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Home > Cats > How Does a Cat Go to the Bathroom on a Plane? 5 Travel Plan Tips

How Does a Cat Go to the Bathroom on a Plane? 5 Travel Plan Tips

cat inside an airplane looking at the window

Traveling is stressful enough, but it can be positively anxiety-ridden when you’re bringing your cat with you. The idea of confining your cat in a carrier for hours and how frightened they might be throughout the entire ordeal can give you second thoughts.

Also, how on earth will your cat be able to use a litter box while in midair? There are certain steps that you can take, such as using pee pads or portable litter boxes. However, it ultimately depends on the airline’s policies.

Let’s discuss how to handle your cat while on the plane and how to plan for the trip before you leave.


Bringing Your Cat on a Plane

It should be noted that cats can go as long as 24 to 48 hours without using the litter box.1 But it isn’t recommended that you make a cat wait past 24 hours, as dangerous toxins can accumulate and cause serious problems.

That said, how you handle your cat’s litter box while flying depends on the airline and your preferences.

In the Cabin

Most major airlines allow cats in the cabin with you, but there are certain rules to follow, including the weight and size of the carrier.

The carrier also needs to be airplane approved, so even before booking your ticket, you should speak to someone at the airline about their requirements for bringing your cat with you. Additionally, your cat must stay in the carrier during the entire flight.

In the Cargo Hold

The other option is having your cat placed in the cargo hold. One advantage is that there are no restrictions on the size of the carrier, so they can have more room to move around. You can even place a small litter box inside the carrier.

That said, cargo holds sound scary to many cat owners, and most vets do recommend bringing your cat into the cabin with you.2 The sounds, smells, and sights can be frightening to pets, and unfortunately, while it isn’t common, some animals have died while in cargo.

cat looking at the airplane window
Image by: Photo Spirit, Shutterstock

How a Cat Goes to the Bathroom on a Plane

One way to deal with the bathroom issue, particularly if you’re on a long flight, is to use pee pads, typically used while training puppies. Most brands can hold up to about 3 cups of liquid! You can also consider using a cat diaper—if your cat’s dignity allows it.

You can bring a portable litter box or make your own, such as cutting a shoe box to 2 inches in height. Carry a baggy with cat litter, and encourage your cat to use the litter box before boarding.

Bear in mind that most airlines will not let you take your cat out of the carrier while on a flight, so you will most likely need to rely on pee pads or a diaper, and clean everything up when you’re off the plane.


The 5 Tips How to Plan a Trip With a Cat in Tow

Before booking anything, consider if you can drive to your destination rather than fly. It’s a highly stressful event even for the bravest of cats, and they are likely able to handle a long drive better. But if this isn’t possible, you’ll need to look for the right airline-approved carrier.

1. Cat Carrier

Check with the airline that you’ll be flying with before purchasing a new cat carrier. They will let you know the acceptable dimensions. Some manufacturers will list the airlines that accept their carriers, but always double-check before purchasing.

Some carriers come with food and water bowls that can attach to them, which are great features. Still, you might not find too many options for the small carriers that are accepted in the cabin. You can opt instead to get collapsible food and water bowls to give your cat before and after the flight.

Understand that if your cat comes into the cabin with you, they are considered a carry-on. You’ll also need to pay a fee for bringing your pet on board, and the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.

At least a week before your trip, you should leave out the carrier and open it so your cat can explore and even get cozy inside of it. Place their favorite toys and treats inside in addition to any cozy blankets—even better if these smell like you and/or your cat! This way, you’re building a positive association between your cat and the carrier that they will be spending a long time in.

cat in a carrier bag ready to board an airplane
Image by: MarinaTr, Shutterstock

2. Veterinarian Check

Some airlines require proof of vaccinations and health certificates, so you’ll need to have an appointment before traveling. This is particularly important if your cat has a health condition. Your vet can also give you advice on making the trip more comfortable for your cat.

While you’re there, seriously consider having your cat microchipped if they aren’t already. If the unthinkable occurs and your cat escapes, you have a much better chance of having them returned to you.

3. Breed Restrictions

Some airlines have restrictions on pets, including cats that are pregnant, senior, or 2 months or younger or have a serious health condition.

Some breeds are also subject to restrictions, specifically flat-faced cats, also known as brachycephalic breeds,3 which include Persians, Exotic Shorthairs, and Himalayans. These breeds have respiratory problems, so if you have one of these cats, check with the airlines about their restrictions.

white persian cat outdoors
Image by: RebaSpike, Pixabay

4. Harness and Leash

This is a good idea if you often travel with your cat. Having a harness on your cat can help you keep your cat secure, particularly when you need to take them out of the carrier when going through security.

If they haven’t worn a harness before, get them used to it before the trip. Pick one that fits your cat snugly but isn’t too tight, and start putting it on them at home daily, at least a week before your trip.

5. No Meals

On the morning of the flight, only give your cat water; don’t feed them unless they must eat for medical reasons. This is to prevent them from vomiting or having diarrhea while on the plane.

You can bring cat food with you, but your cat will likely not be interested in eating until you reach your destination.



Sometimes we have no choice but to fly with our cats. With the right preparation, you can make the trip as smooth as possible, and you and your cat should arrive relatively unscathed.

If your flight is fairly short, chances are that you won’t have to worry about your cat needing to go to the bathroom. But if your flight is a long one, you’ll definitely want to be prepared.

Ensure that you have baggies and disposable gloves with you. Supplied with pee pads and/or diapers, your cat should be as comfortable as they can be, given the circumstances.

Featured Image Credit: vaalaa, Shutterstock

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