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It Came From the Chat: Cats on a Plane!

K.C. Summers

Boy, we didn't know what we were getting into last week on our Internet chat when we answered a reader's question about taking her cat on a plane. The fur hasn't stopped flying since.

The poor woman was innocently inquiring about flying with her cat to Texas. We told her that the Humane Society of the United States basically advises against pets traveling by air, but that if you must do it, to never put them in the cargo hold -- it's better to take them on board with you in a carrier that fits under the seat. And don't drug the poor thing, either. (Go here for more tips.)

The topic of felines on planes has fur flying with many travelers. (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)

Well, the claws really came out, both last week and on this week's chat. We heard tails, I mean tales, of passengers who had such allergic reactions in flight that they had to go to the ER when they landed. Passengers who wouldn't change seats to accommodate the allergic ones. Some thought that humans should come first; others said they had to move to a new country and what were they supposed to do with their pets? Throw them away?

Some of the cattier comments:

* "I have little sympathy for people who go into histrionics at the thought of sniffles from pet allergies or a whif of cigarette smoke. Get over yourselves, people. Take a sudafed and move on."

* "The price we all pay for mass transport is that we might be uncomfortable. If someone's allergies are so severe that they can't tolerate being on a plane with animals then they have the responsiblity to ask if any animals are booked on that particular flight."

* "As long as the airlines allow pets in the cabin, I am within my rights to do so. Until they are prohibited, the cat flies with me."

What do you think? Should people be allowed to take their cats and dogs in the passenger cabins of planes?

By K.C. Summers |  February 6, 2008; 7:36 AM ET  | Category:  Air Travel , K.C. Summers
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As longs as airlines allow it, then passengers should be able to take their pets aboard. However, I am sure as allergies become more and more prevalent, this policy will go the way of smoking in flight. Hey, they got rid of peanuts, didn't they?!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 8:10 AM

I want my peanuts back. If I can't breathe due to some cat or dog being on the plane (and it can get to that point where my lungs essentially stop processing amount of sudafed can fix that), at least let me die with a bag of 8 peanuts, and maybe the selfish pet owner will have a peanut allergy and I can take them out with me.

Seriously, it's about consideration of others. We didn't travel with our children on airplanes until they were ready for it, out of fairness to our kids, and to others who would be affected. Traveling on an aircraft is unfair to the pet and most of all those of us with allergies to them.

Posted by: Kim | February 6, 2008 9:14 AM

I think it's the allergic person's responsibility to either 1) fly on an airline where pets are not allowed, on 2) notify the airline when booking that no pets can be on board/within 6 rows/whatever. Having a severe allergy seems to me like having a disability; the person can expect the airline or other passengers to make reasonable accomodations for the allergy but cannot expect the airline to read the passenger's mind. The accomodation must be requested in advance.

Posted by: Alexandria | February 6, 2008 9:18 AM

I think if someone has a large dog that can't fit a small cage, then the owners should get an extra seat for the pet, and the allegic people, like I myself, can use inhalers to take care of their allergies for the duration of the flight.
Pets are the members of the families and should be treated as ones.

Posted by: Anna Smith | February 6, 2008 9:44 AM

Pets are a lesser form of life. Go look it up on the food chain.

I'm sorry that folks get attached to them, but humans should rate higher than pets when it comes to transport and commerce.

Posted by: Darwin | February 6, 2008 9:51 AM

My problem is not so much that pets are allowed on planes but, as a severe allergy sufferer, I could not understand why a flight attendant refused to move me to an EMPTY SEAT on a not full airplane when my assigned seat was next to a passenger travelling with her cat. All I wanted was to sit farther away from the cat to reduce the impact of my allergies, there were open seats on the plane, and the flight attendant wouldn't let me move. That seemed ridiculous to me.

Posted by: CDTiger | February 6, 2008 11:04 AM

Cat dander is THE MOST POTENT allergin(sp) in the world. Sudafed and/or albuterol does not work for cat dander. It is deadly.

In "years of old", it was thought that cats sucked the breath out of babies..well..I believe it. Cats are evil.

Dogs, however, are beautiful creatures and should be treasured.

Posted by: Allergy sufferer | February 6, 2008 11:39 AM

I saw someone in the Atlanta airport with a pit bull on a leash - no crate. It's too bad there was no cat on that flight.

Posted by: freq flier | February 6, 2008 12:18 PM

I am appalled that pet owners would not be concerned about sending someone to the ER! I don't think either side should just roll over, but is there no recourse or sympathy for the ability to kill someone with the allergens your animal produces? If a child strangled another passenger on board a flight, then the parents would be responsible, why is this not the case for pets who cause another passenger to require sever medical attention? I have had a lung collapse because I spent the night in a room where a cat had previously been in residence, even after the room was thoroughly cleaned, there was enough dander that was not easily reached to send me to the hospital. It would be nice to see a little more regard for the health of other human passengers. I don't think pets will be purchasing their own tickets any time soon.

