Lonely Planet Writer

You can cuddle kittens pre-flight in this US airport

Who needs the airport bar when you can cuddle a kitten pre-flight? Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina is hosting a cat-cuddling session today to celebrate #InternationalCatDay and to educate passengers about pet adoption.

Cat-lovers are in for a treat on #InternationalCatDay. Photo by Sergei Savostyanov/TASS via Getty Images

The airport will host 10 felines, including Fifa, Nathan, Pixie and Oliver between 9am and 11am on #InternationalCatDay (today) in the Atrium. The cats will be brought to the airport by volunteers from animal welfare charity, CMPD Animal Care and Controland passengers will be able to cuddle them pre-flight to help ease any travel-induced anxiety. Volunteers will also educate passengers about adoption for animals that are currently waiting in shelters for their forever homes.

Airports have been turning to emotional-support dogs in an effort to make travelers feel at ease for a number of years now. Charlotte-Douglas International Airport already has 31 dogs in their program but #InternationalCatDay is the first time that they’ll host cats. The first ever kitten-cuddle is part of the airport’s TLC from CLT program, a plan to thank passengers by offering pampering services to make travelling more enjoyable.

Denver International Airport boasts one of the largest airport animal therapy programs in the US with approximately 100 dogs and one cat making up its Canine Airport Therapy Squat or CATS. The animals are brought into the airport by volunteers with blue vests that read ‘pet me’ on the front. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) also has a pet program for nervous flyers called Pets Unstressing Passengers or PUP. A number of breeds including pit bulls, poodles, chihuahuas and French bulldogs, wearing red ‘pet me’ vests, hang out with passengers with the purpose of helping them relax before a flight.

The airport authorities say the uniqueness of a trained pig has been a huge attraction. Image by San Francisco International Airport

Meanwhile, in San Francisco International Airport, the Wag Brigade brings trained therapy dogs and a pig named LiLou to airport terminals to help alleviate visitors’ travel-induced stress. The small Juliana-breed pig is hypoallergenic and temperamentally-vetted by the SPCA and provides a calming presence to passengers with her painted hooves, cheerful snout, wagging tail and occasional costumes.

A lot of selfies have been taken with LiLou Image by San Francisco International Airport

Bradley International Airport in Connecticut has also introduced furry friends to their terminals to calm anxious travelers who are waiting to board or departing from flights. The pilot program was launched in January this year and the feedback has been positive so far.

“While the therapy dogs currently greet passengers a few times a week, it is our hope to have them visit the airport daily in the near future,” Kevin A. Dillon, A.A.E., Executive Director of the Connecticut Airport Authority told Lonely Planet in January.

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The therapy dogs at work! Image by Cynthia Hinckley/Bright Spot

“Thus far the feedback from our passengers has been overwhelmingly positive. In the brief time that the program has existed, the therapy dogs have already made an impact on our passengers, many of whom write to us expressing their gratitude for the program.”