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What Kind Of Crate Do I Need To Ship My Dog Or Cat?

Published on: June 23, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

Dog Kennel Photo-3If you’re planning a long-distance move, it’s likely you’ll have to ship your pets by air. As you start researching how that works, one of your first questions will undoubtedly be what kind of crate do I need to ship my dog or cat? You'll need to ensure your pet's travel crate is IATA compliant.

Pet kennels designed to keep cats and dogs corralled at home or while they’re riding in the back of your car are constructed for convenience. They are made of lightweight materials, and many are even collapsible. These crates are not sturdy enough for air travel, and in some cases, they aren’t roomy enough, either.

When pets take to the air, the best crates are those that provide maximum protection while keeping animals as comfortable as possible. With that in mind, here is what you need to know about the different ways your pet can travel by plane

In Cabin Pet Travel

If your dog is small enough or you’re traveling with a cat, they may be able to ride in the cabin, underneath the seat in front of you. Some airlines will allow this, but not on all flights because a number of foreign countries require pets to enter the country as manifested cargo. You’ll need to check with your preferred airline first. 

Assuming it’s allowed, the defining factor for in-cabin travel is the dimensions of the under-seat space. You can carry your pet in a hard-sided carrier or a soft-sided carrier, but before you make a purchase, double-check the measurements – they differ from one airline to another and with the specific plane model.

Your pet will need to wear a collar and leash, too. Attach the leash to the carrier, to prevent an accidental getaway should it come open. Don’t forget to carry a bottle of water and a snack for your pet if your trip will be lengthy.

Excess Baggage or Manifest Cargo

If your pet will fly as excess baggage or manifest cargo, they must travel in a crate that meets specifications set forth by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). While an IATA-compliant kennel can be constructed of fiberglass, solid wood or plywood, the majority are made of heavy-duty rigid plastic and welded metal mesh. They come in two sections, top and bottom, that attach with metal nuts & bolts.

IATA requirements for these carriers are as follows:

  • The kennel must be large enough for your pet to stand up, sit down, turn around and lay down comfortably. You will need to measure your dog to ensure you’re getting the proper size carrier. If you have a snub nosed breed (such as a Pug or Bulldog), they will need one size larger travel carrier to ensure enough ventilation.
  • Certain breeds (such as Pit Bulls) require special travel kennels, depending on the airline. Very large breed dogs (like a Great Dane) often require travel kennels that are larger than any standard size. Starwood can supply custom made wood kennels if required.
  • The kennel cannot have missing or defective hardware. Plastic kennels must be secured by metal nuts & bolts, not twist locks or clips.
  • Sidewalls have to be solid except for ventilation, generally provided by heavy welded metal mesh “windows.”
  • All mesh or ventilation holes must be small enough to ensure no part of your pet’s nose or paws can protrude. This keeps both pets and handlers safe. 
  • The roof must be solid, though there can be ventilation holes as long as they don’t reduce the roof’s physical integrity.
  • The floor must be solid and leak-proof.
  • The door has to form an entire end of the crate. Typically, it’s made of welded metal mesh. It must have a latching mechanism that cannot come open accidentally or at the paws of your crafty dog or cat. The doors on plastic kennels must be further secured by cable ties at the four corners - this is typically done by the person checking your pet in for the flight.
  • Total ventilation must be at least 16% of the carrier and must be provided on all four sides of the kennel. The ventilation holes on the side and back need to be on the upper 2/3 of the kennel and the door must be ventilated from top to bottom.
  • The entire interior surface of the crate must be smooth, again for your pet’s protection. However, because smooth can also be slippery, you may put a non-slip crate pad, small blanket and/or pee pad on the floor to provide some added comfort and stability.
  • Very small carriers have a handle on top; larger sizes must have handles on both sides. Crates that will weigh in at 132 pounds or greater with your dog inside must have forklift spacers on the underside.
  • Wheels are not permitted and must be removed or inoperable.
  • The kennel must be properly labelled with "Live Animal" and "This Way Up" stickers, but this will be taken care of by your pet relocation company.
  • The kennel must also have food and water containers attached to the inside of the kennel door with the ability to be filled from the outside. You may provide some food in a ziplock baggie to attach to the top of the kennel in case of a flight delay.

Where can I find a crate to ship my dog or cat?

You can purchase IATA-compliant kennels from:

Do take note that not all kennels are created equal.  Many stores have many hard-sided carrier options, but not all of them are compliant with IATA's requirements. Pay attention to the details and don't just pick the first crate you see.

Get the crate as soon as you know your pet will be traveling, so they have plenty of time to get acclimated to their travel kennel. 


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