Posted by: CarlyM | February 6, 2008 12:20 PM

News flash: almost no (sane) person travels with a cat for pleasure - cats dislike change, and aren't generally good travelers. So, people traveling with cats are in all likelihood moving, quite possibly further than they can or want to have to drive (especially if the drive would involve days of nonstop yowling). I feel badly for allergy sufferers, and if I was traveling with a cat and was confronted by an allergic person, I'd be happy to change seats, or even flights if the airline could guarantee me a seat. But, as long as I am allowed (for a fee) to bring my cat on board, I prefer to do that. Airlines prefer it too, BTW, because it removes them from the liability of a cargo pet potentially escaping or dying in transit.

As for dogs, what do the allergic legions have to say about service dogs? They are permitted in the passenger cabin regardless of size. Or should their human companions join them in cargo, or just not fly (or ever use public transportation or eat in restaurants or shop, for that matter)?

Also, I somehow doubt that cat dander is the most toxic allergen on the planet. I think that honor might belong to peanut proteins. (And if cats are worse, relegate cats to cargo and bring back the damn peanuts!)

Posted by: BxNY | February 6, 2008 12:58 PM

I'm disturbed by our obsession with pets. American pets lead better lives than large swaths of the human world, yet we constantly feel some need to improve the lot of cats and dogs. I guess my take on all of this is to stop putting animals before people. A cat or dog is not more important than I am and it's absurd to see so many pet-obsessed families unwilling to accommodate the rest of us who don't think pets rule the world

Posted by: toomanypets | February 6, 2008 1:00 PM

I'm allergic to cats and dogs and I have to say that service animals are just something I have to deal with in public. If I'm around one for too long it does make me wheeze, but I realize that a service animal completely different from a pet so I just have to be uncomfortable or stay away.

Posted by: JMP | February 6, 2008 1:02 PM

Of course, we should be able to take our cats in the cabin. I don't mind putting my dog in the cargo dept. because I always had a good experience and my dogs have never minded but cats are not dogs and they need to stay with their owner. IF THEY BANNED cats in the cabin then they should ban the use of perfumes, deodorants, flowers and leis as well. Fair is fair.

Posted by: ABSOLUTELY | February 6, 2008 1:06 PM

I agree--pets, perfumes--if there *were* a way to avoid them on a plane, I'd do that in a heartbeat.

I wish there was an airline that was pet free--I'd use it in a heartbeat.

True, my allergies aren't violent, but they're still not pleasant, and I plan ahead and take antihistimines (note--Sudafed is *not* an antihistimine and doesn't do anything for allergies.....) in advance when visiting friends with pets.

IMO it's the pet owners who should have to notify the airline, and/or make accomodations for others......if i were in that situation, I'd do everything possible to make others' trips pleasant.

Posted by: Annapolis | February 6, 2008 1:56 PM

My dogs should be allowed to fly in cabin if I buy them a ticket. Dont like it I am sure there is psace for you in the cargo hold. Hey toomany pets why dont you give your dollars or yen or whatever to terrorists groups like PETA or their politcal arm HSUS. Both groups want to ban all pet ownership.

My dogs work for a living sir and are alot more talented then you. Lets see how many sheep you can move hoss!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 4:14 PM

When did pets rank higher than humans on the comfort scale? Why do some people insist on making life miserable for others? Why is it no one is kind enough to put some of their "rights" aside in order not to make your neighbor utterly miserable?

If you are going to insist that you have a right to smoke or carry your cat into an enclosed place and trigger my allergic reaction, then I think I'll insist on my right to fart all over you, spread myself out across the arm rests, to spew my garlic-ridden breath on you and to move my seatback so it inflicts maximum damage -- maybe even let my dog out of its travel bag to harass your cat! If you insist on the right to be an *ss and make my life miserable, I'm coming right back at ya!

Posted by: colorado kool aid | February 6, 2008 4:28 PM

My husband and mother have allergies, including asthma, and I am sympathetic to allergy sufferers. That said, if you know you have a severe allergy to ANYTHING, you need to carry benadryl/claritin/whatever works for you on your person at all times. Or, seriously, wear a mask on the plane. You have no idea what the person next to you will have on them that will cause an allergy, and it is your own responsibility to be prepared for that. You can't legislate against everything. If you want to protect travelers from allergies you have to ban service animals, perfume, smoking in the car on the way to the airport, wool clothing, clothes with animal hair, and on and on.

