First Steps

Pet Carriers Guideline for a comfortable ride



No one likes going on a long trip anywhere cramped the whole way there. If we could pay for an upgrade we would in a heartbeat.

So keep that in mind when you purchase your pet carriers and kennels. Your pet, like you, need personal space to be happy.

Below I’ll talk about how to measure your pets so you can find the right size carrier.  How to prepare the kennel beforehand so your can board smoothly, also what to put in the carriers to keep pets calm and relaxed.

Has your pet been in a kennel?

It’s important to have your pet get used to being in the carrier preceding the day of departure.

Begin by feeding your pet inside the crate as well as provide treats for them so they correlate the crate as being a safe place.

If your pet really hates being in a box, have a family member or friend watch them at home.  That way when you’re gone, their surroundings wont change and they wont freak out thinking they were abandoned and try to find their way home

(I watched way to many pet movies as a kid).

I highly suggest setting up a back up plan for your pet if your find yourself facing unforeseen changes at the moment of boarding.

Have a procedure to place your pet in safe hands if your find there’s no choice but to leave without them.

There are options to having your pet sent to you.  I’ll discuss those in a later post.

Different pets, different needs

First find out the requirements allowed for travel permitted on the plane, train, or cruise line. Each one is different and they have their own restrictions and liabilities.

Visit the company website and call ahead for any questions your have. Being prepared is always better than getting caught of guard.

Before your choose the carrier you need, get your pets measurements first. Keep in mind that they must be able to stand, turn, and lay down – for dogs, cats, and rabbits.

For cats and dogs:

To start measure from the tip of the nose to base of tail. While they are standing start at the top of the leg to the ground. Since they are standing, go from the ground to the top of their head for the floppy ears or to the tips of the erect ear pets.

If your have a cat measure when it is in a seated position and the head is erect- this could be a little easier.

Let’s see we have the height and the length now we need the width. For this, just measure from the left to the right shoulder-chest.

That’s it, give your pet a treat for being so good and letting you measure them.

Wait, your job isn’t done yet. Next your need to find out the minimum size the inside of the carrier/kennel should be.

Yippee! it’s time for math

  • the length= nose to tail base + 1/2 of the ground to top of the legs
  • the width= shoulder x2 (per pet max capacity)
  • the height= ground to head or happy ears

For rabbits:

The rabbits needs are a little different in your only need to make sure they can stretch out completely and they can sit. You want it to be a bit more snug so they don’t slid around.

Measure from the tip of the front paw to the tip of the back paw when they are stretched out. Then measure when they stand up on all fours. Here it’s from ears up to the ground.

Remember your pet should never have to scrunch.

When they lay down their paws shouldn’t stick out because they have no room.

The inside capacity doesn’t include the opening door or the side rims.

There should be enough space to add food, water, padding.

I’ll go into my recommendations for carriers  on a later post

Get the labels ready

All animal kennels must display the following

  1. contact information (as described in the passport post)
  2. live animal labels
  3. checklist including feeding and watering instructions
  4. directional arrows (which end goes up)
  5. wild animal labels used when applicable

For more information head here

Basic carrier/kennel rules for public transportation

Prohibited/Restricted Kennels

  • Kennels made entirely of welded mesh, wire mesh, wicker, cardboard or collapsible materials are strictly prohibited.
  • Kennels with a door on top that open.
  • Kennels with plastic front doors and on any side latches that
    secure the top and bottom together.
  • Being secured with twist, slide, or snap fasteners.
  • Have wheels that aren’t retractable, removable, taped or otherwise inoperable
  • Use zip ties, duct tape or rubber bands to construct the frame.
  • Have sharp points or edges, with no protrusions that could injure the animal.
  • Be secured with a lock.
  • Have a plastic or fabric covering such as a tarp or kennel cover.
  • Can’t be dirty
  • Glass is not recommended
  • No bedding when traveling to Mexico

Cargo bound pets

Ship in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines.

Carriers that do not fit either in the overhead or under the seat will go to the cargo area.

If your have a dog that is considered a dangerous breed then you”ll need to adhere to these rules.

If your dog displays behaviors such as excessive chewing or clawing even after they are acclimated to a travel crate, use a reinforced crate that complies with specific international requirements

Have only one door made of metal, heavy wire mesh or reinforced wood and must have a secure fastening that cannot be opened accidentally.

It needs to be constructed of wood, metal, synthetic materials or weld or wire mesh -materials that cannot be damaged.   No plastic is allowed in any part of its construction.

Have no ventilation openings wide enough to allow the animal’s nose and paws to protrude outside the crate.

Reptiles, amphibians and fish are accepted only as air cargo, not as

carry-on or checked baggage. Shipments must comply with the container

requirements of the current edition of the IATA Live Animal Regulations.

Snakes need to be placed in a bag followed by a temperature ready container. Don’t feed them beforehand- snakes can get sick being in different atmospheres.

Reptiles need to be placed in a container constructed of wood, plastic or ridged material. Animals in this category include:

  • Caiman
  • Chameleons
  • Frogs
  • Geckos
  • Iguanas
  • Lizards
  • Newts
  • Salamanders
  • Toads

Fish should be left at home unless you are moving.

Place in a leak-proof plastic bag tied off then placed in another bag to prevent an accident.

Use the clean water from the aquarium and don’t feed them 48hrs before you leave. You want the water to stay clean during transport.

Now place your fish in a rigid container with bubble wrap so it doesn’t bang around.
Once you reach your destination place the fish in it’s new home and don’t forget to feed it.


Do not assume that space is unlimited on an mode of transportation (unless you use your own vehicle).

Call at least 2 months in advance when booking and make sure you have done everything they tell you before boarding day.

Please comment below if there’s anything you’d like to know.






  1. Very interesting article. When I read Pet Carriers the first thing that came to my mind was a cat inside a space cat/dog carrier backpack. These carriers are very popular in pet stores with products from China. Will one of this carriers comply with USDA guidelines? Also, what do you mean with No bedding when traveling to Mexico?

    1. My first instinct is to say to the question related to the backpack carrier is does it meet FAA rules about bags in the cabin. It fits under the seat without blocking the aisle or in the overheard compartment. Don’t forget there has to be room for them to lay down, stand, and turn. Food, water and padding should fit comfortably as well.

      The USDA guidelines are listed in the post but it’s mostly for the regulatory health rules of international travel with your pet, animal, or service animal. The USDA APHIS tells you all the up to date restrictions/regulations going on around the world.

      No bedding in pet carriers means no mattresses. you are allowed absorbent materials such as padding or shredded news papers when crossing over into Mexico. The carrier/kennel needs to be clean.

  2. Very informative! I am looking at taking my dog (pitbull) with me next year on my vacation. This will definitely help me in planning for it. Do you have any specific recommendations on where to buy the carriers? Thanks.

    1. Thank you for commenting! Yes I do have carrier recommendations. Each type is unique will not only be airline approved but will hopefully suit your pitbulls style. They will be listed in the next post. Keep a look out.

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