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Tips for Trips With Pets

May 01, 1988|RICHARD BERNSTRIN and ELEANOR BERNSTEIN | The Bernsteins are Los Angeles free-lance writers

Traveling with a small pet in the cabin of a plane may not fit in with everyone's life style, but it sometimes becomes a necessity. With no one to mind their pet and a built-in aversion to kennel care, many travelers choose to take their pets along on trips.

Take it from a couple who have made 24 round trips from East to West Coast with our small cat securely set in a comfortable carrying case under the seat: It can be done with a minimum of trouble.

Naturally, a pet owner has to know the rules and regulations the airlines impose on taking small animals in cabins.

Ticket for the Pet

First, you must make a reservation for your pet because many airlines permit only one animal per cabin. No airline wants cat or dog fights aboard. The cost of the pet's ticket is from $25 to $30. Buy it in advance or you will be stopped at the gate.

Second, your pet has to be small enough to fit comfortably into a carrying case that can be placed under the seat in front of you. Never ask for a seat in the first row because there won't be any place to put your pet.

Third, the size of your pet's carrying case will vary slightly from airline to airline, but general guidelines call for it to be 17 inches long, 12 inches wide and 8 inches high. The airlines will sell you a carrier, but they have no objection to your using one of your own as long as it meets their specifications.

These are the general rules, but they hardly tell the whole story. To travel with a pet takes preparation.

Pack Favorite Toys

Let your pet know it is being included in the trip. When you start packing your luggage, put your pet's carrying case next to it. Your pet will soon realize that it is to be part of the trip, particularly if you line the carrier with one of its blankets and drop in one of its favorite toys.

Be prepared, at least the first time around, for your pet to hide when it comes time to get into the box. Change is strange to most animals, and they are wary of being trapped in unfamiliar containers.

Feed your pet before you leave home. No airline ever gave so much as a scrap of fish to our cat even though it was a paying passenger. Take care of its needs well before boarding.

If your pet is high-strung you can get a mild tranquilizer from your veterinarian that will generally quiet it down. Do this only if necessary. You don't want a drowsy pet when you get off the plane. Ask the vet for any other suggestions on traveling with your pet.

Have your pet eat when you arrive at your destination. (Don't forget the can opener.) As soon as you get out of the baggage area, a meal can be available.

No Problems

If this is the first time you will be traveling with a pet, you will probably wonder about the airline treatment. Rest easy. In 24 trips we have never encountered a difficulty. Only once did we find a stewardess who didn't like cats.

TWA, American, Pan Am and United all cooperated in allowing Scooter a place under the seat. TWA even awarded Scooter a set of wings, but no frequent-flier card . . . yet.

If you are a true animal lover, you may balk when you see your pet's ticket marked: "Excess baggage." You'd think, at least, that the airline could recognize it by name. After all, it's a paying passenger.

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