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June 26, 2009

Kitty Goes to Memphis, and Other Tales of Flying Fur

Pet-Area

Photo: Sillydog on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Sara Tucker

An online dispenser of travel paraphernalia asks us to imagine this version of flying hell: Your pint-sized companion has a full bladder and there is no place to pee, neither on the plane, nor in the terminal. Unbelievable, right? And yet that's what happens when, halfway to Memphis (or Chicago, or San Francisco) "your cat needs to go to the bathroom."

Don't laugh. Toilet facilities are a real problem for flying cats and dogs--and there are many of those. (The solution to the above-mentioned dilemma: a portable litter box, available here.) Forty-two percent of the American pet owners who responded to an AP poll released Tuesday say they've taken a pet with them on vacation.

The survey, which also found that "half of all American pet owners consider their pets as much a part of the family as any other person in the household," helps to explain why more and more airlines are catering to four-legged fliers, throwing in such onboard amenities as toiletry kits and carob snacks. For more details, go to Petswelcome.com; the post links to a list of the top five pet-friendly airlines.

Despite the warming trend, pet-related airline regulations "can be daunting," warns Kelly Jason, a columnist for Examiner.com. "Purchasing airline passage for an animal doesn't mean it will be accepted at check-in time." You can read her "three essential rules for pet airline travel" here.

Starting next month, dogs and cats will get their own airline when Pet Airways begins flying "average-sized pets" between five major U.S. cities, with plans to add routes quickly. No human passengers will be allowed on the customized planes, but not to worry. From USAToday: "Pets will be flown in individual crates in lighted and pressurized plane cabins, with a human attendant checking them every 15 minutes. They'll board, just like people, from their own airport lounges and get overnight lodging accommodations on long-haul flights. Their owners can track their whereabouts at all times online. They can even earn 'pet points' as frequent fliers."

Airports, too, are starting to bend a little. According to Petswelcome.com, "Miami International recently spent $40,000 to build two pet parks, each with a bench for people and a fire hydrant for pets."

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