Posted by: Sarah | February 6, 2008 5:34 PM

My loving cat IS more important than most of you life-hating people. Get over it. God ceated the non-human creatures before she created humans -- she had her priorities, after all. BTW, we ban perfume at my workplace; it should be banned everywhere, especially planes.

Posted by: Animal-lovin' frequent traveler | February 6, 2008 7:23 PM

I find both sides very valid. Rather pet dander or just stale cabin air, I personally find that using a personal air cleaner to work for me. See
Air Tamer by Gaiam. Hope this is helpful.

Posted by: B@Peace | February 6, 2008 7:28 PM

Luckily, I don't have a dander allergy (yet). I was wondering though, since it is very common to come across animals at any time, is there something like an "epi-pen" for those that do have a dander allergy so sever that one goes into anaphylactic shock? Put me in the group that puts the allergy suffer in the seat of being proactive in their own health protection. They should be giving the airline a heads up of their situation, as well as mentioning it to the gate agent prior to boarding. Since those traveling with pets have to mention it ahead of time, the gate agent should have that information and where they are seated. I would think it would be much easier to swap seats prior to boarding, then try to do it on the plane.

Posted by: rja112 | February 7, 2008 1:27 AM

Ok, I read all the comments regarding cats and traveling on airplanes and since I took my cat with me on a 12-hour flight, I am at least in a position to comment. First of all, I had to pay for my cat to travel with me inside the plane and not in cargo. He was not, nor has he ever been a "free ride". He is a treasured pet of 14 years who I would no more dump on anyone and leave than I would expect a parent to dump their child anywhere and leave them. I was concerned throughout the entire trip that my cat would make someone ill; however, he was in a carrier under the seat in front of me and bothered no one. In fact, the flight attendants went out of their way to make him comfortable, unlike the screaming 3 and 4 year olds in first class to which I am now allergic on long flights.
And for the doofus who claimed pets are "low down on the food chain" well I hope you are eaten alive by some domesticated animal in the near future, you deserve it. Better you should be concerned with the carcinogens and toxics present in airplanes. How is it you are not allergic to cyanide and yet a cat's dander makes you sneeze?

Posted by: Rachel | February 7, 2008 3:46 AM

I would not put my beloved pet in the cargo hold. I did once and the dog was traumatized. Then, I found out what conditions were like when a pet traveled in cargo. That pet died later on. I now have another small dog, I will not let him fly in cargo, he will go in the cabin with me if I choose to fly. He is my treasured companion, loyal and kind, and is treated the same. Much better than even some relatives.

Posted by: Ohio | February 7, 2008 6:53 AM

I feel sympathy for those with allergies, but it is definitely their responsibility to let the airline know they have a potential health problem and need special treatment.
As for the 'people' who feel that pets are less important than people, or that people who care more for them than a stranger on a plane, you don't count in my world. At a minimum, you need to respect that while you may not like cats, I love mine dearly. Imposing your hate filled perspective on me is unacceptable. I'd take care of a rat before I'd worry about you.

Posted by: Issy | February 7, 2008 8:11 AM

I have been following this "debate" very closely ... and feel like it's time to chime in.
I love animals but am a life-long allergy sufferer. And, I have to side with the anti-cat / anti-pet people on this one. For many of us, simply taking a benadryl WILL not work. Being confined to a place where pet dander is recirculating, even if I were many rows away from the animal, would cause me to go into a severe reaction, possibly needing my Epi-Pen (which is why I ALWAYS carry it). Standard medical practice for Epi-Pen use dictates that a patient should be treated at an Emergency Medical facility within 30 minutes of Epi-Pen administration. So, that would require an emergency landing - and a huge inconvenience for a flight full of people.
I don't think that airlines should allow animals in the cabins, period. And honestly, I don't care if a pet owner pays more to carry their animal - my ticket cost is higher than the pet fee.
Animal people, please stop blaming allergy sufferers for their ailments. I, for one, would do just about anything to be allergy free and be able to have animals in my life. A little respect and understanding goes a long way. I respect your love of your animal - I just ask that you not bring him/her on board with you.

Posted by: Rockville | February 7, 2008 8:17 AM

For all those allergy sufferers who don't want cats in the cabin with them: there are plenty of airlines that don't allow anything but service animals in the cabin! I would say about half of US airlines don't allow cats. Off the top of my head, jetblue, Southwest, and Frontier. So feel free to travel on them exclusively. I'm sorry that you have to deal with pet dander on your flights, but how else are we supposed to move a pet cross country if we don't own a car? I paid $80 to have my own cat take my footspace for a six hour flight, so I don't feel bad about him being there.

