How Stressful is Flying with Cats?

I will be moving to a new location, and this journey will involve flying with cats. I know it will be a stressful experience for the cats, as well as myself. Not only the flight be stressful, but the preparations too. Figuring out what all is needed, which airline to take and so forth.

In this article, I will share my personal experience so far and shed light on the various stressors that come with flying with cats, aiming to provide insights and guidance to fellow cat owners facing similar challenges.

Note: This article talks about moving to the Philippines, as this was our original plan. As traveling with cats is more complicated, we decided to first check out Eastern Europe. Because once we’d be in The Philippines, it would be harder to get out. Plus, it would take a very long flight. Having said this though, we may still go to The Philippines and take the cats with us. But not yet.

To rehome the cats or not?

Let’s first talk about the following. Deciding whether to move with cats to the other side of the world, or rehoming them in The Netherlands, was a deeply personal and complex decision. Yes, I considered various factors, keeping the well-being of my cats in mind.

Would the stress of air travel be worth it? Would the cats be able to adjust and adapt to a new home? Would they enjoy the climate of The Philippines? Would the cats be happier staying with new people in The Netherlands and never see me again, or would it be worth it for them to take on this journey to together?

Ultimately, I decided that staying together as a family would bring immense fulfillment and happiness to everyone involved.

Cats are adaptable creatures, and with proper preparation and care, they can adjust to new surroundings and become accustomed to their new home. The love, companionship, and joy they bring to our lives far outweigh the temporary challenges and inconveniences associated with relocation.

Flying with Cats: Finding Accurate Information

Upon deciding to move from The Netherlands to the Philippines and taking my cats along, the first hurdle I faced was finding accurate information about the necessary processes and documents required. Each country has its own set of regulations regarding pet importation, including vaccines, health certificates, and quarantine periods. Unfortunately, reliable and up-to-date information was hard to come by, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and frustrated for well over a month. No, I’m serious: the headaches I’ve had over not being able to get the correct information is insane. I’ve contacted government websites, embassies and my vet for guidance. Luckily, I ended up with a lot of information that will help me move my cats to the Philippines safely, but I also encountered inaccurate information.

When flying with cats, you will learn the importance of preparing well in advance, ensuring your cats will have the required vaccinations, health certificates, and any additional paperwork, so you won’t be met with a nasty surprise at the airport.

Finding a Suitable Airline

The next challenge was finding an airline that allowed pets in-cabin. It is essential for me to keep my cats close to me throughout the journey, as I am aware of the dangers and risks associated with cargo travel. Extreme temperatures, loud noises, and rough handling in the cargo hold can cause distress and health issues for our furry friends, and that’s something I want to avoid for my cats. In the very least, I want to be with them every step of the way.

I dedicated time to researching airlines with pet-friendly policies that allowed in-cabin travel. This means that my choice in airlines became limited. I was surprised how few airlines actually allow pets in-cabin. In fact, it is even restricted by some countries!

This combined with my decision to keep the amount of transfers to a limit (preferably none), narrowed down my choices quite a bit.

Finding a Suitable Carrier

Finding a pet travel carrier that meets the correct dimensions for fitting under an airplane seat was an equally stressful challenge. I spent countless hours researching and scouring pet carriers to find the perfect carrier for my cats. It felt like searching for a needle in a haystack, with countless options available, but none that seemed to meet the airline’s strict requirements.

The struggle lies in the specific size restrictions imposed by airlines, as they vary from one carrier to another. It often felt like a game of measurement and comparison, as I meticulously examined carrier dimensions and cross-referenced them with airline guidelines. Many carriers that seemed promising at first glance turned out to be just a few centimeters too tall or too wide to fit under the seat, leaving me feeling discouraged.

In fact, even at the time of writing this blog post, I am still uncertain about one of the carriers I bought. I may get a different one, one that is slightly too big, but can be squished in. That should hopefully do the trick – I’d rather not resort to a carrier that is far smaller than required – it would mean the cats would have very little space and I don’t like that idea.

Avoiding Transfers for Less Stress

As I just mentioned, I also want to minimize the stress of flying with cats by avoiding transfers.

A transfer during the journey to The Philippines would be particularly stressful for both the cats as well as myself. The security checks and the overall chaos of airport terminals would without a doubt contribute to the anxiety and discomfort. Therefore, I chose a direct flight (with a stopover) to minimize stress for my cats and myself.

Anticipating Unforeseen Problems

One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of flying with cats is the fear of encountering unforeseen problems along the way. My cats mean everything to me, and their well-being is my top priority.

What if they needed different vaccines? What if the de-worming method they received is not approved by The Philippines? What if the minor writing mistakes that the vet made in the health passports are a deal breaker?

Those are just some of the thoughts crossing my mind. Needless to say, I will be going over the requirements again and again until I’m officially moving from The Netherlands to The Philippines. But I think I got everything needed so far.


Flying with cats will undoubtedly be a stressful experience, but sharing my personal journey allows me to provide insights and guidance to fellow cat owners. By finding accurate information, choosing a pet-friendly airline, minimizing transfers, and preparing for unforeseen problems, much of the stress can be mitigated. Remember, while the process may be challenging, the well-being of our beloved feline companions makes it all worth it in the end.

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