Wanderlust

Kitty gets an aeroplane ride!


After having moved to Mumbai from Delhi, finding a flat and settling down, the next step was bringing Simba here. This was a concern from the very start. It would not have been feasible to leave Simba with my parents for this long. And my life is less empty when he is with me. I had researched and thought about the method for quite a while. I finally executed this a few days ago, and now I am blogging about it so as to give information that may be vital if you too wish to take your cat to a different location within India.

I travelled by Air India – an airline I usually prefer and an airline with allows small animals up to 5kg in the cabin. The link with the information is here. I am here to share my experiences and other information that are not mentioned on the site.

First step is to take your cat to the vet. My vet checked my cat and told me to control his diet because he was overweight. He gave him his due dose of vaccinations (must be given minimum 21 days before the flight). The vet also furbished me with a health certificate form from IATA. This may be required along with the vaccination forms. My vet informed me that my cat must be conscious in order to be allowed to board. I wish this was not the case. Simba would have been less traumatized had he been sedated.

Next step is to acclimatize you cat to travel. Try to take it out ensuring that the trip sets out and ends at home without any stops to the vet. If all visits are only to the vet, the cat may always consider it a traumatic event. This step is for cats like Simba, who don’t like to leave the house. My cat is even more special because of his abandonment issues. Having been abandoned twice before I adopted him, he relates going anywhere with being abandonment. Naturally, this step failed for me, not only had I too few days to practise this, but I also did not wish to make him hate his carrier bag which had become a place to sleep for him.

The step after this is on the day of the flight. Food and water must be given latest by 5 hours before the flight. Try to keep the regular schedule as much as possible – unless you are traveling at an odd hour. I tried to do this, but Simba knew something was up, afterall the hated suitcase was packed and everyone was getting dressed in nice clothes.

At the airport, I asked which counter is the special cargo counter. There they gave me a slip with the excess baggage I had to pay for the cat. My cat was 7kg at the vet’s in his carrier, and at the airport he measured 6kg. He’d lost a kilo in 4 days of food control. It’s a mercy they did not refuse me due to the 1 extra kg. Though there was one man – the supervisor – who was being difficult about Simba’s carrier. He insisted that I was carrying him in the wrong ‘bag’. He used a derogatory word for bag in Hindi (thela). He vehemently expressed that Simba should be in a cage made of metal and wood! Who knows which era this old man hailed from!

I paid almost INR 1600 for Simba at the cashier’s counter where I got a receipt that functioned as Simba’s boarding pass. This excess baggage fee is not mentioned on Air India’s website.

After getting my boarding pass and checking in my baggage – which was kept on hold at the gate, I proceeded to Security Check. There I was told to go to the counter which services cabin crew and special assistance passengers. I had to take Simba out while his carrier bag was scanned in the x-ray. I put a harness on Simba and took him out holding tight. He refused to come out, he was so afraid of the open. A flight captain had to helped me! I was scanned with Simba grabbing onto my chest for dear life. He was terrified of the metal wand as well. His fee receipt was stamped, as well as my boarding pass, and we proceeded to the gate. Simba was grateful to get back in the bag.

At the gate, we waited for a delayed plane to arrive. The captain has the final say, and if s/he had denied us, we would have been escorted out of the airport, unable to board. And that is why my check-in baggage was on hold at the gate. I was afraid that it might get lost, but it was the first to arrive on the conveyor belt.

We were the last to board, and many people stared, children looked on fascinated, and those who had spoken to me at the boarding lounge wished me congratulations on being able to board, giving me the thumbs up! We sat in the final row and the cabin crew came to say hello. Everyone had been very kind, and the crew did not mind that I took out Simba from the bag, but on his leash. He was a very good kitty, not meowing and embarrassing me. At the time of take off I tried to cover his ears. I’m sure the noise must have been scary. His nose and paws were wet from sweat, and he was shedding hair out of fear.

The journey from the airport to home in the uber was uneventful. Simba was completely pissed at me by now. I opened his bag in the uber as well, to let him have air and movement, but he chose to stay within. At home, he crawled under the bed and stayed hidden as much as possible for the next four days. Today is his fifth day, and he has been outside the room much more now, exploring the house, though he is still afraid of the doorbell and pigeons at the kitchen window and the loud noises of the street. Our house in Delhi was so peaceful, and now we live over an intersection, where the honking and screeches never stop.

Right now, Simba is sleeping beside me on the bed, hopefully feeling more at home in this new and strange place.

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