Ridiculous or not? Responsible travelers vacation with their pets

Over the toyears, my incendiary writings have offended everyone from airline pilots to card-carrying frequent fliers to travel agents. I make no apologies for ticking them off.

But nothing — nothing! — comes close to the bite of angry pet owners.

Here’s what happened: A few weeks ago, in preparation for a lengthy roadtrip I’m taking with my family, I asked readers to help me after I hit an unexpected snag. Our plans to send our three Bengal cats to live with a relative had fallen through, and now we had to make a difficult choice about the kitties. We could board them in a kennel, find a pet sitter, hire a housesitter, or find a new, temporary home for them.

It was a quiet Sunday in August and I expected a few polite suggestions from my readers. Instead, within seconds of posting the article, someone on Twitter who I’d never heard of said she’d “unfollowed” me because of the “sad” post. Within hours, I had more than a hundred comments — many from foaming-at-the-mouth pet fans.

My crime? I’m still trying to figure that out, to be honest.

I’ll try to summarize the pro-pet side without quoting anyone, since I love all of my readers and don’t want to embarrass them. The mainstream critics said I was behaving as if my pets were disposable, and that, if nothing else, I was setting a bad example for my kids by “abandoning” the felines. Others took a more extreme view. They described the bond between animal and human as almost holy, that I was bound to either stay home or take the cats along, and that by leaving, I had broken a sacred trust.

Some of the commenters were downright nasty about it. I decided to keep their rants on the site because, as always, they say more about them than about me. Plus, they’re highly entertaining. Oh, you’ll find a snarky rebuttal from yours truly here and there, but only because you demand it.

The question this catfight raises is the following one: At a time when many otherwise rational people feel that dogs and cats are equal to people, am I obligated to take my pets on vacation?

If you’re as surprised as I am that people exist who hold these views, who would even try to suggest that responsible pet owners must include their animal companions in their travel plans, let me connect a few dots for you.

We’ll start with the “enormous brown honking” pig that terrorized passengers on a US Airways flight 11 years ago. Why? Because it was a therapy animal for one of the passengers.

See, the cruelty-free crowd think their animals love them and can’t live without them. That may or may not be true. But there is no doubt that the pet owners can’t live without their pigs. Or dogs. Or cats. So they bring them along. They feel it is a higher calling, even when it inconveniences other travelers. And even when it’s obvious the pet would be far happier wallowing in mud.

Fast-forward to 2004: A gray cat named Gin escapes from his cage on a flight from Vienna to Brussels about 20 miles after takeoff. Although Gin was a show cat, he apparently also had some training as a jihadist. He promptly scurried up to the flight deck, where he attacked the pilot. The plane had to make an emergency landing.

Another dot to connect is the 2010 incident in which a small dog on a flight from Newark to Phoenix broke loose and bit a flight attendant and another passenger. The flight was diverted to Pittsburgh, where the victims were treated and released.

Although the airline had reportedly asked the dog owner to leave her canine in a cage under her seat, per airline policy, she decided to take it out to play with it. (I’m sure she felt it needed her.) Which is when it took off.

What all of these incidents suggest to me is that these well-meaning but somewhat misguided animal “guardians” are far more common than anyone thought.

Also, they do not tolerate dissent. These anthropomorphizers believe they have the moral high ground, and that by shouting down anyone who disagrees with them, they can win.

Fortunately, my cat problem had a happy ending. One charitable reader, who also happened to be a neighbor, agreed to look after the cats while we were away. (Take a bow, Joyce!)

My views on pet ownership haven’t changed as the result of this tussle. I love my cats, but I love my kids even more. I remain a proud carnivore (burgers, mmmmm!). I don’t believe cats, dogs or pigs belong on a plane, in a hotel, or a rental car unless maybe you’re moving somewhere, and even then, they should be safely confined to a carrier.

Incidentally, I think this represents the view of the average American.

As for the “pets-are-people-too” argument — I’ll believe that when my cats ask to join us on vacation.

(Photo: kevind ooley/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • CM

    I love my cat, but I would never dream of taking him on vacation with me. He doesn’t want to go. He hates being in the car even for a few minutes and I can’t imagine putting him on a plane. He’s much happier staying at home with a pet sitter. He even stayed with my parents for 9 months when I had to take a temporary job overseas, and he was plenty happy until I got back. A lot of (or most?) cats are terrible travelers and there’s no reason to put them through that unless you are moving, permanently.

  • Tom

    Most pets are creature of habit and would much rather stay in their own home.

  • Christophe

    Unfair and unanswerable question : if i’m going to my summer home, of course i’ll take a dog with me. If i’m travelling elsewhere, probably not !!!

  • Sweepergrl

    Well said Chris. I’m glad to hear things worked out with the cats.

  • Raven

    I voted no. I hire a professional pet sitter to take care of my cats when I travel. Cats bond to their environment and while I would definitely uproot them for a move, for a vacation, not so much.

    Also, I’m curious as to how these nutters manage to get snakes qualified as “emotional therapy animals” and why the airlines are tolerating this. After having to sit next to a snake on a plane (lol), I was not a happy camper. If you can’t leave the house without your animal and it is not a trained service animal, do us all a favor and either kill yourself or stay home.

  • Crissy

    I think it depends on the vacation, but for most I think it’s inappropriate.  I think many people bring their dog/cat/pig because they THINK they should, not necessarily because they have to or because it’s best for the dog/cat/pig.

  • Sarabz

    Love it! I have a dog (greyhound) and we have taken her on vacation with us. BUT- we also make different choices while on that vacation than we would if we were alone. We have left her alone in a hotel – she’s quiet and used to being crated and we’re well aware this doesn’t distress her. Traveling doesn’t distress her, nor being in new places – if any of this did, we wouldn’t take her.

    For other trips, we’ve left her at the local boarding kennel, and she’s been perfectly content there, too. And so have we. She’s also used to a kennel environment, having been in a racing kennel for years, so this doesn’t distress her, either – she pulls to walk into the facility if we happen to go near it on a regular walk.

    As for the people who take their pets on airplanes AND take them out of their carriers – irresponsible to say the least.

  • Katie

    We travel with our dog only when we’re going to visit certain family members who have dogs (i.e., people who are OK with having an animal in the house and whose animals and ours get along well). And we usually drive to visit those people, which makes a big difference because we’re not subjecting nearly as many other people to our dog. We did take him on a couple Independence Air flights because it was surprisingly inexpensive, but most airlines’ fees to put a dog under the seat in front of me (not even as cargo; no one else handles the dog but me) are exhorbitant because they don’t want everyone bringing animals aboard.

    But most of the time, we absolutely take our dog to the kennel. We know the staff there–and more importantly, they know our dog. They give us detailed reports when we pick him up, and he comes home healthy. Travel stresses him; the kennel does not. Why put everyone through the wringer when it’s not needed?

  • sirwired

    I love my cats, but I harbor no illusion that I am not immediately replaceable.  Feline loyalty is zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Any cat owner that has not been completely brainwashed knows this.  As long as they get regular attention, food, and a nice place to take frequent naps, they are in good shape.

    And animals, which we can guess prefer routine and familiar surroundings, probably don’t enjoy traveling very much at all.  It’s a lot of chaos and unfamiliarity, and they don’t know enough to appreciate all the cool stuff you are seeing.  I could see an RV vacation with lots of outdoor time working out for a pet, but planes, rental cars, and hotel rooms?  I think not.

  • Gook

    When I take a weeklong trip top Florida this November, I will bring my dog with me.  Here’s where I can take the high ground though – during the flight, she will stay in her kennel, under the seat in front of me, per the airline’s rules. 

    I’m taking her because she would feel more comfortable with me in a new place than in a cage, surrounded by strange barking dogs for 7 long days.

  • Bill

    Chris, many pet owners are a lot like irresponsible parents.  They think that no one should mind hearing their dog yap incessantly just like the irresponsible parents think their kids should be able to roam on the plan and bother anyone they please.

    You have to realize that you are dealing with people who have lost some of their marbles (or didn’t have them in the first place).  Once you accept that, it is easier to see where they are coming from.

  • toniv

    Pets are not people. Pets are not children. They’re not even LIKE people, they’re not even LIKE children. And I, as a parent, find the analogy offensive. You didn’t suggest dropping them off at a shelter, and you didn’t suggest euthanizing them because they were going to represent a burden or problem. 

  • http://travelingwinechick.com/ Elizabeth Smith

    When I drove my cat from Yonkers, NY to Bristol, VA to come live with me permanently, I learned that day how traumatic travel can be for an animal. He cried for the entire first hour or two and didn’t eat or drink for 11 hours, only dozed on and off in the carrier. I vowed to never put my baby in that kind of situation ever again. When I travel, I have a wonderful, animal-loving friend take care of him. He is much happier at home, even if a bit lonely sometimes.

