12 tips for traveling to Canada with your cat
Updated: Mar 7
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Maybe you have already decided to move to Canada and start thinking about what matters in your life and what you want to bring with you on that trip.
I'm sure that if you are here, it's because you have an adorable cat, and in your mind, there is no way you can leave it behind.
You may be wondering: How can I take my cat to Canada? What steps should I take to travel with my cat? You will find 12 tips for travelling to Canada with a cat. This was part of my experience travelling from Chile to Canada with Corita (@Corita_bella), a beautiful, almost 8-year-old calico.
I'll cover information on documents, training, transportation and more. Here I explain why my story involves a cat on this trip. Please see the table below to jump right into the content.
Table of contents
1. General airline research
2. Know your pet's characteristics
3. Buying the right carrier for your pet
4. Train your kitten
5. Airplane ticket
6. Visit the veterinarian
8. Hiring an agency
9. Fasting and food
10. X-ray inspection
11. Find a pet-friendly space
12. Food and bedding upon arrival
As you can see on the About Me page of this blog, Cora (aka Corita) is the CEO of our household.
In 2016, one of my goals was to adopt an adult cat. I did it because kittens are always cute and people like them, so I wanted to give an adult one a chance.
I went to a shelter I knew and went to pick out my cat. Her name was Margarita; she was a year and a half old and was recovering from a cold and coming off a course of antibiotics.
She had a cough, and I could hear her snoring when she breathed because of the cold, but she was cleared for adoption, so I took her in. That was on May 14, 2016.
I've been with her longer than I've been with my partner. So, she is entirely part of my life and my dreams; for that reason, she was number one with an airplane ticket from Santiago to Toronto.
However, the journey did not start that day; it started many months before, and I will explain the whole process in this post.
Let me share a list of tasks related to travelling with a pet.
I will cover from when we bought the cat's travel bag until she arrived in Canada in order of occurrence, so you have an idea of what you need.
If you want to know what happens after arriving, review 15 things your cat needs when settling in Canada.
1) General airline research
When you have to travel with a pet, you must obey the airline's policies, the country you are leaving and the country you are arriving in when transporting pets.
That said, I recommend you start looking for information about the airlines flying from your country to Canada. This way, you can narrow down which airlines you can count on for this trip.
From a personal perspective, I decided to look first for the airlines that have direct flights to avoid too many stopovers and more stress for her. In our case, there was only one airline available: Air Canada. So we chose that option.
To look for flights in incognito mode, try the pages Google flights, Skyscanner and Kayak to have an overview; then, you can go to each airline to buy directly with them.
Each airline has a set of requirements that must be met. That brings us to tip number 2.
2) Know your pet's characteristics
Once you've identified which airlines fly from your country to Canada, you'll need to be clear and handy about your pet's characteristics, such as age, weight, height and width.
You need the age because your cat has to be at least 12 weeks old to travel; at least, that is one of the conditions on the airline we initially chose.
The weight will define whether your cat qualifies to travel in the cabin or the baggage compartment. In my case, my cat weighed 4.0 kg and could travel in the cabin.
From what I remember when we looked up the information, your pet has to weigh a maximum of 4.5 kg with the carrier included.
The height and width will be helpful for tip number 3.
3) Buying the right carrier for your pet
Once you have pre-selected the airlines that fly from your country, you have your pet's characteristics.
I encourage you to visit the website of each pre-selected airline to find out what requirements they have for the pet carrier; by this, I mean the maximum size of carrier allowed.
The height and width of your cat will be critical in finding the perfect carrier, as it must allow your cat enough room to stand up, turn around and lie down, all under the seat in front of you.
At the time of our search, in early 2020, Air Canada offered a choice of a soft or hard-sided carrier, and this is still in effect.
We selected the soft because the height was 4 centimetres more than the hard. These were the dimensions
Height: 27 cm (10.5 in)
Width: 40 cm (15.5 in)
Length: 55 cm (21.5 in)
In this case, we contacted an agency specializing in pet transport to see our options. They were fantastic; they even visited us home so we could try the suitcases and see what was most comfortable for our cat.
This can be done directly at a pet store, but we wanted to be sure that the carrier we were comparing would be suitable for the flight.
4) Train your kitten
From my perspective, this is the most crucial step and has to be done with time and patience.
We have to train our pets to feel comfortable inside their carrier, to reduce stress and allow them to feel safe while travelling.
At this point, I had already purchased the carrier I mentioned in the previous tip.
We started this process months before our trip; I would say at least ten months before the actual trip, by following these steps:
Leave the bag in a visible place so Corita can find it while exploring the house on a typical day.
Add a blanket or similar that she would use on the trip.
Leave a treat she likes inside the open bag without forcing anything.
Start giving her his favourite treats daily inside the open bag; make it a habit (at this stage, the carrier is always open).
Doing this, one day, we couldn't find her around the apartment. We freaked out because she had always been an indoor cat and used the same bed daily.
Long story short, it was because she was napping inside her carrier. This picture is from that day; we were very happy to know she felt comfortable.
After that day, we kept adding treats, but we closed the bag for a couple of minutes this time. We did this several times, so she knew it was safe. I recommend repeating this stage for several days.
Then, we added the treat; she came in, closed the carrier and lifted her off the floor for a couple of minutes without any other movement (again, repeating this for several days).
