Flights for Cats from Toronto: Bella’s Big Adventure

I don’t know the details on how pigs can fly, but after sending my cat on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to San Francisco I feel it’s very possible. Our lead up to the big move took longer than expected and Matt needed to fly out for work as soon as it was ‘visa possible,’ which meant landing without a permanent apartment. Luckily his aunt and uncle (who for the record are awesome and highly entertaining) were willing to open their home to him and the cat, but we were hoping to hold out with the cat until things were a bit more settled for her sake.

I on the other hand, was planning on driving cross-country, and I simply didn’t have room for a would-be miserable cat and her accompanying litter box. As I told most people, one day of flight madness and the cat might hate me, but ten days in the car and we’d likely hate each other.



I did some research and decided to use Air Canada cargo to send her to our new home. I called to book her flight and the representative I talked to told me to call the USDA to find out what paperwork I needed to accompany her. The USDA told me to call the airline to find out. The technician at my vet’s office advised I should speak with CIFA, but likely I just needed her rabies vaccination paperwork. After going around in circles, I did some online research and found that an international health certificate and record of vaccination should do the trick – it did. My vet did a final check-up on my cat a few days before her flight and completed the form onsite.

I also had the vet prescribe a mild sedative for her (Acevet). Bella is terrified in the car, so I thought this would help calm her nerves a bit. I had my reservations, but after a dry run at home in which she was a bit slow moving, but not out cold, I felt okay about it.

The cut off for check-in was three hours before her flight left, so we got her there about 30 minutes before the cut off. We dropped her off in cargo which is separate from the main terminals at Pearson. We needed to drive what felt like forever (with the consistent meowing) in and around side roads surrounding the airport.

When we arrived we walked through a large building to a stand-alone desk, which seemed accidentally placed, in a shipping warehouse. I was greeted by a friendly woman whose care and attention to my cat put me at ease.

Turns out the small crate I use to take Bella to vet appointments was too small for travel. I was told I’m one of the MANY people that show up with the wrong size crate, so Air Canada had two options for me onsite. First, they looked to see if I could do a trade – my crate for a larger used one that might have been previously traded. No dice. The second option was buy a larger crate for $94 which met all requirements and ensured a safe, more comfortable flight. The latter was the obvious choice given time limitations, and my general concern for my fur baby.


$386 later for a flight to San Francisco and a new crate, and Bella was checked in and ready for an adventure. Matt picked her up (with the help of the aforementioned awesome aunt and uncle) and brought her to our new place. She settled right in. Check out her new cat tree below!

cat floor

cat tree

cat food


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