Prepare a Pet Crate for Air Travel

Pet Cargo Crate for Air Travel

What to Put in Your Pet’s Crate for Flying Cargo or Checked Baggage? These 11 items essential for a properly equipped Pet Crate for air travel in Cargo include: Pet Documents, Live Animal Stickers, Funnel, bowls, zip-ties & metal fasteners.

So, when you ask what should I put in and on my Pet’s Cargo Kennel Here’s all you need to prepare your Pet for air travel:

1. Your Pet Cargo Crate Must Have Copies of Travel Documents Attached

  1. Health & Acclimation Certificate
  2. Rabies Vaccination Certificate
  3. Airline Routing Information
  4. Feeding & Watering Information
  5. Document Pouch

Tape to the top of the crate in a clear, water-proof sleeve, attach a document pouch all copies of all your pet’s documents.  Health Certificate, Vaccination Record, Animal Feeding and Watering Instruction, Acclimation Certificate, Import/Export Certificate (if required).

I just buy clear plastic envelopes at the local Dollar store.  Also, you can use the USDA/APHIS approved form shown here. There is no set form.

You can use this as a guide to make your own. Some print their form on sticker paper; however, I use regular paper and tape it on so, I can change it out for the next trip.



2. The Outside of Your Pet’s Kennel Must Have “LIVE ANIMAL” Stickers with Arrows

Affix Green 3”x 5”, “LIVE ANIMAL” Stickers to the front, back, sides and top.  The Lettering must be at least 1″ tall. Affix Arrow stickers to the side, front and back. 

Green= Live Animals (mostly Pets). (Red=Laboratory Animals). Use Green. Do not cover Ventilation holes or slats.


Pet Cargo Crate with Visual Directions of Where to Affix "Live Animal" Stickers
Pet Cargo Crate with Visual Directions of Where to Affix “Live Animal” Stickers

You can always print your own with adhesive printer paper from a stationary store, just make sure you get the dimensions correct

3″x5″ with at least 1″ letters in Green. These are the ones I have used and with the kit you get a lot more that your need for your crate.


3. Include Your Pet’s Leash and Collar

You will need these ready to walk your Pet through security and the handlers will need them for any layovers where they are able to have a break between flights.

If your leash and collar have all plastic fasteners you will have less hassle passing through TSA security.

4. Pet Food, and Extra Bottles of Water on Top of Travel Kennel

My Airline Compliant Pet Cargo Crate Set Up for a Smaller Dog or Cat

Food for your pet must be packed in a sealed bag and attached to the top of the crate. Airline staff will feed your pet during the comfort stop. during the layover.

Food for your pet must be packed in a sealed bag and attached to the top of the crate.

Airline staff will feed your pet if they have a layover or comfort stop.

Pet Handlers recommend that you do NOT have food in the crate prior to the flight.

See also, CAN I BRING PET FOOD ON AN AIRPLANE to the US-Companion Pet Travel

Your Dog or Cat may have a treat but, rarely will they eat when stressed and the Pet food likely will be spilled and make a mess of your pet’s cargo crate. 

Freeze a bottle or two of water to attach to the top of the crate so the flight crew can provide water during a layover or before customs.

5. Attach a Water Bottle Feeder to the Inside of the Cargo Crate

Although many Dogs and Cats will not drink during the flight, if you train them before flying, they can stay hydrated with a spill and leak proof water feeder.


I have tried two others but I love this one– I’ve had no water leaking issues as I have had with less expensive ones that have weak seals.

This is made of Stainless Steel and resin and the ball stopper releases the right amount of water without getting water all over.


6. Attach a Funnel to the Outside of the Pet Cargo Crate

A small  pet funnel on the outside of the crate door, attached with zip ties, allows the pet airline handlers to refill bowls and water without opening the door. 

You can buy them at the Dollar Store. I don’t spend extra money on the more expensive collapsible ones, they often get lost on the flight.

If you want to provide water before the flight add it as a block of ice or ice cubes just before you hand your Dog or Cat to the airlines. 

This way, water is less likely to spill during transport to the aircraft but will be available during the flight.

See Best Cargo Crate for Flying with Large Dogs in 2021

7.  Your Pet’s Medicine

If your pet is on medication, make sure to attach the medicine and the dosage in a sealed bag. The airline staff will administer the medicine during layovers or if an emergency occurs. 

Be sure to add the dosage and prescription information on  Animal Feeding and Watering Instruction form (you can always make your own form).

See Also, Should I Sedate My Dog to Fly? Here, I cover Sedation, Prescription Medication and Alternatives such as Pheromones, CBD and other Calming aids to ease anxiety in pets.

8.  Attach 2 Pet Bowls to the Inside of the Pet Crate

One for Water and one for Food or If you include a Water Bottle Feeder, you can use one for food and one just under the Pet water bottle nozzle. 

You do not want water splashing and spilling during loading.  Water Bottle training is best, next to that use frozen water.

If you use a bowl instead of a feeder, place frozen water in their bowl before checking in and you can help ensure there is not loss of water or a mess. 

Bowls must be attached.  Use zip or cable ties if necessary, many crates have clasps.


Look for bowls with a lip that help prevent spilling.

Look for ones large enough for your Pet to get their nose into.