  • http://twitter.com/chrishansenhome Chris Hansen

    My response “no” above should be a bit nuanced. I don’t believe that responsible pet owners who will follow the rules, keep their pet in a carrier during the trip, and stay in places where pets are welcome, should be denied the privilege of travelling with their pets, if they so wish. I would say that the actual transport is less of a problem for me than the accommodation at the end. Even if the hotel/motel/relative’s home is pet-friendly, will a pet be comfortable in an unfamiliar space? Will you be able to walk your dog or keep your cat from scratching the hotel “furniture” (quotes deliberate)? If not, then even if you can travel responsibly with your pet perhaps it’s best to leave them with a responsible person who will care for them in their own space (if possible) so that the pet isn’t disoriented.

    I only once travelled with a pet, when I moved from New York to Chicago. My cat was in a carrier, made no noise, behaved herself, and survived the trip quite well.

  • Ames

    My Great Pyrennees dogs are so big that their appropriately sized carriers cannot even fit on some planes in cargo.  They go to a wonderful kennel – I know because they are so excited if they even see a suitcase!  And carry on happily in the car the whole way there.  It is expensive to kennel them and I often end up spending as much on their “hotel” as my own but well worth every penny and we all have a good trip.

    I am very glad for you – and the cats – that a neighbor will be able to care for them.  I am sure they will be very happy.  You should travel happily knowing they are just fine.

  • Raven

    And here comes the “look at me I’ve got a kid and that makes me so much more important than you” crowd. I like my cats better than your kids. You’re probably one of those folks who expects special treatment when you travel because you dropped a mess of DNA from between your legs. Get over yourself.

  • Raven

    I still maintain that the noise my cats make in the car should be used in aggressive terrorist interrogations…

    I moved them all across country and to this day that noise still haunts me.

  • Rach. E.

    This reminds me of a popular artist blogger who did a post on how moving with her two dogs completely traumatized them for weeks afterwards. Now, they were comfy in the car with their owners and all their toys and food, but simply could. not. handle it. 
    The blogger felt awful and just could not have anticipated that the poor dogs would be so distressed. 

    How many times have I been in an airport with a pet owner who keeps insisting, “Oh, but my poochie loves this!” while the poor animal is clearly distressed. 

    Pets are not accessories to be discarded with fashion, but you can’t start projecting your own emotional needs onto an animal either. 

    BTW, well done, Joyce for being the hero of the story! 

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Chris, are you going to add that article to the “Posts that got me into trouble” category?

  • Chris in NC

    Raven, you are being a bit harsh. No matter how you spin it, pets are simply pets. They may be loved like children, but they are not human beings.

  • nm

    I have to say that the key word is ‘anthropomorphizers’. I think some pet owners treat their pets as if their human. They are not human they are dogs, cats, hamsters what have you and as such have different needs. They are dependent on you to feed them and care for them. How can you expect a dog to hang out happily on a plane with all the noises, cramped quarters and ton of strangers around. It is much better to make arrangements for your pets so they can stay in a comfortable environment while you are away. As much as we think our pets will be sad or hurt when we leave for vacation, if you get a good pet sitter who already knows your pet and gets along with them they’ll be happy entertained and comfortable at home.

  • Chris in NC

    There are situations and places where vacationing with pets is appropriate
    There are situations and places where vacationing with pets is inappropriate

    Ultimately its the mentality and entitlement factor of the pet owner that comes into play. My biggest pet peeve (no pun intended) are pet owners who feel that
    their pets (full disclosure… mostly dogs) have the same rights as a
    human, and let their dogs run off leash, go where dogs are clearly prohibited (ie backcountry of National Parks). Even worse, I know of someone we met on the trail who “faked” that his dog was a service animal and essentially “dared” anyone to challenge him.

    Personally, we don’t dare take our pets with us on the road. Did it once, it was a disaster, so now we are stuck paying for pet sitters.

  • jazcat100

    Years ago I traveled to the West Coast with my cat when I went out of town for business. He stayed in the hotel while I was at meetings during the day and then we hung out at night together. He seemed to enjoy the trip, I do admit I help the carrier in my lap for most of the flight. I tried to schedule direct flights too.

    I stayed at a pet friendly hotel who knew me well and always let the front desk know about the cat. The only issue I ever had was when the maid, who possibly could not read English, decided to clean the room even with the Do Not Disturb sign as well as a handwritten note on the door advising Cat Inside – Do Not Enter.  Needless to say I was extremely upset as was the cat who, intelligently, hid under the bed. Thank God he didn’t run out of the room.

    Nowadays our 4 cats stay at home; we get a pet sitter to come over and feed them twice a day. I am lucky in that my trainer also boards dogs at her home so the dog gets to stay with someone he knows and play with her dogs too. I don’t think I would do a kennel or boarding facility as it is not something I want to put them through.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott


  • Baasbaas1

    Dumb question.  “On vacation/”  Most of us do not take a year long vacation.  For a couple of weeks, kennel or other alternative is just fine.
    Also wondering if this is really the end all be all for you not your kids!

  • jazcat100

    I also wanted to say I am sorry that you got all those nasty, hurtful comments from your other readers. I can understand feeling strongly about your own opinion but, if you are trying to convince someone you are correct, calling names and using insults is not the way to do it.

  • Jc Too

    Problem is the noisiest complainers about your “cat” problem are the ones who care more about their pets than they do for their fellow humans.
    More than enogh enough to look after family & children, the best thing is to find a good suitable temporary home for your pets.

  • http://www.AMIEN.org Mark Gottsegen

    GREAT repost!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Travel is stressful for people.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be for an animal who has no clue what’s going on.

    It’s not like you’re in a motorhome where the cats have the ability to stretch out in their favorite bed. (Only to be shoved in a cage or crate at each stop to prevent their getting out when the doors are opened.

    Also, by taking your pet with you to a strange place, you are putting yourself in the position of never seeing them again.  Frightened animals don’t necessarily run straight to their owner when they become scared.  The news is rife with people who were reunited with their pets years later after they got away in a strange place.  When traveling, one doesn’t have the luxury of taking two weeks to looks for Fido or little Fluffy.  You can’t put up signs in the hopes someone saw them.

    Chris, you’re doing the right thing in keeping them at home.  And I’m sure they’ll be just as happy to see you upon your return as you will be to see them.

    What is it about pets that make people so rabid?  (pun intended)  And what’s going on in the world that people feel they can verbally abuse someone just because they don’t share the same views?

  • KG

    I’m currently backpacking the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia for a year and a half before going home.  The hardest decision to make wasn’t whether I should take this trip, but could I leave my dog for that long.  I don’t regret my decision to travel (and I’ve done it for lengthy times in the past as well), but when people ask if I miss my friends and family back home, I say not exactly (as in, “No, I’m not homesick, but yeah, it would be great to see them), but I really miss my dog.  Seriously, I miss that dog like crazy, but I would never think it a good idea to take him on a vacation, even one for a couple weeks.  I’ve even been dating a guy I met over here and we’ve talked about the possibility of me joining him in Europe, but even the thought of putting my dog on a plane for 7 hours scares me as to how scared he would be and the whole 6 month quarantine factor (and if you had seen my car ride from Washington D.C. to Chicago with my dog in the car, you’d understand)…I’m not willing to leave my dog permanently, but I am willing to choose my dog over a guy I’d have to cross an ocean to be with and even I wouldn’t take my dog on a vacation.  

    So don’t worry Chris, I left my dog with my grandmother for a year and half just on this go…I’m apparently a much worse person than you are!

    (For the record, no decision on the guy yet, we’re going to keep what we have going until we’re done traveling in May, then we’ll decide where to go from there)    

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Actually, my dogs are JUST like my children.  Like my kids, I don’t abandon them when things get a little hard.  Like my kids, I expect them to do what I ask of them for the small price of my supplying them with food and shelter (the kids get clothing, the dogs don’t).  Like my kids, I love them unconditionally.

    Too often, people treat their pets as disposable.  We lived on military bases for years and, too often, I would see people dropping off family pets to the shelter when it was time for them to move.  Pets become attached to their people and to treat them as a toy that can be put away when you’re done with it is cruel to the animal.

    I am also a parent of four kids, three grown with kids of their own and the fourth on his way to the Air Force next year after graduation.  All my kids were taught to respect animals and to understand responsible ownership sometimes means not owning them.

    Toni – you aren’t the military family I saw at the shelter several years ago who stuffed a full-grown collie into a smaller crate to deliver it to the pound to be put down, are you?  You sound like them…  Pets are just as much a part of the family as my kids, they just don’t sit in the family photos when we go to get them taken.

  • Chicky

    My cat absolutely hates being in the car. After a vet visit, he hides under the bed –sometimes for a day. When we moved from our apartment into our house, he stayed under the bed, literally for three days. I can’t imagine taking him on vacation. He would go bonkers, poor thing. If we were gone for any length of time, I’d have someone come in to house sit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Having owned a retired racing greyhound, to use them as an example for traveling companions is a bit misleading for those who don’t know the breed.

    Greyhounds are completely comfortable traveling because they do it quite a bit going from race to race.  They come to you already leash trained as well as with some formal training with regard to sit, stay and heel.  Greyhounds are already used to a crate given this is what they travel in for races.  Greyhounds are some of the most amiable dogs you ever meet, if not the most amiable.

    However, they are usually large dogs and flying with them can get expensive.  If you have a nice van, though…  Bring ’em along!

