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Crate Requirements for Pets Traveling as Cargo

Crate Requirements for Pets Traveling as Cargo

Whether your pet will be flying as a checked item or as cargo, you can rest easy knowing he/she will be traveling in a pressurized and temperature controlled environment. The most important part of your pet’s journey will be the container he/she travels in. There are fairly specific rules regarding pet containers, and the more you know in the beginning will reduce any problems during the planning process.

All containers must meet the International Air Transport Association’s requirements along with any other specific requirements deemed by individual airlines. As a general rule of thumb, only one pet should travel per container, although the IATA suggests it’s okay for two compatible animals under 30lbs (14kg) and of the same species to share a container. Not all airlines accept this rule, so double check with your airline if you have two furry friends joining you on your travels. There are a variety of brands that meet IATA standards, but PetMate is the most recommended brand since their products meet the necessary requirements. No matter what brand you decide to go with, use the following information to ensure you and your pet have a stress free experience.

Minimum Requirements

  • Container must be made of fiberglass, metal, solid plastics, or welded metal mesh (some airlines do accept crates made of wood, but not all do).
  • Containers cannot be collapsible. Ventilation slots on the lid are permitted as long as it doesn’t compromise the durability of the container. Top loading containers are not suggested.
  • Handles or a handling area must be present along the long side of the crate.
  • Door must be made of sturdy plastic or metal (cast or welded). They must also have a spring loaded locking system where the pins extend 5/8 in past the frame of the container’s opening. Some airlines require zip ties to be placed on all four corners for additional security.
  • Door must be nose and paw proof to protect your pet from injury or harm.
  • Floor must be solid and leak proof.
  • Your pet should be able to stand, turn around, lay down, and sit without any limitations to natural posture. Snub nose pets require one size larger than normal. For proper pet sizing, see the Sizing Your Pet section below.
  • Most airlines now require steel crate hardware instead of plastic. Each fastener should include a bolt, lock washer, and designer nut. Zip ties may be required on all four corners of the crate for additional security.
  • Food and water bowls should be attached the inside of the door and accessible without having to open the door. Attaching a funnel to the door can make it easier for airline personnel to provide your pet with water. Food can be stored on the top of the crate in a resealable plastic bag.
  • Container must have ventilation on at least two sides for domestic flights and four sides for international flights. Ventilated areas must be 16% of the total surface area of the four sides. Ventilation areas must not be taped or blocked in any way.
  • LIVE ANIMAL stickers and directional stickers must be placed on the top and sides of the container in letters at least 1inch tall. There must also be a sticker on the Shipper’s Declaration stating when the pet was last fed and watered.
  • Any wheels on the bottom of a container should be removed, taped, or otherwise made inoperable. It is recommended to get a crate without wheels to avoid the container rolling during travel.
  • Identification should be placed on the crate: Pet’s name and owner’s contact information.
  • If your pet exceeds 132lbs, forklift spacers will be required on the container.

Sizing Your Pet

To properly measure your pet’s travel container, you will use measurements A, B, C, and D.

A: Length of pet from nose to the root of the tail

B: Height of pet from ground to the elbow joint

C: Width across pet’s shoulders

D: Height of pet from ground to top of head for pet’s with drooping ears and to the tips of ears for pet’s with standing ears.

  • Height of crate = D for domestic flights and D+3in for international flights
  • Length of crate = A+1/2 of B for domestic flights and A+B for international flights
  • Width of crate = Cx2 for domestic flights and C (+1in) x2 for international flights

Additional Recommendations

  • Place a pet pad or shredded paper inside the crate
  • Include an item of your clothing inside the container. Your scent can help comfort your pet during the journey.
  • If you want to send some toys with your pet, use only soft, pliable toys. Hard and/or bouncing toys can be a possible hazard/danger during travel.
  • Attach the following items to the outside of the carrier, each in their own sealed plastic bag:
    • Collar and leash
    • Original health certificate and other required documentation. Write DO NOT REMOVE- ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS in permanent marker.

Other Animals

The above requirements are mainly guidelines for cats and dogs, but we know some of you have other animals that may require travel.

Rabbits, Hamsters, & Small Rodents

You can use the same container requirements for these critters as listed above. Pet pads and t-shirts are okay to have in their containers, but other unattached items are not allowed.


Containers for your feathered friends should be made of wood or hard plastic. Ventilation holes should be covered by a fine mesh or woven material to provide privacy for your bird without compromising airflow. Containers should be large enough to allow room for their tail and crown, and a perch must be placed inside.


The requirements for these cold-blooded beauties vary by airline, but the measurements usually go as follows:

Length = 2/3 of the snake’s length

Width = 1/2 of the snake’s length


These timid friends require sturdy containers made of plastic or wood. You will need to place some form of absorbent material inside along with a place for the turtle to hide. Additionally, they will require some form of protection from the cold. Contact airline for measurement requirements.

Although most airlines accept the International Air Transport Association’s rules concerning containers for pets flying in cabin or as cargo, you should check individual airline websites to find out any specific rules.

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