Posted by: Rae | February 7, 2008 9:15 AM

This is in response to those who claim cats are just dumb animals, that we pet owners are nuts for being so devoted, etc. I had to move cross-country because of my job and therefore had to bring my cat on the plane with me. And it wasn't cheap, either-I had to pay a ton of money to bring my baby on the plane, but I tried to make sure that she wouldn't offend any allergy sufferers. The flight attendants were very nice about it, and Raven stayed in her carrier under the seat and didn't fuss a bit. If you have allergies, then you should ask about being moved away from possible triggers (and again, you'd think peanuts would be more dangerous, to say nothing of people who wear too much perfume or think hygeine is merely a greeting) or ask for a pet-free flight, if possible. And to those who say pets aren't important and that we are nuts, well let me tell you, there are plenty of people in this world for whom pets have shown far more devotion, loyalty, and unconditional love than people! I'm one of family disowned me because of my religious beliefs, and my single friends abandoned me when they got married simply because I was still single! Throughout it all, my cat has been there, welcoming me home from work, enjoying the attention I give her, even welcoming my husband into my life when we started dating! She is now his "baby" too, and our kids love her! Do I need to worry about flying with her again? Not likely. Would I if I had to again? Hell, yes!

Posted by: crazycatlady | February 7, 2008 9:23 AM

I would take an animal on a plane only if it were a necessity -- who wants to travel with an animal? -- and as long as the airlines allow you to bring them in the plane, I would do so. That said, the airlines need to be flexible to let people move if they don't want to sit next to or near an animal, and that goes for kids, too!

Posted by: Get over it | February 7, 2008 9:52 AM

I'm stunned at the level of hatred directed towards people with allergies or otherwise just don't want to be near an animal on a plane.

Posted by: wow | February 7, 2008 10:09 AM

Annapolis - Please you obviously haven't done any research. Southwest and Frontier both prohibit animals from the cabin. So please do me a favor and take those airlines.

If you have that severe of an allergy, you better gear up. You could just as easily end up with cat dander all over if you are sitting between two cat owners. Cat themselves are rarely in the cabin, people really only do that when they move b/c it's so awful. So I guess you're all going to need to work harder and go the Gulfstream route...

My dog thought being in the cargo hold was the greatest thing ever (and had a layover). Upon landing we let her out of her crate to do her thing. She finished and ran right into the car into the crate. Weird girl...

Posted by: Alex | February 7, 2008 10:24 AM

The poster who said JetBlue doesn't allow pets in the cabin is absolutely wrong. JetBlue is one of the most pet-friendly airlines flying; they have a four pet per flight in-cabin limit. I fly them frequently and it seems there's always at least one passenger with a pet as his/her carryon luggage.

Posted by: BxNY | February 7, 2008 11:22 AM

Newsflash: Taking an animal in the cabin has nothing to do with "comfort," "convenience," or keeping Fluffy company. It has to do with the chance that my cat will DIE in the cargo hold. I've taken a cat on a plane exactly once, when moving cross-country. There really are no other good options, and it's a huge pain - I had to take him out of his carrier to go through security! - so I doubt anyone would do it if they didn't absolutely have to. And no, I was not willing to risk my pet's life for your comfort.

Posted by: Erica S. | February 7, 2008 11:29 AM


Can't we find a middle way that respects both party's needs and desires? Some people are severely allergic to pets. Some people don't like pets and make a big deal out of the sniffles. Some people just want to be a good owner and do the right thing for their animal. Some people are selfish and rate their pet's needs over people's needs.

Why can't airlines work it so that people traveling with pets have to confirm a flight at least a week in advance. Why can't they color code the pet person's AND allergy sufferer's seat in a way that is visible on the internet or in the system to reservation agents so that everybody knows what's going on? That way, an agent can tell a booker (or they can see online) whether there are pets and where they are on the plane, so the person can make a judgment about the severity of their allergy and proximity to the pet. It would be first customer served. If the pet owning customer booked first, the allergy sufferer would have a choice to make - pick a seat or skip that flight. If an allergy sufferer booked first, the pet owner could not bring the pet on that flight unless the person said that they just needed no pets in the immediate vicinity and an appropriate seat was available. Can't we just accomodate each other without being so nasty and black and white about it?

Posted by: middleway | February 7, 2008 12:00 PM

"Can't we just accomodate each other without being so nasty and black and white about it?"

Middleway, thank you! I was beginning to wonder whether all the voices of reason had booked a flight to Mars or Venus.
It's interesting that there is so much bile directed at those severely allergic to cats, rather than to airlines that don't offer a safe means of transporting cats, despite the obvious need. The airlines are in a much better position to solve the problem than the allergy sufferers, near as I can tell.
The reason cats are such a problem is that their allergen is airborne, while dog allergen is confined to their bodies. That's why those with dog allergies don't complain as voiceferously about dogs on flights, I imagine. A simple move away from the dog will mostly solve the problem, but unless you plan to give up breathing, the recirculated air containing cat allergen will assault you for the duration of the flight, even if you aren't near the cat. And for myself, that means not only tightened airways, but two or three days of misery afterward, as if I'm coming down with the flu. And yes, cat owners who don't even bring their cat with them can provoke a life-threatening allergic reaction is a few very unfortunate souls.