  • batcat

    I love my three cats with all of my heart, but to force them (especially the elderly one) into a carrier and put them through the ordeal of crowds, noises, cars, planes would definitely sever the trust bond we share.  They expect me to always have their best interests at heart and that means seeing they are loved and well provided for via a pet sitter when I travel.  I miss them, but bringing them along isn’t worth the stress they would endure.

  • Aaron

    question, and I wish it was asked differently. I don’t believe that
    responsible pet owners *have* to take their pet on vacation. But we do
    sometimes travel with our dog (a 55 lb. Boxer). It’s always a good
    experience, because it ensures lots of exercise for us, and we are
    pleased with the increasing number of pet-friendly hotels. That said,
    our dog is a good traveler and we have her well trained and under
    control. We see it as our obligation to not inflict our pet on others.
    If we aren’t taking her, we have a select few friends who dog-sit. And
    if we can’t get good care, we postpone our trip.

    I can understand the reaction based on the cavalier way your original
    post was worded, Chris. The idea of finding a new home for your cats
    just so you could go on vacation really did turn my stomach a bit. We’ve
    taught our kids that taking on a pet means making a commitment. You’re
    essentially saying that you love the cats, but if they don’t fit into
    your lives, then they may have to leave the family. I don’t think that’s
    the right message to send to the kids — either about proper pet
    ownership or about the bonds of love. (They can get the idea that if
    they don’t fit into your lives, you’ll find them a new home, too.) Each
    year the shelters kill millions of lovable, healthy dogs and cats simply
    because people couldn’t make a commitment.



  • Dave

    Dogs get to go camping, sometimes in the (small) RV, and sometimes to visit family members who know and like them.  Dogs don’t get to go on airplane trips to tropical places.  They’re not human, and while we love them, they’re only dogs.

  • http://twitter.com/elegant_erica Erica Richardson

    Years ago, I moved to a different state.  The distance wasn’t that great, but it did involve some travel.  I’m pretty organized, and with the help of some professional movers everything was packed up and I was completely set up at my new place in less than a week.  I’m going to guess it was three or four days between living in the old house and everything unpacked and set up at the new house.

    My cat was completely traumatized by this.  I think the short travel time (in a kennel sitting next to me like when would go to the vet) is what did it to her, since the new house was almost the exact same set up.  She spent *two months* hiding in a box in a spare bedroom closet. It had been empty since the first week, but if I tried to move it (throw it out) she would cry and cry. After that first two months, she refused to leave the spare bedroom.

    I came to realize that I didn’t put my cat first. That by taking her with me, I hurt her.  A child would never be traumatized this way. A pet does not have the ability to adapt like a human being.  By anthropomorphizing my cat I was not being a cat lover. I was being delusional and selfish.

    I should have done the right thing and found a good home for her. It would have been hard (on me) to give up my furry baby, but it would have been the right thing to do. I loved her like she was my child, but I wasn’t brave enough to face the fact that she wasn’t.

  • Linda

    MANY, MANY,people suffer from cat and dog dander allergies.  To even think of taking them on such an enclosed structure as an airplane and exposing people to asthma attacks and serious nasal congestion is unthinkable!!  

  • Mark K

    I have one cat.  It stays at the house.  Always.  

    I am lucky that my brother and mom are able to take care of the cat for me when I am away, which is very often with my current job.  This cat is not a traveller.  It also does not like people other than the three of us.  Even staying in a kennel stresses the cat out way too much.  I miss the cat when I am away, and the cat always seems happy to see me when I get home.  I would never even think of taking it with me on any kind of trip.

    Traveling with pets in general is just not fun.  It costs too much to take them on a plane and you may not even be able to take them depending on the airline.  It limits your choice of hotels on your trip.  It limits your choice of activities (do you really want to leave the pet in the car hours on end alone while you are out sight seeing along the way to your next stop on a driving vacation?).  I guess if all you are doing is traveling to your vacation home where the animal is free to run around and enjoy itself, then it might be worth the hassles to take it along.

    I was on a flight recently where a woman and her large German shepherd seeing eye dog were also on the plane.  She had a window seat in a bulkhead row (NOT an exit row) which allowed the dog to lay comfortably at her feet completely out of the way of everyone.  The flight attendant made her move with the dog to another row because it was their “policy” that no “Pets” be allowed in bulkhead rows.  The fact that a seeing eye dog is not a “Pet” completely escaped the thought process of the flight attendant.  The woman objected but was given no options other than move or get off the plane.  The dog looked at the under seat spot it was to occupy in the new row and began whining.  (I would whine too looking at that small space!)  It did eventually take the spot with her encouragement but I could tell it was very uncomfortable.  Luckily it was a short flight.  This is a dog that is trained for travel and used to strange sights sounds and places.  It was not a happy animal, so can you imagine how unhappy your pet is that is not trained for this?  

  • http://twitter.com/elegant_erica Erica Richardson


  • Mark K

    I understand completely.  My cat is the same way.  But, would the cat have been any less traumatized even if you had simply moved next door to your previous location?  I know mine would be.  We rearranged the furniture in the living room and the cat hid for a week.

  • Jerry

    Let me add a very comments.  As a dog owner, I like to take my dog when I travel.  Then again, I drive 1200 miles to visit family and we camp along the way.  I just got back from my annual summer trip home.  With that said, I have no problem having my dog stay home if I am flying somewhere (either for work or vacation).  I live in a very dog friendly neighborhood and we take turns caring for each other’s dog.  I agree some pet owners are out of control.  I think a lot of “service/comfort” pets have over indulgent owners.  One example that happened to me was in Las Vegas.  I was sitting in the terminal, eating lunch and waiting for my flight.  Along comes a couple (mid-20s) with a small dog (Chihuahua) in one of those dog carrier/purses.  After some arguing with the restaurant manager, they sat near me at the counter.  The women insisted to the manager that the dog was a “service” dog and the restaurant had to accomodate them.  Throughout their entire meal, she kept feeding the little dog pieces from her plate and talking to it like it was a baby.  I was thoroughly disgusted. 

  • http://twitter.com/elegant_erica Erica Richardson

    Inconsiderate of the flight attendant. Fortunately, seeing eye dogs are very well-trained and it was able to take the spot.

    Actually, that is worse than inconsiderate. That was ignorant behavior. I would have written a letter or spoken to someone. I have a zero tolerance policy towards people who treat the disabled shamefully.

  • Hunter

    I have a whole menagerie of animals from cats to dogs to tortoises to lizards.  We love to travel and often do.  I hire a house sitter to stay at my house the week.  My animals love him as much, or more, than they do me and sometimes are a little mad when I come home.  I would never take my pets with me on a traditional, week long or so vacation.

  • http://twitter.com/elegant_erica Erica Richardson

    You’re probably right.

  • Clara K. Showalter

    I’m going to second this. Intended or not, the original tone of the post was a bit off putting. For people who’ve done work in animal rescue, that attitude of “I have to go do XYZ so I’m going to give my pet away” is very, very prevalent. We get animals who are dropped at the shelter to be put down because the family is going away for several months and doesn’t want to bother with figuring out a responsible way to deal with it. People regularly abandon animals when they move. My first foster cat came to me because his previous owner decided he wanted to travel for a year. His way of dealing with his pesky cat was to toss the poor guy outside and hope that someone would take him in. 

    We’ve had several cats who’ve almost died because they stop eating after being left by their owners. Some have died. So you can get on people for over reacting, but keep in mind for many of us, there’s a reason. Cats and dogs aren’t people, but they do have feelings. 

    As for taking any animal on a casual vacation, no I’m not an advocate. HOWEVER- a year long trip is not what I’d call casual. :) I’m glad you were able to get things worked out. :) Yay Joyce for stepping up!

  • Clara K. Showalter

    Hey Chris, this brings up a good question. How are airlines supposed to deal with therapy animals or seeing eye dogs? 

  • Vetshak

    Full disclosure… I’m a veterinarian.  There is a wide variety of attitudes toward pets by owners, and I think each pet owner has a right to decide what is best or fair for their pet.

    Having said that, I also think some animal lovers unfairly project their own devotion to their pets as a welfare standard.  Animal rights movements have changed the way we look at animals in the past 25 years, and many who used to be devoted to their animals now project a devotion to ALL animals as what is “right.”

    I don’t necessarily oppose this concept, but what concerns me is that such devotion often ignores elements of human health or welfare.  I love animals (obviously), but I find it frustrating how much is donated to humane societies every year while human non-profits struggle to subsist.  The stories about the dog biting the attendant, or the cat attacking the pilot… these are examples of people who ignore the rights and safety of their fellow humans out of blind concern for their pet.

    Odds are Fido or Fluffy would be far happier not traveling, plain and simple. Animals don’t understand that 5 hours (or more) of confinement and discomfort in travel cages will yield, in the end, further companionship with the person they are attached to.  Animals only recognize the past and the present, they don’t project future emotional stress.  Perhaps an animal with separation anxiety is better off traveling with its owner, but this makes up probably less than 10% of the pet population.

    My view is that it is OK to have unyielding devotion to your pet, but that devotion should not be an inconvenience to others.  Having a pet is a privilege and a responsibility, not a right.  

