Cats on a Plane: The Misadventures of Travelling with a Cat
Buli, aka Baby Cat, is a rescue from the streets of Israel, born in June 2014. I took care of his mother when she was pregnant, and when she had her litter I helped with the kittens. After six months of fighting and pleading with my landlord, he finally agreed I could bring one cat in.
I made a home for myself and Buli, but after six amazing years I was onto my next adventure, which required relocation. Everyone’s first question was, “What about Baby Cat?” This question always blew my mind because how could I ever leave him after everything we had been through together? I could never put him back out or pass him off to someone. He was a part of my family and I could not leave him behind. This was not even a question to me. He was coming.
I researched what I needed to do to get him on the plane with me and not placed in steerage, as well as what bureaucracy needed to be taken care of. Anyone planning to travel with an animal should check not only the country they’re leaving but where they are entering as well. Once I finished checking with the airline and knew my flight information, I proceeded with the bureaucratic steps required.
I made my last trip to the vet to finalize paperwork and translate it into English. I went to another government building for a stamp. For Buli not be considered “too heavy” to fly with me and put in steerage, he had to follow a strict diet.
At this point the man had woken up everyone on the flight and people were looking. There was even a Hasidic man standing and taking pictures, but no one was offering to help me. I unbuckled and lunged for Buli.
He was quite unhappy when we arrived at the airport. I had bought a pill from the vet to help put him to sleep, but it had been difficult to get him to take that, and as we were at the airport the effects of the pill didn’t seem to have kicked in yet. Security wanted me to take him out of his carrier, but they allowed me to keep his leash on when they saw he was not settled yet. I think they just wanted me to stop holding up the line. By the time we got to the gate I thought the worst was over. How wrong I was!
We settled in our seats, the pills must have kicked in and we both were asleep by take off. The first flight to Amsterdam was supposed to be about four and a half hours. As I was sleeping, I was suddenly woken by someone smacking me on the arm and yelling about a cat. I was half asleep and trying to wake up to see what the fuss was. The man beside me was freaking out about my cat. But why? I looked down and saw that the carrier has a massive hole in the front. No longer tired but very awake, I noticed Buli army crawling into the aisle.
At this point the man had woken up everyone on the flight and people were looking. There was even a Hasidic man standing and taking pictures, but no one was offering to help me. I unbuckled and lunged for Buli. Everything was happening so fast. The man beside me was still talking, but by they I wasn’t paying him any attention, and at this point Buli was meowing loudly. I started to cry.
I pressed the call button for a flight attendant and asked if she had tape or something so that I could close Buli in. Unfortunately, she had nothing but let me hold him. For the remainder of my flight I cradled Buli and his carrier. I tried to figure out how I would manage my next flight.
Let me assure you, I did not sleep at all on that flight.
Upon landing I was on a mission: fix the carrier, or get a new one. But first I had to get through security. Security was not as flexible this time and wouldn’t let me use his leash. I was anxious about this because I knew Buli was still upset, so I told one of the security personnel that they had to help me get Buli back in after. Surprisingly, he did help me as I struggled to get him back in his destroyed carrier.
I can’t remember how long my layover was, but I had enough time to ask an employee at Duty Free if they had a box or tape or anything that I could use. This lovely woman could clearly hear the traumatic cries of Buli and see the horror on my face, and quickly ran to find me something. Together, we taped a box around his carrier, since there was no pet store or vet near the airport (I even asked someone to check).
Next, we ran to the nearest family bathroom so Buli could eat or go to the bathroom, but he chose to do neither. Our next and final flight was about eight and a half hours, and I knew I couldn’t have him escape again. This meant only one thing– more drugs.
It was suggested to me earlier that you can give a small dose of Xanax to your cat. I’d checked with my vet and she hadn’t thought I’d need this as I’d got the other pill for him. But clearly that hadn’t gone down, or Buli is just one tough Israeli cat, so I force-fed him the Xanax from the vet. We were finally ready for flight number two! Let me assure you, I did not sleep at all on that flight. Once we’d taken off I put his carrier in my lap and just held him for the entire journey.
We landed safe and sound, but he was definitely not a happy cat. He refused to leave his carrier once outside, or go to the bathroom. It was not until we got to our new home that he got out of the carrier, sniffed around and relieved himself in a litter box, like he was used to. I am happy to report that now Buli is settled in our new home. It’s been just over a year and he enjoys his life indoors. For now, we’ve taken a break on flights together but for future adventures I am more prepared and know what to expect.