Forget snuggling up to your significant other; this month is all about your other "other" -- the one that is most likely covered in fur. In honor of National Pet Month, it seems only fitting to share our thoughts on how best to take to the skies with a canine companion or feline friend.
Put Your Pet's Safety First
Determine if your friend is fit to fly. Sure, you may have fantasized about jogging along a sandy Hawaiian beach with your pooch, but is the flight that gets you there really in the best interest of your dog? Answer questions like, is my pet very young, very old or in poor health? If yes, it may be best to leave them at home. Also, some breeds can only travel in the cabin. This includes snub-nosed dogs and Persian cats, who struggle because their short nasal passages leave them vulnerable to changes in air pressure.
Regardless of your own certainty about your pet's ability to fly, make an appointment with your veterinarian. A check-up will ensure all vaccinations are up to date, and your veterinarian will be able to tell you if they're truly safe to fly.
Choose Pet-Friendly Airlines
To guarantee your pet's safety, a little preemptive research is in order. Call the airline well ahead of time to confirm that traveling with pets is even allowed and what that entails. Many airlines require a health certificate and have a number of rules that may surprise you. Find out whether your pet can travel in the cabin with you (potentially for an additional fee), or if there is a breed or size requirement. Also find out about any special health and immunization requirements, as well as specific carrier requirements. Figuring everything out before you arrive at the airport will make everyone's life easier, including your companion's.
Alternatively, consider pets-only airlines, like Pet Airways. They offer climate-controlled cabins outfitted with individual crates, flight attendants that check on animals every 15 minutes and pick-up in the PetLounge. With amenities like these, you know your furry friend is in good hands. If reward programs are also important to you, you may want to choose an airline that rewards you for traveling with pets. For example, El Al Airlines boasts a frequent flier pet program.
Booking the Flight
As most airlines only allow up to two pets on each flight, the earlier you book your tickets the better. Book a nonstop, direct flight whenever possible to alleviate the stress that a long trip places on your pet, and try to fly on a weekday when airports are less chaotic. If flying in the cargo hold, avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures by flying in the morning or evening during summer and midday during winter. Reconfirm your flight arrangements the day before you leave to minimize any unexpected changes.
Prepping for the Flight
As animals are often less stressed when they are accustomed to their carrier, prepare your companion for a bouncy flight by familiarizing them with their carrier. Riding around town as often as possible will help them adjust. While you're at it, write your pet's name on the carrier and include proper identification tags with your home address and phone number in case of emergency.
Time for Take Off
The day has finally arrived! While you may need a hearty breakfast to start the day, dogs and cats should fast for four to six hours before the trip. But make sure they have access to some water (ice cubes won't make a mess) to keep hydrated. Before the flight, play with your furry friend to tire them out for the ride. If they happen to be traveling in the cargo hold, don't have a typical goodbye scene as you'll only upset each other. The calmer, the better -- but that does not mean providing a sedative. While it may be tempting to medicate your pet to keep them relaxed, you possess all the tools (your voice, attitude and body language) to keep your companion calm. A favorite stuffed animal or toy may also do the trick.
You've Arrived in Paradise!
You've made it! Once you arrive at your destination, take your friend for a nice, long walk to familiarize them with their surroundings. By the time they have walked it off and had a nice meal, they will be ready for the adventures that lie ahead.
-- A Miami transplant residing in Brooklyn, Brittany Wechsler is a PR Consultant for Fly.com and a junior account executive at Quinn. Brittany frequently explores the U.S. for music, has backpacked Europe twice and plans on tackling South America next.