  • VW

    When we travel out of town we board our dog at the local vets office and have done so for all of his 15 years. Frankly, he thinks of it as a vacation!! He’s excited to go, he’s happy to be there and is usually exhausted when he returns home. The kids aren’t bugging him and every few minutes someone passes by, scratches his ear and gives him a treat. Heck, there’s even a POOL for him to swim in. He’s in heaven and I’m sure he’d rather be there than in a kennel jammed under the seat in front of me (or in cargo hold—which I WILL not do).

  • Pplaresilly

    Pets are on a 24/7 vacation – they live and eat free.

  • amyster726

    It’s a vacation, for goodness sake!  If you ensure your pets are safe and will be well taken care of, that should be sufficient.  Adults go away and leave their children at home sometimes, and we don’t make such a fuss over that.  Since when did pets take on more importance than our own needs? Or get elevated to the same level as a child?  Ridiculous.
    On another related line, I was flipping satellite radio channels the other day and a story caught my attention because I work with individuals living with disabilities and who rely on service dogs. The woman was calling (I believe it was Dr. Laura) that a hotel wanted to charge her $100 extra for her dog as it was a “pet.” This was just vile – a person in a wheelchair relies on the animal for activities of daily living!  And, Dr. Laura thought that the Americans with Disabilities Act went to far in covering service animals as an accommodation AND that the woman should pay!  In this case, taking your animal with you is not a choice, but a necessity.  Rant over.

  • Justin

    Well said.

  • philpm

    We just got back from a week long driving trip, and I couldn’t imagine having taken our dog and 3 cats with us.  The cats hate the ride to the vet to be kenneled and that’s only a couple of miles, can’t imaging having driven 2800 miles with them.  The dog would’ve been fine for a day or so, but would’ve gotten so bored it would’ve become a problem. 

  • Rinacres

    I love my dog and my cats like they are my kids, but if I were to be given the opportunity to travel for up to a year, I would find new, temporary homes for them, if a house sitter was not an option.  I can think of nothing else that would be so miserable for them than to be continually on the move from place to place, confined in travel crates for a majority of the time, and exposed to the possibility of getting lost somewhere along the way.  I would much rather come home after a year for the happy reunion, and I know they would be happier as well.  Yes, I took on the oath of service and protection when I adopted them, and in my mind, carting them all over the country or world would severly violate that oath.  As long as I can be assured that they are being cared for, they will wait for my return in the peace and comfort of a stable location.

  • vegangurl

    I love my pets so much it’s stupid- and I’d probably be classified as crazy by those w/out pets… but even I say LEAVE THEM AT HOME! They’re happier there! I wouldn’t recommend a kennel, but a house or pet sitter is a perfectly fine option.

  • SassAndSweet

    As in all things, often the best choice is somewhere in the middle – In my case, I move every couple of year. I committed to them before I got said job, so like family, they move when & where I move. None less less, I draw the line at taking the kitties on vacation with me – yet work hard to responsibly find them care.

    While this option would not work for everyone – I found an amazing professional pet sitter in Vancouver (http://www.kittyinthewindow.com/_) who comes to your house – thus, kitties don’t have to leave their comfortable/safe environment and I can safely go on holiday or business trips. 

    Glad to hear your pets were well taken care of … 

  • Erratapage

    I’d take a dog on vacation, if I could make appropriate arrangements for accommodations, but I’d never take our cats.  They don’t travel well.  Car rides are traumatic for them.  They’re also primarily bonded to their place.  We use professional cat sitters, but I would have no trouble leaving them with a house sitter, neighbor or friend.  I would miss my kitties, but I’d know they were being cared for in a stable home.  I mean, you gotta think about things from their point of view, right?  

  • Also us

    You need to add another choice to your poll. If it said all vacations, I would vote no.  A cruise with a pet is stupid and a pet sitter should be found.  We travel most often with our RV and our cat thinks of it as a second home.  I would never subject him to airplanes, motels and other’s homes.  So do responsible pet owners take their pets?  I vote sometimes.

  • Julie Northrop2009

    I think that there should be exceptions to every rule here.  My mother flew from CA to OH for 6 months to take care of my grandmother after breaking her hip. None of my family members who live in OH could be bothered to care for her, so my mom went willingly. My mom also has 2 cats, and is on a fixed income.  There was no way to put the animals in a kennell, My sister and I were unable to take the cats into our home, and she could not afford to hire a petsitter.  So, she took 2 cats with her and back.  Was it difficult to maneuver 2 cats on a flight by yourself?  My mom said it was a bit of a struggle, but no one seemed to mind.  Would she do it again? She said never, it was to much for just one person to handle.

  • Iain

    People will always feel strongly about issues with there pets.  I can understand how you were feeling with the issue with your cats.  I decided to have a holiday with adult family this year, in Mexico.  I had always been on holiday camping since I got my dog and was worried about the dog, should I put her into a Kennel, should I have a dog sitter, should I leave her with other family?  I decided to leave her with other family members, I needn’t have worried, if any thing when I was home and went to collect her she seemed very quiet on the drive home, I think she enjoyed her holiday more than me!

  • Mo

    You just don’t get it! You turned yourself into an animal hater and there is no way back for you! The question is stupid, should have been “Do responsible pet owners dump their animal every time they go on vacation?”

  • Margery

    Not trying to influence you re: the guy. However, the 6 month UK quarantine is a thing of the past if you can meet the latest veterinary paperwork requirements. Europe never had such a quarantine and has long been open to international pet visitors. Bon voyage whatever you choose.

  • DebbyNYC

    Traveling with my cats? HA! They have an attorney on speed dial when I so much as HINT at taking them out of the apartment to bring a restraining order against me.  I concur with the previous writer that so long as cats are fed, watered and kept in their environment and away from loud, unexpected nosies, their staff (i.e. we call ourselves “owners”) are pretty much interchangeable. I’ve found in my many moves the trauma of the trip is much more dramatic than the loss of MY presence.

  • FarmerStina

    Posting for the first time to say that I try to take my dogs on vacation with me when I can.  We do a lot of camping and always bring the dogs with us.  We also find small hotels or B&Bs that accept pets and bring our dogs with us when we can.  We have two small dogs under 30 pounds who are, for the most part, well behaved and I love having them along with us when we go on the road. 
    We don’t travel with them by airplane though because they can’t fit in carriers under the seat and I don’t like to put them in cargo.

  • Robert N

    OT, but can we please have a real mediation case? Please?

    The last 4 posts haven’t been on anything actually travel related and serious.

  • Tammy

    Ooh. And, a column on traveling with spoiled, entitled brats might draw an interesting crowd too! (And, yes, I love my kids, but I expect them to behave.)

    So, Amen! to your comments. 

  • Tammy

    I don’t entirely agree with you. While cats like to APPEAR unattached to their families, I have seen cats grieve over lost and missing people. My son is at college, and his cat misses him terribly.

    Cats are all about image. You can’t necessarily believe the image. ;-)

  • Tammy

    That is honestly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. If your pets are JUST like your children, then I feel sorry for your children.

    You are right that pets are NOT disposable, and I truly despise people who treat them as if they are.

    But, they are not people. They are not the same as people. They are not equivalent to children. For shame!

  • cjr001

    I have parakeets. If there’s one thing I learned quickly, it’s never ask for advice from other parakeet owners on websites on how to deal with situations. Because you’re more than likely just going to be abused for not seeing things their way.

  • Tammy

    And, what about the recent spate of people who think that they’re animal (particularly dogs) need to go shopping with them? I don’t get it! These are not service animals. These are pampered (often dressed!) little dogs that I will see in the grocery store or in the fabric store (most recently).

    And, I wonder the same thing. Is this fair? What about people with allergies? That owner’s “need” for their companion (who, again, is NOT a service dog) can’t possibly outweigh someone else’s right to breathe!

    A service dog? Well, then the rights are probably of equal merit and everyone just needs to accommodate.

    Fluffy…because you think she’s your daughter? No way. :-(

  • cjr001

     Is this post supposed to be sarcastic or what?

  • cjr001

    Well, I have no children, so that’s not an issue. But I’ll readily admit *without* shame that I care more about my pets than your children.

  • Steve R

    I think pointing out examples of people who don’t just believe that their pets should travel with them, but also that the rules don’t apply to them (like the woman who let her dog run free on the airplane) is a bit beside the point. It’s like saying that all kids should be banned from airplanes if one bad parent lets their kid run up and down the aisle and disturb other passengers.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with boarding animals for a short vacation, but I can see why people would be taken aback that putting them in a kennel for a very extended period of time would even be an option. IMHO, boarding an animal for months at a time would constitute cruelty. But for traveling for a week or two every now and then, I see absolutely no problem with that.

    @Chris: “I don’t believe cats, dogs or pigs belong on a plane, in a hotel, or a rental car unless maybe you’re moving somewhere, and even then, they should be safely confined to a carrier.” Well, some of us would say the same thing about kids. I’m kidding, but I really don’t see your objection to pet-friendly hotels. If you don’t like them, you could always stay at the majority of hotels that don’t allow pets. I don’t understand it when people feel that all businesses should conform to their preferences.