I say this as someone severely allergic to cats, but who loves them madly and would have one in a heartbeat again if I could.

Posted by: Leaving Law | February 7, 2008 12:46 PM

I travel frequently by air with my cat - he's a show cat and that's how we get to shows. He's cleaner than clean, he's well behaved,he's quiet and we pay for his ticket. I'm amazed that people would be upset that he's on board.

Being highly allergic to cats myself and knowing a great deal about allergies in general, I'd be amazed if having one little cat on a plane caused someone to have an allergy attack. People often use allergies as an excuse.

Posted by: MaryAnn | February 7, 2008 1:04 PM

At one point in my life I moved from Hawaii to Maryland. Had to take my kitten on board with me, no way around it. On the Maui to St. Louis leg, the plane was half empty and I actually was able to strap his carrier into the empty seat next to me (I think I had the row to myself). No complaints from anyone. The St. Louis to BWI leg was totally full (HI to STL leg was 6 hours late and I missed my original flight) and he was relegated to underneath the seat in front of me. Again no complaints from anyone. I would gladly have changed seats or flights if his presence had been harmful to anyone. But it never came up. Heck, the airline (I think it was TWA) didn't even bother looking at his papers or charging me the fee for bringing him onboard.

Posted by: Amy F. | February 7, 2008 1:05 PM

"If you are going to insist that you have a right to smoke or carry your cat into an enclosed place and trigger my allergic reaction, then I think I'll insist on my right to fart all over you, spread myself out across the arm rests, to spew my garlic-ridden breath on you and to move my seatback so it inflicts maximum damage -- maybe even let my dog out of its travel bag to harass your cat! "

You already do these things A-hole. One of the reasons your wife cheats on you.

Posted by: Jake | February 7, 2008 1:08 PM

Aren't these allergies nature's way of getting rid of the defectives who pose a risk to the tribe?

Posted by: Frank | February 7, 2008 1:12 PM

I'm a lifelong allergy sufferer. Luckily, no asthma. Violently allergic to cats, but for some reason, not dogs. I take shots. I take meds. However, "a Benadryl" won't help. (Sudafed doesn't contain anti-histamines, and is not an allergy medication, FWIW, contrary to a prior poster's assertion.) I ask, when booking flights, if there are any known pets flying on my flight, and if they can be seated away from me. I can't control which airlines I fly on as often as I'd like-- when I fly for work, I am *obligated* to fly on a certain few choices of airlines, some of whom allow pets in the cabin. Other airlines don't fly near where I need to go most often. Sometimes, it's a financial decision. I take responsibility for my allergies-- I medicate, I seek aggressive medical treatment, I inquire with airlines. Most folks with profound allergies *do.* It's a life-and-death set of questions. I carry an Epi-Pen, and as a commenter mentioned above, if I'm in a situation where I have to use it, I need to be IN an ER inside 30 minutes-- an emergency landing would be a disastrous result for every other passenger on my flight.

I'm lucky in that I'm not allergic to dogs, and dogs are the most-common pets I see on my flights (2x-3x/month), mostly 'pocketbook/accessory dogs.' By and large, they're well-behaved, and I'm grateful. But I'm lucky. Wearing a mask isn't going to contain the effect that cat dander in recirculated air will have on my eyes and skin.

Posted by: Listening | February 7, 2008 1:16 PM

Some years ago I traveled down to Florida, sitting three abreast, with two kids about junior high school age on my left.

One of the kids kept passing gas and making these weird smiles.

Maybe they should ban junior high school kids. I'm all in favor.

Posted by: Randy | February 7, 2008 1:17 PM

"I have little sympathy for people who go into histrionics at the thought of sniffles from pet allergies or a whif of cigarette smoke. Get over yourselves, people. Take a sudafed and move on." Come to think of it, I do remember those days. Back before people thought a whiff of something would kill them. Which has really gotten worse, the allergies themselves, our our zero tolerance society?

Posted by: Sam888 | February 7, 2008 1:40 PM

As a former airline Customer Service supervisor and an animal welfare volunteer, I have to say that if the pet is in the kennel, fits appropriately and meets all pertinent regulations, than it's good to go on board in the cabin. I do NOT support pets in the belly. I would drive first, rather than put my dogs through that.

