File this under “We’ve officially lost our minds.” We are fairly crazy cat parents, and Mac felt extraordinarily guilty after we boarded Purrburger during our trip to Alaska. So the solution to guilt? Take a twelve-pound animal who associates the car with the vet or groomer, zip her in a carrier for hours, and bring her along in a giant, noisy tin can. Then put her in the car for a few more several-hour rides. And introduce her to your parents’ new cats. What could go wrong?
As per usush, I did a lot of research beforehand. The TSA has some super helpful suggestions that were clearly written by someone who does not have a cat (to include crate-training your cat for the whole time of your trip, ideal for a cat who likes to howl when in her carrier). I did what I normally do with TSA advice, and I winged it. We found a soft-sided carrier with an expandable side from PetCo (on sale with a coupon. Boom). We put Purrburger in it a few times with some toys and zipped it shut. We let her out when she started meowing and gave her a few treats each time. We also left the carrier open in our family room for her to investigate.
Keep in mind that each airline has a different policy for pets. We flew United from Colorado Springs to Denver to Reagan National and back. We paid $125 each way to have her ride in the cabin with us, and we received a separate boarding pass for her at the check-in desk. United requires that your carrier is large enough for your pet to stand up in, is soft-sided, and must fit under the seat in front of you. We booked the window on each flight (and the seat next to it: an aisle on the Springs legs and the middle on the long flights) and put her along the window. I sat with her because I’m shorter and could spare the leg space. I do recommend getting up if you have a long flight as I was very stiff and sore for arranging my feet around her. During our layovers in Denver, we unzipped the side to allow Purrburger more space. We gave her a few treats, too. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could get a harness and let them out on your layover.
I bought puppy training pads to put in the bottom of the carrier. Purrburger was fine on the flights but did tinkle on the drive up to my parents’ house from my in-laws’. We wrapped it up and had no mess. We also brought plastic grocery bags in case she did wet the pad on the plane (and, for the record, were better prepared then some parents of human children in diapers). We packed her water bowls, a food bowl, a bag of treats, and some spare pads. You can’t take a full water bottle (travel or otherwise) through security, so the bowl can be filled on the gate side of security. You have to take your pet out of their carrier to go through security. Mac carried Purrburger. She tends to be very clingy when she’s around strangers, so we didn’t have to worry about her running away. The TSA will use the metal detector wand on the pet and the human carrying them. The carrier will go through the normal conveyor belt metal detector.