  • Carrie Charney

    I didn’t vote, because it’s all relative; it depends on the animal and the location. I have friends who are pet sitting in their own home, which now looks like a small, but well-kept zoo. They have a couple of rats, several lizards, and some snakes that they are tending to. All have big cages, with open recreation areas, and all are legal to have. I think they and their kids will actually be disappointed to have to return them.

  • LindyB.

    I thought my cats were the only ones with an attorney on speed dial!!  Our six cats regularly call Samuel J. Whiskerpuff with all kinds of complaints and have filed many lawsuits against us!  ha:) 

    I can’t imagine traveling with any of them.  My mom house/catsits for us when we go on vacation. 

  • MO


  • Sylviaguarino

    Pets may not be like a child to you, Toni, and you directly and indirectly made this point before.  But I find YOUR attitude offensive.  For many pet owners, their pets have extreme importance in their lives, often making a difference in their being happy or sad.  Now, you may not relate to that, but you are not those people and they are not you.  I would not go to extreme means to keep my cats alive, but I would and do go a long distance, and when they die it shatters my peace.  I know that would not happen to you, but we are all different in our attitude about animals and pets.  And one thing that is slightly unclear in Chris’ current post is that it was not clear in the original article that he intended a temporary adoption.  It sounded to me like he was considering adopting out the cats permanently.  A temporary adoption is a whole different situation.  I believe you can have pets AND travel, but it takes planning and money to make that happen and that was my initial response to Chris.  I was sorry he was getting beaten up for considering both.

  • Sylviaguarino

    Chris, I think you are being a bit unfair.  Most pet lovers do not think their pets are children, but as you say, they love their pets with an intense love.  I don’t agree with the way Raven expressed herself, but I don’t agree with what Toni said either and did comment on her post.

  • SallyLu

    I absolutely do not agree that Chris turned himself into an animal hater and I think you are just wrong.  What sort of animal lover uproots their animals to travel with them from place to place for a year instead of finding a loving home for them to stay in?  Chris did the right thing in finding someone who will care for his cats while his family is traveling!  I have 2 dogs that are definitely part of my family, so I am an aminal lover, but I would never selfishly subject them to that sort of uncertainty!  Animals don’t understand vacations!

  • Nsg

    It is your responsibility to find someone to care for them while you are gone.  If you can’t, you need to stay home.  You took on this responsibility when you got them and you must follow through. 

  • Julie Northrop2009

    Tammy (and Linda as well),

    Using the pet dander allergy excuse doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because even if their pet isn’t on board, that person’s clothing will more than likely have pet hairs and dander on it.  What are you going to do then? Are you going to demand that they remove all their clothing and fly naked because of your right to breathe?  Are you going to say that pet owners should not be allowed to fly because their clothing will cause someone to have an asthma attack.  Sorry, but you are going to have to do better than that. 

  • Julie Northrop2009

    I feel your pain Jerry.  I love my sister dearly, and I almost feel bad writing this, but my sister is one of those people who consider their animals their children.  Now, I’m a pet owner myself and I have a cat that is definitely has my heart, but I am also realistic too.  My sister and her husband will cancel plans if they can not take their dog with them. They won’t leave the house for more than a few hours because they can not bear to leave their dog in it’s kennel for a long period of time.  She refused to take me to have surgery because her dog had been in it’s kennel all night, and could not bear the thought of it being in there for another 3-4 hours.  She will not fly with their dog because she refuses to have her in the cargo, and will chew out other passengers who do that.  So, she rarely flies because of this.  The worst part is, she has children and if the dog gets sick and needs medical attention, but it’s expensive, she will use their food money to pay for it.  Whenever I try to tell her what she’s doing is wrong, she tells me that a pet is not an animal, it is family.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LOCND3JAJL4PGYWJBHUT3HWAZM web/gadget guru

    I have discovered that there are two types of people (negating the extremes at each end) when it comes to pets and their human companions. People *WITH* children and people *WITHOUT* children.
    There an interesting thing that happens to pet lovers when they have children. These pet lovers, who have made their pets the center of their attention, tend to think of their pets differently once they have children. This animal with whom they have pledged to share their life with becomes a disposable commodity, for people that have children, once it becomes a burden they can rid them selves of. I’ve seen this over and over again, and it’s sad really…recently a coworker who had had two cats from before he was married, recently had a kid. These cats, of 10 and 8 years didn’t handle their now third class status (wife, kid and now cats) so they acted out. Who was disposed of? Why the cats of course. 5 years ago, this individual couldn’t even conceive of getting rid of his precious companions…now they are thrown away as if on a whim.
    I don’t have kids (childless by choice) and yes, I do value my cat as a precious member of our family. I *DO* feel guilty when we are away on vacation. The cat has certain habits that involve us, his human companions and when we are not there, I *KNOW* that he misses us…how? I have cameras all around our house and when we are gone on vacation, he will pick up one of his toys and carry it around the house looking for us to play with him. And when he can’t find us, he will sit in the main hall, with his toy in front of him and give this hauntingly sad meow that you can tell comes from his gut…he misses us…this will go on for days…after 3-4 days, he will then go into hiding, only coming out for meals and potty breaks…
    Seeing this makes me really sad…it also makes me happy to come back home from vacation because he tries to punish us for abandoning him and he tries to ignore us…for about 10-15 minutes, then he can’t deal with it any longer and he attaches himself to our sides and won’t let us out of his sight! This is how I *KNOW* that our cat misses us and has adopted us as his clan…and no, I’m not anthropomorphizing the cat…I have the video to prove everything I have written.

  • Mark K

    And I care more about my pet than I do about yours.  ;-)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LOCND3JAJL4PGYWJBHUT3HWAZM web/gadget guru

     There is also Toxoplasma (read it here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-08/uoc–cpm080206.php or google it!)
    Basically, what it is is a parasite that is transmitted from the cat to other warm blooded mammals that scientists believe, increases dopamine in the host causing the host to have pleasant feelings towards the cat. This is particularly useful to the cat when it is prey that is infected by the parasite in that the prey will seek out the cat and then get eaten by the cat. THere have been considerable controversy on human’s interaction with the cat in that nobody really knows if toxoplasma has any affect on humans at all!

  • sirwired

    Well, independent of the debated psychological effects, it does have some confirmed effect on humans… toxoplasmosis is dangerous to immuno-compromised individuals, pregnant women, and fetuses.

  • don satow

    Personally, I think it depends on the pet.  If the pet can handle travel (which I mean it doesn’t object to travel, isn’t endangered during travel,  and doesn’t cause a problem in travel), then take the pet along.  If it can’t it should stay home or boarded somewhere.

    I don’t think pets should be treated as humans.  Pets are pets.  People are people.  The two should not be intermixed (illegal in all 50 states :D )

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LOCND3JAJL4PGYWJBHUT3HWAZM web/gadget guru

    I don’t think you understand the bond between a person and the animal companion completely…and if you have kids, you never will, so it’s pointless for you to even argue this issue! I have to agree with Raven in that just because someone squeezed out a kid, they behave as if they are the only ones on the planet who have done so and we all have to make adjustments to our lives to accommodate their progeny. Like those “baby on board” placard that people display on their cars…*I* find *THOSE* offensive. Why should I have to modify my behavior to make allowances to your inability to drive responsibly?
    Me personally? I hate children. I can’t abide by them or their parents and take great pains to avoid them. Not everything on this planet has to be kid friendly…sometimes adults want to enjoy adult passtimes!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LOCND3JAJL4PGYWJBHUT3HWAZM web/gadget guru

    Well, actually, I value my cat over your kids any day! If I had to save only one, I would easily choose my cat!

  • Sadie Cee

    IMHO removing animals from their accustomed environment to take them on an extended road trip and all that this entails is inhumane.  Making suitable alternative arrangements for them would be far kinder.  I would not be too concerned about being called an animal hater for leaving my pets with people who will take good care of them while I am away. 
    There are numerous examples that show that some people are unable to distinguish, for what are probably hundreds of reasons, the differences between their needs and the needs and welfare of animals. 

    The killing of children and adults by pit-bulls that led to the banning of the breed in some Canadian provinces and the resulting controversy is a case in point.  The following story concerning the putting down of an injured deer by police further illustrates the lack perception of an animal’s needs.

    As for animals on board, the Canadian Medical Association has voted in favour of the banning of pets on planes.  Is this on the agenda of the airline industry?  I doubt it.  

  • Sadie Cee

    This airline should be contacted immediately regarding its policies concerning the accommodation of guide and therapy dogs.  There should be a policy if conformity with current legislation and the airline should provide proper training for its personnel.  These are working dogs and are well trained for their jobs.  They must be properly accommodated.   

  • SallyLu

    I agree with most of the posters here.  I love my dogs and feel that they are members of my family, but in most cases, would not take them on vacation with me.  Most of the time, we are only in our hotel room to sleep, then we’re on the go for the rest of the day, usually doing things in places that wouldn’t welcome dogs.  They’d be stuck in a hotel room all day, with no way of getting out to do their business.  We are very lucky to have good neighbors and my inlaws who are willing to come by a few times a day to feed and play with our pets when we are out of town.  While I know they miss us, I think they are much happier at home than they would be traveling.  We have considered taking them camping, and probably will one of these days, but I’m not even sure they’d enjoy that.  They would have to be on a leash the whole time and they are not used to that.  Chris, I think you did the right and most loving thing you could have done in your situation.  You are making sure they are fed and well cared for and that is really the most important thing!

