Can You Bring Cat Food On A Plane? (TSA Rules)

Last Updated on April 6, 2022

Most airlines will allow your cat to fly in a pet carrier.

But can you take cat food on a plane?

Let’s see what the TSA says.

TSA Cat Food Rules

The Transportation Security Administration controls the airport security checkpoint and decides what can and can’t be brought on to planes. They scan carry on bags and also screen checked bags behind the scenes with an x-ray machine.

They have two rules that apply to flying with cat food, one rule for dry cat food and one rule for wet cat food. 

Here’s a screen grab from their website.

You can bring dry cat food on a plane in either carry on bags or checked luggage in unlimited quantities. You just need to make sure you don’t go over any carry-on weight limits or checked baggage weight limits that your airline might impose.

Wet cat food that comes in a can or a pouch is treated slightly differently. The TSA considers cat food that is mashed up or ‘spreadable’ to be a liquid so their liquids rule applies.

Here is the screen grab for wet pet food.

That means for hand luggage you can only bring wet cat food in containers that are smaller than 3.4 oz. These must be packed in your one quart size bag along with your toothpaste and shampoo.

Wet cat food usually comes in either 5.5 oz cans or 3 oz cans. The 5.5 oz cans can only be packed in checked luggage. 

These 3 oz cans can be packed in carry on bags but they use up space that you might need for toiletries.

You can pack wet cat food in checked baggage in unlimited quantities since the liquids rule does not apply to hold luggage. Again, make sure you don’t overload your checked bag since the penalties for your luggage being too heavy can be considerable.

Any water that you pack in hand luggage for your cat needs to be in a container under 3.4 oz too. Although you can buy water in larger containers after you have passed through airport security.

Bringing Homemade Cat Food On A Plane

If you cat does not eat dry food and you don’t have space in your toiletries bag for 3 oz cans you could try making your own homemade cat food.

Solid foods are allowed in carry on bags.

But the TSA says, “If you can squeeze it, smear it, pump it, spread it, spray it, or spill it then it’s considered a liquid”.

I checked out one homemade cat food recipe to see if it would be allowed on the plane.

Here’s the ingredients:

  • 85 g baked dark chicken meat
  • 50 g boiled white rice
  • 30 g boiled potato
  • 4 g olive oil

Meat is considered a solid and cooked rice is considered a solid too.

A boiled potato is considered a solid, but mashed potato is treated as a liquid and limited to 3.4 oz.

Olive oil is of course a liquid and would need to be packed in your toiletries bag.

With a little creativity you can make a meal that your cat would love that would be permitted through the security checkpoint at the airport and wouldn’t need to be packed in your toiletries bag. Pack it in an airtight container so it stays fresh.

More Questions? Ask The TSA

You can send the TSA a message on Twitter and they usually respond quickly with an answer.

Eloise wanted to bring cat treats on the plane:

This time the TSA advised Eloise to pack the cat treats in her toiletries bag, but as long as the treats are dry and not ’spreadable’ they’d be fine outside the quart size bag too.

This passenger wanted to bring sealed cat food in their carry-on:

You might think that since a can of pet food is sealed that would make it safe.

It’s actually harder for the TSA to verify the contents of a sealed can.

Of course you know that it’s simply cat food inside the can, but those bad guys could hide a flammable liquid inside a can and disguise it as cat food. 

So it isn’t cat food that is considered dangerous, the problem is that the TSA doesn’t know for sure what is really inside the can. So the fact that the can is sealed doesn’t help and actually hinders inspection.

If you want you can learn more you can read about why liquids are restricted in carry on luggage.

The Verdict

You can pack dry cat food in your carry on bag or checked bag without worrying about any rules.

Wet cat food must be packed in containers less than 3.4 oz when packed in hand luggage.

The TSA officer that checks your luggage at the airport always has the final say about what is permitted on the plane.

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