As far as those with allergies go, there are limits to what a public transport company can and should do in this instance. If it's that big a problem for you, consider alternate transportation. (And my youngest daughter is an adult athsmatic, so don't say I have no sympathy.) If medication can't keep your allergy under control, you need to make sure you are physically seperated from the allergens.

Posted by: Greggb57 | February 7, 2008 2:08 PM

We'll never resolve this to everyone's satisfaction because we have extreme, mutually exclusive positions. At one extreme are these pet owners who literally seem to value their cats more than human life. At the other are people so allergic that they cannot take any medication that effectively suppresses their symptoms. Irresistible force meet immovable object.

Maybe there will be a few times when a pet owner will have to wait for the next flight, because going on the one they're on means somebody will have a near-death experience. And maybe the allergic flier might occasionally have to make the same sacrifice, since you will never be able to control your environment to your absolute satisfaction. If you're flying with one of these rigid conditions be prepared to make some sacrificies in its name.

The wild card in all this is not the pet owners or the allergic fliers, but the airlines themselves. Somehow I don't see the average airline or flight crew going out of its way to help everyone reach a consensus solution.

Posted by: Andy | February 7, 2008 3:13 PM

Making cats get on planes is cruelty to animals, pure and simple. What the airlines do to people is bad enough, but no cat should ever be subjected to humans.

Posted by: K | February 7, 2008 3:31 PM

I would love to see an easier way to transport pets that both provides a safe and reliable voyage for the animals and doesn't endanger those with allergies. Whether it be pet-safe vs pet-free flights, where passengers could choose which category they best fit into, or an airline that specializes in pet transportation that allergy sufferers could avoid.

My husband and I moved coast-to-coast this summer and had to work our way through this same issue. We have two cats and one dog (who is too large to sit under my seat), and hated the idea of putting them in cargo. My cats have a tendency to meow incessantly for hours at a time, so I also hated the idea of subjecting ourselves or other airline passengers to their obnoxious noise. Further complicating the problem, my husband flew on Airtran, which doesn't allow pets. I hated doing it but we had to check the cats in the cargo hold of a United flight and find them again on the other end. I drove the moving van rather than paying professional movers so I could bring the dog with me.

And to echo the previous posters who have expressed that simply using an epi-pen isn't enough, another strike against epi-pens is that they induce a lot of bleeding. Stabbing yourself in the leg with a giant needle tends to produce a big pool of blood, which is gross and unsanitary.

Posted by: Regan | February 7, 2008 4:15 PM

I'm not sure why this hasn't come up before (unless I missed it?). Cat owners can use cat-allergy solutions to wipe down their pets prior to taking them on a flight. I do it weekly anyway (plus use air filters) to reduce the amount of allergens in my home. Where cats are concerned, note that cat hair isn't the problem per se. It's a protein in cats' saliva that causes allergies. That gets all over cats when they clean themselves. Wiping kitty down before taking him/her on a long flight with potential allergy sufferers could be a reasonable compromise.

Having said that, I also agree with one of the posters: allergy sufferers, you could still get sick from being around cat owners on a plane (or elsewhere) even when they are not traveling with their cats. That's b/c they'll likely have cat allergens all over their clothes anyway. Therefore, it's your responsibility to carry whatever meds you need with you all the time since you just never know what you may encounter on a daily basis *cat or not* that could sicken or kill you. And no, don't expect people to automatically know about your allergies unless you're wearing a sign to that effect.

Just my 2 cents. Well, those two points plus this: there's no need for some of the posters to be so nasty to others. This is an opportunity for dialogue. Chill out, and just maybe we'll learn something useful from one another. Peace out.

Posted by: catlover3 | February 7, 2008 4:23 PM

What do people who are severely allergic do if they're on a flight where there's a guide-dog or other service animal?

Posted by: just wondering | February 7, 2008 4:29 PM

When I moved last summer, my easy-going healthy young cats were in the cargo hold from San Francisco to Newark. It made me a little nervous, but they are healthy and young, the carriers were sturdy, and everything went fine. As an allergy sufferer myself, I felt that was the best option both for my beloved little boy cats and for the people with whom I share the earth. Could we all keep a little consideration for others in mind?

Posted by: Megan | February 7, 2008 4:41 PM

Wow, people amaze me sometimes. Cats are evil? That's ignorant. Ever been bitten by a dog? It hurts. All bites hurt. Ignorance will always be around however. Pet friendly airline travel is wonderful because most of us feel that they are members of our family and should be treated that way. If someone doesn't like kids are they going to act the same? I'm allergic to screaming uncontrollable children. I suck it up and put on earphones. I agree with a previous comment by finding out maybe if pets will be on flight. I also think airline attendants should be more accommadating for everyone, including those allergic and not so pet friendly people. That way everyone will be happy.

