We just moved with three cats in May — here’s that part of our story.

All three cats went to the vet and got the health certificates and rabies shots, which must be administered within 10 days of your travel date. I would also have your local vet give any additional shots she/he recommends are due so you don’t have to add getting a vet down here to the long list of items that come with moving and settling in. In all the time I have been reading this USVI Relocation Message Board, no one — including us — have ever been asked to show the health certificates for our critters at any point in the travel.

Most airlines limit the number of animals that can travel as carry-on for any one flight, and the limit is one animal per person. We flew US Air — they allowed two animals as carry-on in coach and one in first class. These spaces are given out on a first come, first served basis, so it pays to call early and let them know you are bringing your pets. The good news is that USAir does not have restrictions on dates when pets can go as checked baggage because they have air conditioned cargo holds. American will not fly pets as baggage between May 15 through September 15, or when the temp exceeds 85 degrees. Someone on the board here said that it’s possible to avoid that by scheduling your flights for very early morning of after dark.

If you are traveling alone, you will probably need to check two animals with your baggage and carry the third on with you. The price is the same either way on USAir — $80 per critter. They have specific limits on the size of carriers that can be used as carry on — I remember that the height for a hard carrier was 8″ and a soft-sided carrier could be 10″ tall. I think the other dimensions were approximately 21″ long by 12″ wide. The also state that your animal must be able to sit up comfortably inside the carrier.

Our vet advised us to take our two older cats (10 and 11) as slightly-sedated carry-on and send our younger girl (18 months) as baggage because she was more resilient in the face of new circumstances. He told us that he would not sedate her even if we asked him to as he felt it was too risky to leave her unsupervised on medication because some animals do get airsick and a sedated animal may end up choking to death. They all came through just fine — the older boys were given their sedation 1 hour before we left for the airport, and it lasted all through the trip. They did get a little fidgety toward then end of the flight, but settled right down after we took them out and held them for a minute. The kitten in baggage was just fine. The USAir personnel took very good care of her by making sure she was in the shade when she needed to wait, and loaded her last and got her off first. She made it to baggage claim long before I did, and they were already offering her water.

When I first thought of coming down here alone, I actually considered paying for an extra ticket for a friend to do the flights and carry on one of my animals. If you really can’t bear the thought of having them checked and have the money, this might be something to consider.

Also, be careful in what language you use when talking about pets that aren’t going as carry on. Make it clear you want them to travel as checked baggage, not as cargo. Pets whose combined weight with their carrier doesn’t exceed 100 pounds may travel as checked baggage for the $80 fee. Cargo is something very different and way more expensive — there is an old post here that says a guy was billed $800 for sending his large dog as cargo.

Hope this is useful. 🙂

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