a sudden change in altitude. Withhold water until the flight is in progress or use ice cubes in the water dish, but only if you know they know what ice is and are okay with it.
While you can cover the cage to help them rest, not all birds like that, says PCA. You know best if your birds will be less stressed covered or less stressed being able to see what is going on. It’s good to bring a cover though for transporting them from the car to the plane and vice versa since airports can be windy places.
During the flight, play their favorite music or sing and talk to them to distract them and keep everything upbeat. Overall, I think your already well-traveled birds will enjoy taking a plane ride.
I am desperately hoping you can provide some guidance on how to get two cats transported over 600 miles away from our current home. We are seniors moving to a retirement community. The drive will be too long for us, so we are trying to figure out how to transport our two scaredy cats. Our vet was not able to provide us with options for separate transport. The thought of each of us carrying the cats on a plane is daunting. One cat is large, and I don’t know if he’s too big to carry on. Cargo is a bad option. Just getting them into carriers for the vet is difficult. I’ve researched separate transports but there are so many out there, and we just don’t know where to start and who to trust. These two adopted boys are part of our family so we wouldn’t think of giving them up. Can you give us any guidance please!
— Lisa, Huntington Station, N.Y.
So glad you are moving and keeping your pets! My first recommendation is to bring them into the airplane cabin with you. I know it can seem daunting, but it’s actually much easier to bring them with you than to transport them on a separate transport plane. Call several airlines to discuss their protocols and exact measurements for the space where the cats will need to be placed. It’s also possible first-class seating might give your felines extra space, so ask them about that option as well. Then see if your cat will fit in the size kennel they recommend. Your cat should be able to move around in the kennel comfortably.
If that doesn’t work, you have two other options. Option one: A family member could drive them, but 600 miles is a long way, and a lot can happen during the trip. But if you know someone you can trust, it is a reasonable option. But option two will shorten their trip. You can book them on a transport plane just for pets. I don’t know any of these services personally but look them up by searching on the internet for “pet transport services cross country,” and finding one that will fly from New York to your destination. Then read as many reviews about the company as possible. Those reviews will give you lots of insights into who to choose for transporting your cats. Then call them and talk to them and walk through the process with them. If you find a company with a lot of four and five-star reviews and talking with them makes you feel comfortable, then you will know you found your transport service. Time your flights so you can pick them up yourself from the airport.
I enjoyed your advice in the Hartford Courant about pet safety in cars. I would like to add some further advice. I worked in a veterinary hospital for many years. The veterinarian would always advise pet owners that they should not allow their dogs to have their heads out an open car window when moving. Bugs, (flying) objects, etc. can hit your dog’s eye and do a lot of damage. Furthermore, years ago, I was following a car and noticed a dog hanging out the car window. When the driver went around a sharp bend, the dog fell out onto the road and broke its leg. I also heard a veterinarian tell dog owners they should not give their dog bones because they can splinter and cause intestinal problems. When they asked what animal bones were safe to give their pets, he responded, “dinosaur bones.” We love our pets and want them to be safe.
— Gloria, Conn.
That’s funny what he said about dinosaur bones. I am sure he has seen his fair share of cases where bones had splintered and caused damage. I don’t give my dog bones of any kind because he likes to swallow things whole or at least in big chunks and that can be next to impossible to pass through his system. I am even hesitant to give him dental chews because of his all-or-nothing chewing behavior.
As for hanging their heads out of car windows, dogs may enjoy it, but it’s not safe at all. It means the dog is not secure in the vehicle and a sharp turn as you saw, or even an accident, can eject the dog from the vehicle. It’s scary enough to be in an accident, let alone an accident with a pet in the car. It’s important to keep them safe.
We’re moving to Wyoming from Arizona and have two cats and two dogs. It will be a two-day drive and I am concerned about the cats. First, I don’t know if a hotel would let us stay having four animals and second, I am afraid that the cats will get loose, freak out or something else. I can’t put them together because they don’t like each other and then there’s the issue of relieving themselves and feeding and watering them. We will be in the car for eight to 10 hours each day. I have cat carriers, but wouldn’t they be cramped for that long? And how do I feed them and give them water? And then I’m afraid of letting them out in the hotel room. Should I try to find a kennel who will board them for the one night we will have to stop? I think a sedative in their food might help if I can get them to eat. My car is a Camry so there’s not a lot of room for a larger kennel either. Do you have any advice?
— Sue, Chino Valley, Ariz.
I can tell you are anxious about this trip but give you kudos for moving with your pets. Moving with pets is doable with advanced planning. Begin by calling hotels or search Air B&Bs to find places that accept pets. Then let them know you are moving and how many pets you are bringing. There may be a per pet charge fee, regardless of where you stay, or a pet limit — most limit to two pets only.
If there is a pet limit, you have three options. The first option is to ask the hotel or Air B&B host for permission to exceed their limit. Get this permission in writing before you set out on your trip.
Option two is to rent two hotel rooms so you can be within the pet limits per room. Paying for two hotel adjoining rooms, or a two bedroom Air B&B, also gives you more options for separating the animals that don’t get along.
Option three is to place them at a local kennel overnight. You would need to arrive before they close at the end of the day, so plan the drive accordingly. Send vaccination verification to the kennel in advance of your arrival and be sure to carry copies in case of an emergency. The kennel option also gives you a little time to yourself after a long day and less worry about who doesn’t get along with who.
The cats are fine traveling in their carriers as long as they can stand up and turn around in it. In fact, it’s the safest place they can be. I understand your worry about the cats bolting out of the car. They are probably not going to eat during the day, but you can let them out inside the car if you need to give them water or access to the litter box. If you let them out in the car for any reason, stay inside the vehicle with them so you don’t have to open a door, and make sure all doors and windows remain closed until they are safely back in their carriers. Wait to feed them when you get to your overnight destination.
Talk to your vet about getting medication to help them rest easier. Oftentimes though, the hum of the car on the road puts most pets to sleep. Play some soundscape or spa-like music to help all of you relax.
Finally, make sure everyone has a microchip as well as collar and tag with your cell phone number. Safe travels.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.