Posted by: Jenny | February 7, 2008 7:12 PM

Just a thought on allergy medications...
On a short flight, taking a Benadryl or similar for allergies would not be a good solution for me because that medication is known to make me drowsy or put me to sleep for several hours. I often travel alone (no doubt this is due to my defective , allergy-prone body and non pet ownership, keeping me single and weeding me out of the gene pool, as suggested by a previous poster).

I've never encountered severe bleeding from an Epi-pen, but if this is true, I wanted to point out that blood is not only "gross" it is also classified as a biohazard.

Wouldn't it be cool if airlines could accomodate both preferences, perhaps by having certain pet free sections or entire planes cleared for travelers with pets? This could work the way smoking sections work in airports with super duty air purifiers in the pet/peanut/perfume free section of the cabin. I have heard it is common practice for airlines to hold back on the air reserves; perhaps they could even use all the available fresh air reserves for these flights. This way everyone would be happy and as healthy as possible and we wouldn't have to witness the darker sides of the animals vs humans debate.

Posted by: CarlyM | February 7, 2008 10:32 PM

If you are really so allergic that cat dander might result in your needing an ER in 30 minutes, might I suggest you take Amtrak or drive instead of flying. Amtrak only allows service animals, no others (and I have yet to see a service cat).

Also, this 'recirculated air' that people keep having fits over is a myth. Modern airliners cycle the entire cabin air every few minutes, using a mixture of 'fresh' outside air and HEPA filtered inside air. The air that you're breathing in an aircraft is of a higher purity that in your office building or your home.

Posted by: cb | February 8, 2008 10:53 AM

The article misrepresented the original chat. I was the original poster and I asked about flying with my cat to ASIA, not Texas. As in overseas, as in you can't drive there. As in, the cat will likely die after 23 hours in cargo. Trust me, I don't want to fly with him any more than he does or anyone around me wants, but I we're moving to Asia for two years, not taking a two week vacation. And I don't believe it throwing away a pet when it becomes inconvenient.

Posted by: Asia | February 11, 2008 1:19 PM

No, Asia, we didn't misrepresent the original chat. The first question we received on this topic, on 1/28/08, was from a reader asking about taking her cat to Texas. You chimed in a week later.

Here's the transcript:
Silver Spring, Md.: I'm going to be traveling by plane with my cat to Texas, and I've never traveled with a pet before. Do you have any tips?

KC Summers: Hi SS. First off, know that the Humane Society of the United States recommends against transporting your pet by plane if at all possible. Too many things can go wrong -- pets can get lost, dehydrated, panicked, etc. And if you must fly with your pet, don't put it in the cargo hold -- put it in an approved container that fits under the seat in front of you. The Humane Society has good tips for pet air travel at

Posted by: KC Summers | February 11, 2008 1:28 PM

first of all i am a HUGE animal lover. cats dogs, birds and guinea pigs. I love them all.....NOW i am extremely allergic to cats. I went to visit a friend who had to cats. i walked into her apartment and stood in the middle of the room, didn't touch a thing, within 5 minutes my nose was burning and itching as were my eyes. i left the apartment and went outside. my eyes swelled and my nose burned for 3 days after that. now that was with plenty of warning. if i walked onto a plane with a cat and had to sit for hours in a confined space with no fresh air i would lose my mind. i love my pets too, but in now way paid for or not would i chance making a another passenger suffer with no way out.

Posted by: nall92 | February 11, 2008 3:41 PM

After reading through these comments, I think we should put people in the cargo hold and allow only pets in the cabin. It would be more pleasant that way.

Posted by: Washington Dame | February 11, 2008 6:56 PM

Thank you to Alexandria for the smart, well-thought out response. Yes, the allergic passenger has a right to fly without fear of allergic reactions, but they have a responsibility to alert the airlines when booking travel. Even sitting next to someone who has been near a pet recently can trigger an allergic reaction. I know. I am allergic to cats, but also own 2. And YES, antihistamines (i.e., Sudafed) does work. I moved from the East coast to the West coast last year. I had the LUXURY of time and money and was able to drive to spare my cats the trauma of being on a plane, but not everyone can do that. AND people who have and care for pets properly could hardly be categorized as 'selfish'. Selfish, by definition, doesn't allow for concern of other BEINGS.

Being new to the airline industry (1 year now), I have learned that, Yes, the industry has a lot of work to do, BUT, so do passengers. I have been traveling my whole life (40+ years now) and I am amazed at how little attention people pay to their flight arrangements with or sans the pet situation.

People show up on the wrong day, the wrong airline, forget what their bags look like (trying to claim their bag is lost, then turns out it's sitting 2 feet away from them.) This happens DAILY. So while I'm not disagreeing that we have a ways to go, passengers need to start taking some responsibility. We are not baby sitters and cannot be held accountable for not holding your hand every step of the way.