  • Sadie Cee

    This “conversation” has become ridiculous, don’t you think?

  • Sadie Cee

    Please tell me that we have a right to refuse to travel with snakes and other reptiles on board.  So far, thank goodness, it has never been a problem.  However, I don’t mind taking another flight, but I would mind having to forfeit my money.

    As for cats, I am one of those who have a severe allergic reaction from being in their presence.  I have to carry masks in my car and in my purse for emergencies.  I have to flee from areas where cats are or have been.  Needless to say, I move around in fear.

  • djp

    When my brother and his family travels he has a larger size dog.   He is university faculty so when he and the family travels he pays grad students to either house sit or come by and feed the dog.
    With my fathers dog, he cant travel in a car without getting drugged.  He is too fidgidy.  Unlike other dogs he isnt comfortable sitting in the empty seat looking out of the window…maybe its because he is one of those shorter dogs.

  • Joyce

    You could have added:  depends on where you are going.  Hope you are having a good time.  Joyce

  • cjr001

     I’d expect no less, Mark.

  • Flipper

    For the record, I like animals better than people.  However, I still vote ‘no’ on taking pets with you on vacation.  The experience is horribly stressful for those of us voluntarily going, vs the animals who get dragged along knowing half of what’s going on.

    However, the commitment made when ‘purchasing’ a pet is no different than the commitment made when having children.  Both are a voluntary act, and if your life does not allow you to provide a sense of routine for the animal, as well as species and breed appropriate enrichment, then you should not have a pet.

    For that reason, I am not a pet owner, as I do not have that sort of room in my life at the moment.

  • L2y2


  • Joyce

    Chris worded his post the wrong way.  He will be back in town occassionly so he can come over to my house to see his “kitties”.  I know they will get along well with my 2. He will not be away for an extended length of time–like a few months!  I only live about 2 miles from him and use the same vet he does.  Joyce

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    That’s true. I kind of glossed over the details of our exact itinerary in this post and in the previous one. We’ll be in and out — here two weeks, gone three — through December. We don’t have a fixed schedule beyond then. We’ll see how the cats take it. 

  • Nitternatter

    It’s a pet, not an “animal companion.”  People that call them ‘animal companions” usually have problems forming bonds with actual human beings.  Having had both cats and kids, I don’t think you understand the bond between a person and her kids as well as a bond between a person and her PET.  You need to calm down and take a few deep breaths.  Preferably outside, away from all the cat dander.  Face it, the law is going to clap YOU in jail if you run into someone and kill their kid because you can’t drive responsibly in any case, regardless of a plaque on their car.  Your cat dies?  You’re shit out of luck.  Too bad, so sad.  Now, about getting that fresh air….

  • Nitternatter

    You are, quite frankly, bonkers.

  • Raven

    According to the ADA BS Law that these “Emotional Support Animal” people exploit, no, we are not allowed to refuse to travel with them. I doubt any of the greedy airlines would allow me to refuse to be seated next to a snake. Or dog. Or cat. Or whatever. The pig that Chris mentioned in the article was supposedly one of these “Emotional Support Animals.”

    Heck, if you google it, you’ll see that there are sites dedicated to helping people get their animals onboard  as an “ESA” to avoid a pet fee!!!

  • Raven

    I’m harsh, it’s a fact.
    I’d rather be around people’s pets than their kids. My choice, and I take offense at anyone who thinks they’re due better treatment because they have kids. Earlier today, I saw a Breeder (that’s a person with kids who cannot control them) at IAH asking random people to help her carry her luggage because–and I quote–“I’m a single mother!!!”

  • Raven

    Thank you. Sometimes I even amaze myself with the analogies I come up with. :D

  • Sammy

    How many animals have been lost by airlines just this year alone? One dog was found dead after escaping a Delta flight. Just this week a cat has gone missing in a baggage area. And airlines charge you hundred of dollars for the privilege of losing your animal for you. No thank you. My cats are well accustomed to traveling, I’ve made sure of that, it makes trips to the vet easier if you take them with you to the pet store, plus it socializes them. It’s enabled me to do a few cross country moves with my cats. 

    I would never fly with my animals unless I was moving overseas, there’s no need to take them on a plane for vacation, they’re much happier at home and don’t even realize I’m gone until I’m back home as long as they have food and water. 

    We did use to travel by van on vacations as a kid and we took our cat and dog with us then. But I wouldn’t do it today, we nearly lost the cat in Minnesota when he got out of the van one night. And both the cat and dog nearly suffered from heat stroke driving through Kansas, van didn’t have AC, parents were too cheap for such luxuries.

  • DavidS

    Correct, legally service animals are not pets as there is a legal distinction between a service animal and a pet. “Emotional Support Animals” are a different distinction and appear to be no longer covered under the Ameicans with Disabilities Act. (ADA) Some animals such as miniature ponies were covered, but appear to be only covered in some cases. I know some changes were made in 2010, but I have not looked at it that closely. Bottom line, if you have a LEGITIMATE need for a service animal, this column does not apply to you! :) A trained service animal can be resonably accomodated on a flight anywhere within the US.

  • ButMadNNW

    Now, that’s just rude to those of us who are truly responsible pet owners and pay the $250 (for my two cats) to fly them to a new home, not to mention the costs of the carriers, possible shots (depending on airline and state to which they’re traveling) and tranquillizing meds, airfare for a second person (because you must have one human per animal), etc.

  • Nitternatter

    My right to breathe trumps your right to bring your precious cat or dog on board, sorry.  You’ll have to do better than that.

  • DavidS

    It actualy doesn’t. The airline cannot force a traveler with a service animal to take a different flight if someone else on the flight has a severe allergy. (Not taking a side, just stating a fact…sorry!)

    I don’t think they can force someone to another flight with a pet either, but I may be mistaken. BUT..they do take PEANUTS off if someone claims nut allergy! :)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well…this is Christopher’s blog…seems to me he can post whatever he wants on it.  Just sayin’…

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’m doing my best to keep things interesting and helpful. Sorry if I’ve let anyone down.

  • flutiefan

    if i was the gate agent for either one of you, and you maintained that you could not take that flight with such an animal on board, i would gladly rebook you at no charge for whatever flight you wanted that day, and i would have no trouble explaining that to my bosses when i would (inevitably) get questioned about my decision :)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Trust me, nobody disputes your story, so I highly doubt that anyone is going to ask to see your proof video. 

    I have no doubt that our pets miss us when we’re gone.  What we may differ on is what we should do about that.  Should we take them with us?  Leave them with a sitter?  Put them in a kennel? 

    Or should we simply not go on vacation?  Or maybe not even leave the house?  I mean gosh, given how pets have no real sense of time…does a pet really miss us any less when we just go to work?  Should I quit my job and go on welfare so my dog never has to suffer the horrific emotional pain of missing me?

    Life is not fair – for ANYONE, pets or humans.  Nobody is born into this world with a guarantee that they won’t suffer.  While I love my dog so much it’s stupid (stole that line from another poster above, cuz I love it!), I do not elevate his needs to be above mine, or anyone else’s.  He’s a dog.  Would I cancel a vacation to stay home with my dog?  Hell no.  Sometimes I have to make him unhappy…that’s just life.  Sometimes I have to make my kids unhappy.  Sorry.  Nobody promised them a rose garden.

    Sure, he’s unhappy when I go away.  My kids are unhappy when I have to send them to school.  My husband is unhappy when I make that meat loaf he hates. 

    If you live your life trying to make sure nobody ever feels unhappy, YOU are going to be awfully unhappy…because it’s an unattainable goal.  Life is not always fair.  Deal with it – person, dog, or cat.

  • DavidS

    The law may soon make a distinction between a service animal and an emotional support animal meaning the latter no longers qualifies as a service animal for ADA purposes. I believe it may actually be there now but has yet to be tested in court.

  • Skippy

    “My crime? I’m still trying to figure that out, to be honest.”

    Au contrere, you have….

    “These anthropomorphizers believe they have the moral high ground, and
    that by shouting down anyone who disagrees with them, they can win.”

  • GeorgeG

    No it won’t, for the same reason obesity and addition are legal justifications for “disability.”

  • DavidS

    I was looking it up after I posted and as you responded. From what I gather, it appears the law did change on March 15, 2011. BUT…the Air Carrier Access Act may still allow it. I have a call in to an attorney…lol. :)

  • Jack Bauer

    This is to all pet extremists: PETS ARE NOT PEOPLE! They do not, and I repeat, DO NOT enjoy the same things we humans do, so get off your high horse and let others live. you’re not much different than other kinds of extremists, those who now make fun of the US because they know they’ve won (thank you TSA !)