Stainless steel is a good choice for ease of cleaning (plastic can harbor bacteria)


9. Absorbent Pet Pee Pads Over Foam Inside Your Pet’s Kennel/Crate

Pee pads are popular but often they are too thin and the adhesive doesn’t stick well.

To keep your pet from standing in a mess of pee, use adhesive spray all over the underside of the pad, not just the corners or,  velrco-style tape.

Or pick up a piece of thin foam used for upholstery at your hobby store similar to memory foam and use adhesive spray. 

I keep a couple with me in my carry-on in case, when I pick up my anxious fur baby, she cannot wait until we find the closest Pet Relief Area.


Do not use newspaper, hay or straw, (all are prohibited for import to Mexico, for one) and for those airlines and destinations that allow newspaper, it’s just too messy.

There is no odor control and urine is not pulled away from your pet as it is with pee pads.

Newspaper falls apart when wet a makes a mess for your pet to stand in. Many airlines prohibit newspaper and straw. Use the pad before travel outside their litter box is a good place so they are used to the scent.

If your Dog or Cat is used to newspaper, begin to train them to accept a pee pad.

You can easily accomplish this by placing the new item (pee pad) near the familiar item (newspaper) and in time,you can use less and less newspaper and eventually, remove the newspaper altogether.

I carry 2 baggies with my Cat’s kitty litter.

I have them out for inspection with TSA. They will take a sample–doesn’t take too long but, if you can use the aircraft lavatory, your Cat is more likely to feel comfortable peeing.

See Where Do Dogs Pee on an Airplane?. Tips for Cats too!

Extra Pee Pads and litter can be used at the hotel or long taxi rides.

10. Add Your Pet’s Comfort Toys to their Pet Crate

An old t-shirt or a blanket that has your scent will comfort your pet in their crate. Do not sedate your pet before travelling; spraying the crate with calming oils sometimes works wonders for anxious pets.

11. Check for Metal Fasteners for Your Pet Crate

The top and bottom half of crates are usually separate and fastened together with plastic screw and bolts.  

Replace the plastic fasteners with metal fasteners.  Any hardware store is likely to have the required metal nuts and bolts if you bring the plastic ones with you for comparison.

I prefer to buy the metal replacement fasteners in this kit because I need the “Live Animals” sticker, funnel, bowls and pouches too.  And, It’s all together in one kit

12.  Add Cable/Zip Ties to Your Pet’s Crate 

Secure the door with cable/zip ties and tape a plastic bag with extra zip ties to the top of the crate.

This will allow airline staff to re-secure the doors after opening during layovers or if a pet breaks a tie or locking mechanism. 

Some airlines also require you to place these ties on all 4 corners of the crate door for added security.

You may also be interested in: How To Crate Train Your Pet for Air Travel

12.  Find the Correct Size Travel Crate for your Pet

Measure your Pet before shopping for the crate. Your pet must be able to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably in the crate.

Most airlines insist on IATA compliant Crate These crates are rated for strength, and most are made of rigid plastic.

Collapsible and soft-sided crates are not recommended or allowed for international Pet travel in Cargo. 

You will measure from head or sometimes the tip of their ears if they are erect.


IATA Pet Crate for Travel Measurement Guide

  1. Measure tip of nose to base of tail (do not include the length of the tail).
  2. Measure shoulder width. This should be the widest part of your pet. Then double (x2) for the minimum width of crate.
  3. Measure from Top of Head (or Ears if they stay erect) to the Ground.
  4. The kennel must be large enough that the animal can easily stand up, turn around, sit erect, and lie down in a natural position.
  5. Snub Nose/Brachycephalic Breeds require 1 size larger crate if using the Standard Sizes from Manufactures or an additional 10%.

For a full guide on how to choose the right crate See Pet Cargo Crate Requirements for Airlines-A COMPLETE Guide


How to Get Through TSA Security Check Point with Your Pet

Your pet must go through TSA Security. Some airports allow a private screening in a separate room so you can remove and replace your pet in a secure room.
You can either have your pet on a leash and walk them into the screener or carry your pet through.
Place your Bags, shoes first. Separate your pet food items and electronics in another bin.
Keep your lease/harness on the outside of the carrier. When you put your bags on the conveyor belt, you don’t want to scramble to get your leash.
TSA may ask you to remove their collar. Collars with metal such clasps or Rabies Tags will be detected, and you may be subject to additional pat-down or inspection.
A Velcro-type harness works well instead of a collar with metal.
Put the carrier on the x-ray conveyor belt first so, it is ready when you get through security, and you don’t have to wait to put your pet back in its carrier.
Even for Cats that you intend to carry through, have a harness/leash on them. If you are picked for screening, often TSA Agents may not easily let you place your pet back in the carrier before your pat-down.
Working Canines are regularly at Security Check Points. Keep a leash handy even if you intend to carry your pet through x-ray. Often, the presence of a working dog can scare or spook your pet.

Documents Needed for Moving or Flying with Pets Internationally

  • Microchip Certificate
  • Rabies Vaccination Certificate
  • Health Certificate. For International Pet Travel, you may need more than 1 Health Certificate–Some transit countries require their own Certificates.
  • Rabies Titer Test results
  • Parasite Treatment certificate—Often Deworming
  • This is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for your specific airline and destination country at our page: Pet Passports and Pet Health Certificates.

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