Posted by: Fly Girl | February 18, 2008 12:56 PM

Posted by: Buy Claritin free shipping | March 6, 2008 12:10 PM

I have a severe allergies that runs in my family. It takes acupuncture, daily medication, and weekly allergy shots to just be able to FUNCTION NORMALLY. If I come in contact with a cat, it can be serious trouble. I can't just "take my medicine." I do that in order to just be able to breathe everyday. I don't care if someone's cat is it's "baby" or whatever, but honestly, is bringing your cat in the cabin worth potentially KILLING someone over? Yes, people die from allergies. We can't breathe. It feels like you're drowning. When you're in the air you can't just go to the hospital. And don't tell me not to fly. It's people that book plane tickets, not pets.

Posted by: An Allergy Sufferer | March 13, 2008 6:15 AM

My husband and I discovered cats were allowed in the cabin on international flights an hour before our honeymoon to Paris -- a lady with a cat in a carrier had been ahead of us on the security line. My husband is asthmatic, and is particularly allergic to cats; a few minutes of exposure, and he gets several weeks of severe bronchitis, I cannot even imagine his body's response to breathing dander-infused air for eight hours. Obviously, if he could have taken a pill, he would have.

24 hours later, we left on a rebooked flight (Delta made a big deal about how they'd waived an extra fee), after a truly nightmarish ordeal in the airport. Officials from Delta not only to refused to put us on a different flight (there were only biz class seats available), but they also told my husband he'd "probably be fine" with the cat on board our original flight. It was only after he asked them if they'd be willing to take full legal responsibility for any health problems he developed that they backed off.

This was in September. Since then, we've had to switch another flight (there were three pets booked on out flight to his family in California over the holidays), and now arrive at the airport hours earlier than we need to to anticipate problems. Whenever we need to travel -- which we often do for work, as well as pleasure -- booking pet-free flights is almost impossible.

Airline officials have told us, point blank, that because they cannot indicate a cat allergy in a passenger's record at the time of booking -- the computer won't allow it. They also won't indicate if an animal on a flight is a dog or cat. AND a cat-owner can arrive at the airport with Mittens in a crate, pay a small fee, and without warning get simply get added to the flight -- even with a severely allergic passenger, who's tried to get his situation recorded his situation, on board.

British Air refuses to allow pets into the cabin, as does Air Canada (both admit this is for allergic passengers to fly safely). As far as I know, they are the ONLY airlines that do so for international travelers. We're flying to Germany in a month (again for work), and will probably need to route through London (a real pain), pay more for our tickets, etc.

I know this had been a long post, but the level of frustration I feel about this issue is commensurate with the length. I just don't see why someone with a serious health issue should not be able to take care of himself before booking a flight. The airlines need to come up with a way to red-flag pets AND allergic passengers -- whoever books first could get priority. It's fine if they require a doctor's note as well. My husband would be willing to pay a small fee for this privilege IF he knew he'd be guaranteed a safe flight -- rebooking costs more anyway, and is very stressful, especially with the way flying works these days.

Does anyone know of domestic or other international airlines that won't carry pets in the cabin? We live in New York, and Southwest is not convenient for most of our travel.


Posted by: golde | March 13, 2008 11:32 AM

As a cat owner, I'll gladly switch seats, use anti-allergen wipes, etc. to help increase the comfort of someone on the plane with cat allergies. I also register my cat on the flight well in advance so that the airline knows months in advance that there will be a cat on the plane if someone with an allergy asks.

Switching my flight, however, or putting the cat in cargo go too far.

If someone has an allergy, I think others have an obligation to do things within reason to help them, but not to the point where the person with the allergy is now calling the shots as to how someone else lives.

For example, if a child at my kid's school had a peanut allergy and the school designates a "peanut free" lunch period or table, no problem.

If someone moved into my building, and went around telling all the neighbors to throw out their peanut products because their kid who lives in the same building is allergic - no way.

I'll go very far on my own behalf to make people with allergies comfortable, but someone else's allergy does not mean that I have the obligation to undergo large inconveniences (flying later) or put my pets in danger (in cargo) for you.

Posted by: Johnd | March 21, 2008 5:44 PM

Frontier definitely allows pets -- I just booked my girl on a flight yesterday. I am very concerned about it and am glad to hear about these allergy "wipes," whatever they may be -- I will look into it.

I want to accommodate anyone who has allergies. I'll happily switch seats; Sasha's travel bag will never open, I will keep my hands off her. But I have to take her.

Can anyone recommend anything else I can do? Brushing for sure in advance of the flight...hmm.

Southwest was the only one I saw that didn't accept pets in cabin, BTW.

Posted by: Sasha | April 1, 2008 5:18 PM

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