  • Julie Northrop2009

    BRAVO Nitternatter!!!!  I’ve seen other posts on the blogs by this guy, and he’s got some sort of screw loose. I too have both cats AND a child, and I can tell you that a person who has a child can have just as strong a bond with their pet as they do with a child.  The only difference is, my son came from my womb and my cat did not.
    I feel sorry for people like web/gadget guru.  He hates kids, and avoids places where kids are? GREAT!!!!!  I guess I won’t see him at the grocery store, or church, or the amusement part, or outside in the park. If that is the case, then he better be housebound because no matter where he goes…..there are CHILDREN!!!!!  I totally agree with you about the jail thing, and most people who put those placards on their car did so as a humorous thing.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well, that seals the deal:  one more reason I will NEVER have a cat.  They are INFECTING US to make us love them!  Sounds like a horror movie!

  • Robb

    We are dog owners, and we take our pooch when we can (by car) WHERE SHE IS WELCOME. There is nothing unkinder than taking a pet to a place where she isn’t wanted and has to be smuggled in and out or to a place where there are no good facilities. We sometimes use a dog sitter and sometimes a reputable kennel. Our animals have always been happy and healthy, although they  do miss us (and we them). Where I DO think you are sometimes out of line is your anti-dogs in the cabin screeds. Under the right circumstances, they are fine (and a nice revenue source for the rip-off airlines). We have traveled transcontinental with dogs in the cabin more than once and had our seatmates show surprise at the end of the flight that we even had a dog on board, she was so quiet.

  • scarlett

    I think what struck me most about this article is how one sided it is.  You give 3 examples, over an 11 year period, of animals causing harm on a plane.  Do you know how many animals have flown in that time period without causing issues??  Have you bothered to give any examples of those animals?  How about a better argument – that if your animal is not small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, they’re probably flying in cargo… and there are way more than 3 examples in the last 11 years of pets suffering those terrible consequences.  Also, at least one of the examples is a person who acted selfishly… much like the parent who allows their child to run up and down the aisle screaming, or kicking the chair in front of them for the entire flight.  I have far more examples of that nasty behavior than I do of renegade animals attacking people or crew members on airplanes.  Do you blame the child for being completely out of control, or the parents for not lifting a finger to do anything about it?
    I travel with my pet – sometimes.  If we go to the beach for a few days, yes, he gets to go.  He loves it, we can drive, it’s a win win.  When we’re flying, no, he doesn’t get to go.  I value his life more than him getting to go with us on a new adventure.  Part of having a pet (like a child) is making responsible decisions for his health and well being.  It’s not safe, so he’s not going.  Thankfully, I have family who can watch him.  I would love to adopt another dog, but I know that would make traveling much more difficult at this juncture of my life, so one dog it is.  All of that being said, there is another responsible choice – there’s Pet Airways now.  They are happy to safely carry your pet from one end of the country to another.  If you’re going to be living somewhere else for awhile, there is no reason you cannot take them with you.  I’m actually surprised no one has mentioned Pet Airways to this point – if my dog weren’t just a teeny too big for their largest crate (at this time, anyway), it would absolutely be an acceptable option.  Again, a win-win. 
    I have to admit, I am slightly disappointed in your attitude.  If you feel like it’s okay to just pick up and leave your animals behind for a year or more, be responsible and find them a new loving home.  Because in a year, when you come back, you’re going to uproot them again, and that’s not really fair.  You want your animals when you want them – when it’s convenient for you.  That’s not what having a pet is about.  At least you’re not dropping them off at your nearest shelter, but that’s about all the good I can find in all of this.  And you are setting a sad example for your children in how to raise pets.  They are things you can leave behind and pick up again whenever it’s convenient for you, like other inanimate objects you’re leaving behind.  That’s not really responsible pet ownership. 
    I started following you for your travel tips and advice, and I think that’s what I’m going to limit myself to on your blog. 

  • Sadie Cee

    @flutiefan, thank you mightily.  Your reply was not to my post, but encouraging all the same.  I hope that there are airline staff who think like you.  My animal physical allergies are confined to cats and dust, but my phobias to “critters” are numerous and EXTREME.  I don’t even want to continue writing about this topic.  There will be no sleep tonight! 

  • Marie

    I am disappointed to see you post such a blatantly biased response column and suggest people who disagree with you about dumping your cats are all nuts.  Your tone is insulting to your regular readers who disagree with your choices.  
    Most people in the real world get 1-3 weeks of vacation.  You are not taking a “vacation”. You are becoming voluntarily nomadic for a year, and dumping your pets because they have become an inconvenience.  

  • Julie Northrop2009


    What I was saying, is that even if the person who has the pet doesn’t bring them on the flight, their pet hair and dander is going to be on their clothes.  My question was, what do they do then? Demand the person fly naked so that they can breathe? It wasn’t about bringing the pet on the flight. It was about them using the pet allergy excuse.

    I’m not saying that people don’t have pet allergies, I just think it’s a stupid excuse to use in reference to flying.

  • Brooklyn

    In New York, where I live, at $40 a day for a boarding kennel or twice a day with a dog walker very few people can afford to use those services. Whether pets should go on vacation with their owners depends on where, how long and the kind and temperament of the pet (the pig was a bit much). When I travel with my dog, the trip is different: she can’t go into museums in Europe, for example, but she can go to restaurants and stores and enjoys walks through the cities I visit. If pets stay home, it should be with friends and family or, if there’s no alternative to a boarding facility, for a short time only. But your previous post asked a different question: you’re on a year-long road trip. Travel is an integral part of your life and your livelihood, yet you have not one but three cats, an animal notorious for liking to stay home. It’s not surprising that almost everyone who responded to that earlier post urged you to take them along, leave them with friends or find a house-sitter. From the tone of this post, you think these people – of whom I was one – are unreasonable.  I’m glad that Joyce agreed to take your cats, but I’m still concerned about your attitude . No one is saying that you should save your cat instead of your child if the house is burning down, but we do assume a responsibilty for our pets when we bring them into our lives.

  • Sylviaguarino

    Erica, I hope you don’t beat yourself up about this still.  When we moved very far out of state 16 months ago, I was a wreck about taking our cats who numbered three then. (one has since passed away)   I literally did dress rehearsals with the 3 of them to make them more comfortable for the trip.  The rehearsing (taking them in the car, using a calming spray on their towels for the carriers, finding out what music was the most soothing for them) worked well, and they were great for the looooooooooooooong, multiple day drive.  They hid initially in our new place but after a week or so came out and enjoyed their lives.  There was no question for me in taking them.  I knew it would be rough initially, but there is no other person who would love them as I do and no other person they would trust as they do me.  All in all, you probably did the right thing and you should come to peace with it.

  • jennj99738

    I stood up for Chris on the first article but agree that this post is a bit biased and the choices for the poll are this close to ridiculous.  First, dogs are different than cats.  IMO, cats are much more happy with their routine and their home and hate any change in either.  Dogs handle change much better.  I’ve had both and would never take a cat anywhere again.  I can still here the screeching in my head from when I moved my cat cross-country for a new job 14 years ago. 

    However, when my Yorkie was still alive, I took him with me many times because (1) he loved to go anywhere and (2), he had a life-threatening disease that did not allow him to be vaccinated making it impossible to board him at a kennel.  I’ll also say because his disease was terminal, I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible with my other commitments.  Most of the time, we drove, but for Thankgiving break, he flew in the cabin with me, I paid his fee and I never took him out of his bag.  The vast majority of the time no one knew he was there until they saw me carry his bag out of the plane. 

    I don’t take my Schnauzer with me on the plane because he’s too big to fit under the seat and I don’t trust transporting him as cargo.  I also have a friend he can stay with.  There are reasons other than “vacation” to take pets with you and even on vacation, there are still very responsible pet owners who should not be penalized for the irresponsible ones.   Each situation handled on its own merits. 

  • Leztrek

    People bring their screaming bratty kids on vacations, letting them run amok and changing their poop bags in public, but I can’t bring my well-behaved dogs? Screw that. I keep them quiet, I clean up after them, we crate them, we even bring furniture covers for them, we pay non-refundable deposits for them, even when they don’t do anything that needs cleaning or fixing, and they aren’t welcome, but any human brat with a parent willing to pay can wreak havoc for hundreds of miles and hours of time and we’re all supposed to think it’s cute, or even inevitable.

    For what it’s worth, cats don’t travel as well as dogs, but, as in the case of dogs and human children, it’s a case by case situation. Please, assume the worst and leave them ALL home until they are fit to be taken out in public. In the case of some humans, you may have to wait until they’re thirty or so.

    If you are having trouble deciding what to do with the cats, please re-home them to someone who doesn’t have trouble making this decision. Do you have these big crises over taking your children, or do you just assume they are welcome everywhere? Because they’re not, and that’s why we look for child-free  destinations and activities. We don’t return to places where children are allowed to do anything above a whisper, because my dogs aren’t allowed to run amok, either.

    You have used the most outrageous examples of bad pet-and-pet parent behavior you could find. I wonder how many traveling pets give people absolutely nothing to say except praise.

