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How to Get Your Pet Acclimated to Their Crate

Published on: August 18, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

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Every cat and dog that travels by airplane must travel in an airline-approved carrier. The type of travel carrier required will depend on how your pet is traveling. Some airlines allow small cats or dogs to fly in-cabin with you in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. But if your pet is traveling as cargo or accompanied baggage, they will need a specialize travel carrier.

No big deal, you may think. I’ll just use the carrier I already have.

Actually, you will not be allowed to do that. Kennels approved by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) are designed to keep animals safe and secure while in transit. These crates are extremely sturdy and allow plenty of ventilation.

IATA-compliant travel kennels are sized to ensure your pet’s comfort during travel. If you have a dog, don’t guess their crate size, because they must be able to stand up without touching the ceiling, turn around easily, and lie down. It's important that you measure your pet accurately so that their kennel is the perfect fit.

In all likelihood, the carrier or crate you already own does not meet IATA's requirements. So plan to buy a new one, and get it as soon as possible. You’ll need plenty of time to help your cat or dog become acclimated to their new travel crate. By the time their departure date rolls around, your pet should think of it as their personal safe space. That sense of familiarity will help them remain calm on their journey.

Here’s what to do, once you have the crate:

  • Set it out in an open space – the living room, for example – where your pet can see that it “belongs” and give it a good sniff. If your pet is afraid of enclosed spaces, start by setting out only the bottom half of the carrier. Later, you can add the top and, eventually, the door.
  • Encourage your pet to explore it thoroughly and make it their own. Play with them in and around the carrier, and put their favorite toys and treats inside, so they want to enter on their own.
  • You’ll need to put something absorbent on the floor of the crate for travel, so do that now to show your pet this space is comfy. Make it familiar by using a thin blanket, t-shirt or towel that smells like home. You can also add a thin crate pad and pee-pee pad. 
  • Encourage them to sleep in the carrier, so they get used to doing that in safe surroundings, too.

Do not use tranquilizers or sedatives

Often pet parents who are concerned with their fur-baby’s comfort assume that giving their dog or cat a sedative prior to travel will help keep them relaxed and comfortable in their carrier. Wrong! Tranquilizers are not recommended for pets traveling by air. In fact, they are banned. Airlines won’t take sedated pets, and we, Starwood Animal Transport, won't allow it, either.

Sedatives or tranquilizers are unsafe for pets who are traveling by air. Tranquilizers raise your pet’s blood pressure and heart rate, make your pet woozy, and interfere with their balance. All this increases the risk of negative health reactions as well as the risk of injury.

Perhaps worst of all, though, your precious pet is likely to be more anxious, not less. Dogs and cats – cats, especially – like to be in control. The mental wooziness and lack of balance brought on by a tranquilizer will make them confused and frightened. This is NOT what you want for your pet - nor do we.

So focus on helping your pet get used to their new crate, and on other things you can do to prepare them positively for the journey. We also have some great tips on acclimating your pet to their new home, once you’ve arrived.

We know you have lots of questions

That’s why we’ve created The Ultimate Guide for Stress-Free Flying with a Cat or Dog. You can read it online, or download it as a PDF to use as a handy reference. We recommend that because there’s a lot to think about and remember if you’re making plans for your pet to fly. Of course, you can always call on us, too. Our professional pet travel team knows their stuff, no matter where in the world you’re headed. We can handle every detail, to make planning easy and stress-free for you as well as your pet.

Well, there is one thing we cannot do for you: acclimating your pet to their crate. But if you follow our suggestions here, you’ll both be fine with that, too.

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Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.