Crates and carriers are necessities for pet travel – it makes it easier and safer for everyone involved. Also, crates and carriers are also required when flying with your pet so this article is written with air travel in mind.
The following are general tips on buying and using a pet crate, but if you’re planning to take Fluffy or Fido for a flight, check with the airline(s) first to understand the weight and size requirements for allowed crates and carriers.
Your vet might also have recommendations on what to look for when buying a crate and where to purchase one. Here are some tips from the USDA–Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):
- It should be large enough to allow the animal to stand, turn and lie down. (This is usually required by most airlines.)
- It should have metal doors instead of plastic that could be chewed or bent.
- The lock mechanism needs to be strong and effective.
- No wheels – most if not all airlines will not accept a container with wheels.
- It should have a leak-proof bottom covered with plenty of absorbent material.
- There should be ventilation on opposite sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked airflow.
- The crate must have handles and grips for lifting the kennel into the airplane.
WHN TIP – Carry-on Pet Carriers: The pet must be placed in a kennel that is comfortable yet small enough to fit under the passenger’s seat. For specific airline requirements, contact the airline.
Prepare the Crate
- Label your crate: write your name, address and cell phone number (since you’ll probably have that with you) on the kennel, and make sure your pet is wearing a tag with the same information.
WHN Expert TIP – Extra Tags: Consider purchasing a temporary tag showing your destination address and phone number. Aviation Consumer Protection Division
- Kennels must also be labeled “Live Animals” in at least 1-inch high lettering on the top and one side with directional arrows indicating the position of the kennel.
- Add in a few of the pet’s blankets or bedding and trays for food and water.
WHN Expert TIP – Ice Cold: “The day before your flight, fill the water container and put it in the freezer. Why? The water will stay solid, not spill out and will slowly melt over time. That way, by the time your pet is thirsty, the water is there for them,” says Matt Stelter, Drs. Foster & Smith representative and professional collie owner and handler
- Try it out: Get your pet used to the kennel or crate at least a few days before the air travel date.
WHN Expert TIP – Local Motion: “Get your pet used to motion. Train them early on that movement is okay and comfortable. And you need to get them adjusted to a kennel because they’re going to hear a lot of new noises and might be quite scared,” says Susan Simms, Midwest Airlines marketing specialist, AKC judge, professional English Setter breeder and handler
WHN Expert TIP – Smells Like You: “Add in a piece of clothing that you (the owner) have worn. The scent may help calm the pet. An old T-shirt that you have slept in for one or more nights will work well.” USDA
WHN Expert TIP – No Toys Allowed: Be aware that most airlines do NOT permit pet toys in the kennel during transport in the cargo hold. Air Transport Association
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