Good pet parents want their furry friends to be safe and comfortable inside their carriers, but how do you make the best choice for you and your pet? We recommend looking at three key characteristics: Size, material, and comfort-related features.
Size Matters for Safety and for Choosing an Airline
Whether traveling in the cabin or in the cargo hold, your pet should be able to turn around and lie down inside its carrier without difficulty. An inappropriately-sized travel crate can cause distress escalating to panic including elevated heart rate and trouble breathing. IATA guidelines mandate a pet carrier size based on the size of your animal:
- The crate’s length should be greater than or equal to the full length of your dog at rest.
- The crate’s height should be greater than or equal to the height of your dog while standing.
- The crate’s width should be twice as wide as your dog’s widest point (often the shoulders).
These IATA guidelines exist to ensure your pet’s safety and relative comfort, but you must also consider the rules and size limitations issued by the airline. These rules take into consideration how much space is available under the passenger seat, how much stowage is available in the cargo hold, and how many pets can be safely transported on each flight. Check with our Airline Pet Reservation Guide to view the carrier size limits for any airline you and your pet may want to travel with.
Pet Carriers are Cut from Different Cloth—Literally
A pet carrier may be IATA-compliant, but you should exercise further discretion when choosing your pet’s temporary travel home. Crates, kennels, and pet carriers come in an endless variety of shapes and materials, but the most fundamental decision you’ll need to make is between hard-sided and soft-sided carriers.
- Hard-Sided Carriers for Most Pet Travel: Hard-sided kennels are built to remain stable during takeoff and landing. They offer maximum ventilation and easy visibility. The extra protection provided with a hard-sided crate will allow your animal to move around, stretch, and relax in the comfort of the plane’s cargo storage. Should suitcases or additional crates move around, a hard-sided case can protect your pooch from potential harm. This extra protection is also a good idea for subway and train travel.
- Soft-Sided Carriers for Pets Traveling in the Cabin: If your pet is flying with you in the cabin, soft-sided pet carriers are usually a better way to travel. Hard-sided crates can be difficult to fit under the seat in front of you. In fact, most airlines have different size allowances for soft-sided and hard-sided carriers for just this reason. Since these soft-sided carriers provide more room and space for the animal to move around, they tend to be a more comfortable alternative. And since your pet will be at your side through the entire travel experience, there’s less concern that the carrier will get slammed or crushed.
Other Considerations and Carrier Accessories
- Hardware—For hard-sided crates, ensure that the screws, nuts, and bolts are made of metal rather than plastic. These materials are more secure and durable. Additionally, the door should be a single piece of metal and unable to collapse.
- Ventilation—An IATA-compliant dog crate should have air holes on all four sides of the structure, and they should be at least halfway down each side. Optimal airflow is of utmost importance for traveling pets. Air pressure and stress can create less-than-ideal breathing conditions.
- Food and Water Bowls—These should be easy to get to and easy to use. If your furry friend is traveling in cargo, the food and water dishes must be attached to the door itself for easy access by flight attendance.
- Crate Lining—The IATA guidelines mandate a lining of cushions and absorbent paper. This provides comfort, protects from injury, and serves as absorbent material in the case of a bathroom-related accident.