  • Linda Bator

    A truly responsible pet owner (yes, I own, and have always owned, several animals), and know they are not happy away from what they are familiar and comfortable with.  So when I travel (as a travel agent, I try to go as often as possible!), I make sure I have a sitter, and they have the familiar sights, sounds, food and board they are familiar with.  They despise even a short car trip to the vet, so they would NOT like a longer one.  Even moving houses disrupted my cat for several weeks, making him jumpy and nervous.  Who wants to travel with that? 

  • Linda Bator

    Well, I have a real PHOBIA about snakes, and that makes it a matter of MY RIGHTS at that point!  Service animal my @##!

  • zt

    I’d rather travel with pets than kids!   I have no use for anyone’s out of control, mannerless brats.  (Not saying yours are…but unfortunately, many people in today’s society are sorely lacking parenting skills.)

    But I keep my cats at home when I travel, and have family check in on them…they are happier there.  However, I usually travel for a week at a time…guess I’m not lucky enough to get a year’s vacation time. 

  • zt

    No, my cats are not like children…they are better than children!

    The majority of kids today are brats…no manners, no discipline…ooh, let the kid do whatever he wants or it will damage his self-esteem, wah wah.   Oh, I could live a happy life if I never saw another kid again.

  • Linda Bator

    As a pet owner AND asthmatic – BS!  If you have allergies to pet dander, or your asthma is affected by it (as mine can occasionally be), then it is YOUR resposnibility to have your mediation.  You want PRISTINE conditions everywhere you travel, live in a plastic bubble!  This whole I AM SSOOO IMPORTANT and you’re not attitude is retarded – its a big world, with a whole lot of people.  DEAL WITH IT!

  • kadu

    Keep your stinking tick infested flea bags at home folks..just like those flying with whiney crybaby children … eeekk.. little snots bawl..kick the back of your seat..can’t sit still or shut their yaps..yes .. animals and children..both belong at home..not on an airplane..

  • Joyce

    What an attitude.  Hopefully, I will never meet or fly with you!  Chris’s pets are adorable!  Joyce

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V4OUPLCINOL723CGHVR53CQ72Y Kevin

    Considering that Chris is going to be traveling for (as I understand it) an entire year, a permanent adoption might have been the best option if he hadn’t been able to find someone to take them for a while. I’ve had pets in the past that, when I had to move, I had to find new homes for. It’s sad, but it happens. Even with people: my grandmother was raised for several years with a cousin as a sort-of sibling because the cousin’s parents weren’t in a position to care for their kids–sending them to live with friends or relatives was, at one time, an accepted (if not beloved) solution.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V4OUPLCINOL723CGHVR53CQ72Y Kevin

    And if you had given the cat to someone else, it would have been just as traumatized at being in a new, strange household – only add in people it didn’t know, either. I’m not saying one should never find a new home for a pet – of course you have to, sometimes – but simply moving isn’t a reason to do so, as long as there’s a place for the pet at the other end of the journey.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V4OUPLCINOL723CGHVR53CQ72Y Kevin

    I have three words for you, with regards to your sister: Child Protective Services.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V4OUPLCINOL723CGHVR53CQ72Y Kevin

    And how is that different from, say, a person who “voluntarily” takes a job requiring him to travel all week, each week, and who decides that under the circumstances, it’s not fair to keep the pet(s) he has?

    Your response reveals your own bias: you disapprove of a choice Chris has made for the betterment of the *humans* in his family because it means that the *pets* of his family are having some mythical lifelong guarantee of no change in custodial status revoked.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V4OUPLCINOL723CGHVR53CQ72Y Kevin

    Yes, we do. But sometimes the circumstances of our lives change. Jobs change – we have to travel more, or less, than we did. One spouse loses a job and we have to downsize our housing, and no apartment we can afford will accept pets. Those are facts of life.

    Certainly I think having Joyce care for them with her own pets, and letting Chris have them back when he’s back for good, is about the best option I can think of. But if that option wasn’t available, a house-sitter or adopting the cats out to someone else would be INFINITELY better than taking them “on the go” for weeks on end, from place to place. A cat would likely go nuts in that situation.

  • Sadowski

    I use a wonderful boarding kennel when I go on vacation. I’ve sent both my puppies there for the last 14+ years. They have been safe and well taken care of. I can’t imagine dragging my canine family on a long car trip or sending them on an airplane, unless it was an emergency. You just need to budget this expense into your travel plans.

  • Sadie Cee

    Take your cats with you by all means.  I just don’t want to be on the same plane nor do I want to have to lose money on my non-refundable ticket when I do refuse to travel with them.

  • Summer

    I love my pets. “I don’t have kids, I have dogs/cats” I tell people when the ask about children. But I don’t vacation with them. Why would my animals want to spend all day in a hotel room when we go to Chicago? Especially the cat who hates people? Or the cat who is terrified of the outdoors? And my dogs, big friendly things that they are? Why should they be stuck in a room all day? Since they can’t really be left all day, then I am breaking into our vacation time to return to the hotel to walk them, and then turn around and leave them again. Responsible pet owners provide for their pets when they have to be gone from the home. Since I have cats and dogs, I get a pet sitter to come by throughout the day and feed, play and walk. On behalf of all pet owners, I’m sorry you were targeted. It sounds to me like you were looking for options and solutions in a responsible way.

  • kadu

    Lordy Joyce ME TOO!! Especially if you’re flying with the flea bags & or snotty kids!

  • Sylviaguarino

    Kevin, the same thing happened in my family in the “old” days, too many kids for the parents to care for.  But kids understand better than do pets why they must be “transferred” from one loving family to another.  And with that, all pets are different.  My cats are/were rescued ferals, quite skittish and with health issues.  Honestly, not only could I not have found a better home, I most likely would not have found any home at all.  Short of a life threatening or death situation, I would not give up permanently any cat I ever KEPT (I adopt almost all out), but that’s me.  I don’t think they are human, but people can sure learn a lot from them….

  • Merryl Gross

    I used to travel with my pet cat.  Not because I felt she would pine away without me (though eventually I think she DID but with a kitty that old, you never really know), but because she was diabetic and really ornery about letting anyone but me give her insulin.

    I’m sure some pets love to travel.  But many MANY do not.  I’m sure that if you are owned by some cats, you are the best judge of whether it’s a good idea to take them along, or to find other arrangements for them.

  • Jlj9675

    I only take road trips and cruises. For the former, I always take my small dog with me as I would miss her and vice versa. For cruises, I must kennel her, which she hates. When I travel to various relatives with allergies I must kennel her or find doggie daycare so I search out the best and I have found some, honest. I took my cat (years ago before my own allergies nixed having one) on road trips and he was fine too. I never expect others to make allowances or be inconvenienced by my pet. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for parents of small children, who are often the most horrible of challenges when I travel. It all comes down to respect for one another and elimination of the “ME” attitude.

  • Elpasinato

    I have a dog and 2 cats. I just returned from an extended weekend away (AZ to CO) where I flew on a pet friendly airlines. I made arrangements for someone to watch the cats at the house and took the dog to a friend’s house. I would not take my cats on vacation — EVER! As for the dog, I would love to take her with me, but it all depends on the mode of transportation, where I will be going, and what I will be doing. Not all towns or hotels are pet friendly. Also, not all airports have a convenient dog run area for pets to relieve themselves.

  • Jpicurro

    The point is do not adopt in the first place.  If you cannot live up to the responsibility of being a pet owner due to what may be very legitimate reasons, then do not have them.  Very simple.

    Pets may not be equal to humans, but they are living things and should not be treated as convenient accessories to one’s life.

    You chose these cats and assumed the responsibility for them. I would suggest in the future to remain pet free.  Thus freeing you in the future from an avoidable choice.

    I am a fan of your newsletter but was a bit appalled by this particular article. 

  • Stereoknob

    You did the right thing leaving them at home and many of the pro-pet flyers are crazies. 

  • Amanda

    “Pets” is a vague word. Dogs and birds are quite different- as demonstrated in the comments. Sitting next to a snake is quite different from sitting next to a cat. Moveover, just as you’ve suggested there are varying degrees of good parenting, there are various degrees of good pet ownership. 

    To fault all parents because of the ones who are terrible is unfair. The same is true of those who travel with pets. 
    The provisions made to allow animals who are working on flights took years to enact and those I’ve encountered with working animals have been concerned for being a bother, concerned with other travelers and are basically attempting to go about their lives the same as anyone else, not fight for some odd right. These can and have included those who have emotional support animals. These are not people taking their pets on vacation- they’re trying to function. 
    The problem is that even when you’re trying to function, you need to balance your rights against everyone else’s… a parent may feel strongly their child should be able to scream and in their own home its fine. In an airplane, they should account for the comfort and fairness to everyone else. If you need to travel with a trained, behaved working animal, great. If you need to travel with a snake, you may consider taking alternative modes of transportation just to be fair to those around you. 

    As for taking your pet on vacation- most pets would not enjoy it and yet there are some that would. Knowing which your pet is depends on how in tune you are to your pet, and how good a pet parent you are. The best pet parents would recognize when they’re making demands of a pet purely out of selfishness. 

    Pets, like children are an investment. If you get a pet, realize that much like you should hire a babysitter to go to the movies (rather than drag a child to a movie theather) you’ll need to be able to afford pet sitters.