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Feeding a Cat Before Flying

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Before airline travel with your cat, feed it as you normally would until about four hours before your flight. Then offer your pet a lighter meal than usual, about half of the usual portion, along with water. You can feed your cat in its carrier or before putting it into the carrier. If feeding your pet in the carrier, only feed it dry cat food in the attached dishes for easier cleanup. Bring a bottle of water to fill its water dish an hour before the flight at the airport.

Most airlines require that you have offered your cat food and water within four hours before the flight’s departure time if you’re flying the cat as cargo. This is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to both United and Delta airlines. You must confirm this in writing, when checking-in your cat. Because of this regulation, the airline won’t accept a cat at check-in prior to four hours before the flight. If you arrive at the airport before this time, offer your pet food and water in its carrier while you wait.

Freeze a water-dish full of water the night before and attach it to its carrier before you leave for the airport, Delta Airlines recommends. This allows the water to melt and slowly be distributed to your cat during the flight without uncomfortable spillage. Attach feeding instructions to the carrier for a 24-hour period along with the necessary food and water required to feed the cat if flying the cat via cargo. If flying with the animal in the cabin, avoid giving the cat food close to the time of, or during, the flight unless necessary for a medical condition, to prevent it from relieving itself.

Some cats can get motion sickness. Both the anxiety of the confinement of the carrier and the changes in air pressure can contribute to this condition, according to the website PetMD. Because this condition can cause nausea and vomiting, refrain from feeding your cat less than four hours before the flight. Natural calming aids such as flower essences or anti-nausea medicine can be added to the cat’s food before a flight to reduce motion sickness. Consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication.

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