To drive or fly pets on a long-distance move

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To drive or fly pets on a long-distance move

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

I was reading your column regarding preparing a pup for a long-distance car ride, and I have a similar question regarding cats.  We may be relocating to Florida from New York, and my wife is extremely hesitant to give our cats (two to three) to anyone like an airline or service that would relocate the cats for us. In my opinion, the airline option, which I estimate would take about eight to nine hours’ door-to-door would be the best choice, as taking them in our SUV would take two days and 20 hours driving time. Do you have any advice?

Neil Lazinsky, Wheatley Heights, New York

Dear Neil,

I understand your wife’s hesitancy. It’s never easy handing over your pets to someone else and trusting them to provide the same level of care.

I have moved a lot with my dogs and cats. I have put them on planes from Boston to Denver and Denver to Washington, DC. I have driven them from South Carolina to Indiana and from Virginia to Texas. In every instance, I made the travel choice based on the age, health and temperament of my pets at the time. I sort of prefer driving my pets though, for my own piece of mind.

I don’t know the age and health of your cats, but I think older pets and pets with health issues are better off in cars than planes, regardless of the distance. I would never put a dog with anxiety issues or an elderly pet on an airplane either. I think some pets are less stressed when they can stay with their families. 

So, consider your pets age and health and their tolerance for travel. If you don’t know how they would do in a car, put them in carriers and take them on a two-hour car trip. If they settle down during that time, they are probably okay to travel in a car. If they are still restless, putting them on a plane might be easier for them. Keep in mind, airlines will not accept pets if the temperatures at the departure and arrival locations are above 84 degrees on the travel day, so this may not be an option if you are moving during the summer.

Today, small dogs and cats can fly in the main cabin with you; one cat per ticketed passenger, if their kennel fits under the seat. Your wife could enlist friends or family to fly with her and escort your cats to Florida.

If your wife wants to drive with you, you might consider pet airline services where pets fly in the main cabin and not in a pressurized cargo hold. I have never used this type of service, but I would probably consider this service over a regular airplane flight for my pets. Check out the Yelp reviews for these services before deciding.

You probably want to smack me right now, since I gave you more options, but no definitive answer. Pets often are less stressed if their families are less stressed, so consider what’s best for your pets, but also what’s going to give you and your wife the most piece of mind.

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 cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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