Next, we added the treat; she came in, closed the carrier, lifted the bag off the floor and walked around the apartment with her (several days).
Next, we added the treat; she came in, closed the bag, picked it up off the floor, walked her out of the apartment but into our building, and finally gave her a treat at the end of the walk.
Next, we added the treat; she came in, closed the bag, picked her up off the ground, walked her out of the apartment on quiet streets, and gave her a treat at the end of the walk.
Next, we added the treat; she came in, closed the bag, picked her up off the floor, walked her out of the apartment on noisy streets and gave her a treat at the end of the walk.
Each time we did this, we felt she became more comfortable observing her surroundings and enjoying the journey.
The last step was adding the absorbent material to prevent leakage in case she needed to go to the bathroom inside, which also worked well. We added it almost two weeks before the trip, on top of the blanket.
5) Airplane ticket
You must pay a fee to travel with a pet, depending on the airline.
In our first attempt, we bought it with Air Canada, and it was 100 USD approx. We did the whole process of buying the tickets for my partner, myself and Corita over the phone, and they linked the pet with one of the passengers.
I recommend rushing through this process because there is a limit on the number of pets that can travel per plane. So you must ensure your cat has a place on the plane you are travelling on. I recommend that before you buy, you ask if there are spots for pets on that plane.
On other airlines, you must buy and then call to find out if there is a space.
Note regarding the passenger who has the cat under their ticket. It matters who the person carrying the pet is because it is impossible to change it if there is a cancellation (At least on Air Canada).
Because of the pandemic, our first flight was cancelled, and the second flight changed from a direct flight to a stopover in Brazil. We decided I would travel that route, and Aldo would wait with Corita for the next direct flight.
Since Corita was tied to my ticket, we requested to change it to Aldo's name, but eventually, I had to buy her ticket again, and then they processed the credit note for the previous ticket because it systematically would not let them change the pet for another passenger.
6) Visit the veterinarian
I advise you to do this ahead of time to ensure everything is okay and just in case your kitty needs any medication.
So far, to enter Canada, the requirement is to have the rabies vaccine, but check to see if your country has any additional requirements to leave.
I would suggest checking your country's requirements, as in our case, the paperwork had to be issued very close to the trip, which was stressful.
You must be careful with the paperwork because it depends on your country and government regulations.
In our case, the authority required us to have a medical certificate provided by a veterinarian no more than ten days before the trip, and with that, we had to request an export certificate, which was delivered four days before the trip.
It was stressful because we had to order the document online, but we had to go 2-3 days later to pick up the paper physically.
Due to COVID, the office was only open a couple of days a week, and a huge queue was waiting for the documents.
8) Hiring an agency
If you think all this paperwork will be too stressful and demanding for you. You can always hire specialized agencies that do pet transfers between countries.
We only paid for the medical certificate to ensure the document was complete and with all the information, but we did the rest ourselves because we could not spend so much on this.
In this case, we went to the same company where we bought the carrier.
9) Fasting and food
Make sure you follow the rules regarding the fasting period so that your pet doesn't have to feel uncomfortable going to the bathroom in her carrier, but somehow this will be unavoidable.
Corita fasted for 8 hours on the vet's recommendation, so her last meal was just before leaving home.
Due to COVID, several flights were cancelled, and the final route they took was Santiago (Chile) - Atlanta (USA) - Detroit (USA)- Toronto (Canada).
My partner brought snacks for her because it was a long trip (almost 20 hours with two stopovers) and gave them to her on the last flight.
My partner was prepared and brought extra absorbent layers in his carry-on luggage, so when he realized Corita peed or pooped, he could replace them with new ones in the bathroom and had no problem.
10) X-ray inspection
One of the surprises my partner encountered at all the airports was that he had to take her out of her carrier and go through the x-ray with her in his arms. This was the same way at all three airports they stopped at.
That was stressful for both of them because it was unexpected, noisy, and crowded, but they went through it without problem, and she went into her bag repeatedly.
11) Find a pet-friendly place
Another thing you have to keep in mind is to plan where you will live as soon as you arrive.
Make sure that it allows pets; most platforms have a filter where you can add this.
This reduces the range of places you can stay, but believe me, there are always options available.
12) Food and bedding upon arrival
Plan what you will do to have a litter box, litter, and food for your kitty for the first day. You can travel with some small food packages when they are completely sealed, but be sure to check with the airline.
I suggest you Google Maps your neighbourhood and see any pet stores nearby, or you can search online. Some I know of here are Pet Smart and Pet Valu (I currently use this one for food and litter), and also Amazon.ca is an excellent option, primarily since they can deliver the same day or the next day.
This is the litter box I bought for Corita on Amazon.
The last step is to let her rest because the situation is very stressful, regardless of the amount of preparation.
Days after the trip and exploring their new place, they start to feel like they own the house again.
I hope this helps you coordinate and figure out how to move to Canada with your furry friends.
In conclusion, always check if there are additional regulations in your country, check the airline, and most importantly: Train your pet so you can alleviate stress for them and yourself.
If you would like to check what happens after arriving, check 15 things your cat needs for settling in Canada.
And now, tell me, what step are you on..... what is your struggle when planning a trip with a pet? Please let me know in the comments section below.