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Pet travel: how to travel with a dog or cat

Pet holidays have become popular in the last few years and you no longer need to leave your animal at home.

However, if you're taking your car or dog on holiday, and it's somewhere you'll need to travel to by plane, there are requirements you and your pet have to meet.

Here's what you need to know about taking your pet on holiday.

Black and white cat sitting on a packed suitcase lying on a double bed

Cats and dogs can travel with you, both on planes and trains, but there are rules to follow. Whether you're travelling with a dog in the car or taking your cat on a plane, you need to check in advance what the rules are.

If you're going abroad your pet should be covered under the UK Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). Usually your pet also needs a rabies vaccination and an Animal Health Certificate (AHC), which has details of your pet's:

  • Microchip
  • Vaccinations
  • Tapeworm treatment details

How to fly with a dog or cat

There are many reasons why you may have an animal with you when flying -if you're moving to a new country, for example. Animals can become stressed by air travel so it's important to prepare in advance to make the journey as easy as possible for them.

To start with you need to make sure it has all the paperwork required, and that this is up to date.

There are also restrictions on the age of animals and you may need to give treatment for fleas, ticks and tapeworm 48 hours before and after travelling abroad.

If you're travelling outside the EU, you need an Export Health Certificate. You also need to complete an Export Application form (EXA) if you’re travelling from England, Scotland or Wales.

With pet travel, you should also think about whether any existing pet insurance you have in place covers your pet for travelling abroad. Depending on the policy, it might be included as standard or come as an extra with additional costs.

When flying from the UK, your dog or cat usually travels as cargo, and not in the cabin with you or as checked luggage. This depends on the airline, though.

The only dogs allowed in the cabin on most flights are registered assistance dogs. There's a full list of airlines and their requirements on the GOV.UK website.

When taking your pet on a plane, you need to make sure you've booked it onto the flight and that you leave plenty of time when arriving at the airport.

There are strict guidelines on the size and type of carrier animals should travel in. Usually only 1 pet is allowed in a carrier, and there are also size and weight restrictions on the animal. Check with your airline to see what size carrier you need. You might also need to pay a fee for your pet and this is usually dependent on its size.

Travelling can be a stressful process for animals so you need to make sure your pet is as comfortable as possible while you travel.

Putting it in the right size carrier, including a blanket or toy they're familiar with, and remaining with your pet where possible can help. It's also wise to arrive early to give your pet time to get used to the environment of an airport or station.

You also need to keep a close eye on your pet to spot any signs of distress. Your vet may have some specific advice on how to travel with your pet.

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Travelling with your pet by train

If you're taking the train with your pet in the UK, there are rules you need to follow.

Before you go, check with the train company you're travelling with. In general the following rules apply:

  • Each passenger can take up to 2 dogs (or small animals)
  • Dogs need to be kept on leads unless they're in a carrier
  • Carriers need to be a maximum size of 85cm x 60cm x 60cm
  • Pets can't annoy other passengers (if they do you may have to leave the train), or sit on seats
  • You can't take animals into dining areas, unless they're assistance dogs

If you're travelling further afield, there are different rules. Again, check before you go - you don't want to arrive at the station to find out you won't be allowed onto the train with your dog. Only registered guide and assistance dogs are allowed on the Eurostar, for example.

Most train providers allow dogs and cats but there are rules on:

  • The size of the animal
  • How many you're travelling with
  • Where on the train they are allowed to go

Once you're out of the UK you need to make sure your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date and that you have all the required paperwork.

For more information on how to prepare your pet to travel see the Dogs Trust guide.


Travelling with a dog or cat in the car

One of the easiest ways to travel with your pet is in the car. However, this also takes preparation.

There are laws to follow to- pets need to be strapped in or restrained properly when travelling, for example.

You also want your pet to be as comfortable as possible. The following could help make your pet's journey a little easier:

  • Taking regular breaks
  • Making sure pets have plenty of water
  • Avoiding giving them food immediately before a journey
  • Making sure they maintain a comfortable temperature