Yikes! Cats on a plane

Being allergic to cats is nothing to sneeze at (sorry!).

And I can’t imagine a much worse situation for anyone with a cat allergy than being on an airplane where cats are traveling just metres away in the passenger compartment.

Nevertheless some airlines do allow passengers to bring catsTraveling Cat aboard their planes. One of them is Air Canada, which argues that it must allow cats because some passengers require them as “emotional support animals.” [Story on canada.com has been removed]

Air Canada says it is bound by US disability laws on most of its flights. As Postmedia reports:

Unlike in Canada, a US law about the non-discrimination of persons with disabilities in the transportation network recognizes all “emotional support” or “psychiatric-support” animals as service animals, except for snakes and other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders.

“These animals need not have received any formal training. Although cats usually cannot be trained as a service animal (the adage: ‘you cannot herd cats’), they often are used as emotional support animals,” states Air Canada’s submission.

The US rule applies to any flights of an American carrier, and to flights to and from the US operated by a foreign carrier. It also applies to all domestic and international flights operated by Air Canada that are code-shared with United Airlines or Continental Airlines.

Air Canada says “most” of its flights fall into this category, and as an operating carrier of a United or Continental-marketed flight, it “often” has to transport cats as emotional support animals.

Air Canada says “most” of its flights fall into this category, and as an operating carrier of a United or Continental marketed flight, it “often” has to transport cats as emotional support animals.

So which do you think is more important? The need for an emotional support cat, or the risk of being exposed to a cat that causes allergic reaction?

I’m siding with allergy sufferers. Even though Judee and I breed low-allergen Siberian cats, I can’t understand why cats are ever allowed in the passenger compartment. We’ve transported our cats all the way from Toronto to Auckland, New Zealand – in the cargo area – and they’ve managed just fine. As have thousands of other animals shipped worldwide.

I wouldn’t even want our low-allergen Siberians traveling as carry-on baggage. Allergen (Fel d1) levels vary greatly, even among Siberians, as do people’s sensitivity to the allergen.

What’s more, a cat that is under stress is likely to have higher levels of Fel d1 than normal.

We love our cats, but for a few hours of air travel, they can ride down below.

Photo: dicherry on Flickr

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