More tips on international cat travelling

More tips on international cat travelling

If you have been reading my blog, you should know I have started a project called – The Travelling Cat. The aim of the project is to get as much information and as many cat travelling stories as possible all in one place for the ease of cat parents around the world.

I have travelled over 10,000km with my own cat, I know how confusing it is. Information often contradicts each other and a lot of airline staff, for example, don’t seem to be very informed on the protocol.

I have written a post before on some of my personal travelling tips, and today, I will refer you to another article from Europe Pet Net which will give you some more tips. I hope you find it helpful. You can read the full article by clicking to the link below.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and more!

Your journey throughout Europe may involve one or many methods of transport. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with each unique travel situation and how it may affect your pet. Of course, before you set off, make sure that you have all legal documents in order and reference our Check List. Never hesitate to contact the transport company for specific pet policies.

Air Travel

With the emergence of many ‘budget airlines’ throughout Europe, more people are able to travel and sometimes with their pets. Pet travel policies vary widely between airlines, so be sure to check with the airline before you book a ticket. Cats and small dogs often can travel within the cabin under your seat while larger dogs must travel in the cargo hold. If you need to travel with your Service or Guide Dog, let the airline know at booking, as these animals are allowed to travel in the cabin.

During certain times of the year your pet may not be allowed to travel in the cargo hold. The cargo hold is temperature and pressure controlled while in flight, but it is not while the aircraft is on the ground. This may mean that your pet is exposed to extreme temperatures. Some airlines, such as United, have a special pet service which holds the animals in a climate-controlled vehicle by the aircraft and loads them right before the doors are closed. This type of service prevents exposure to extreme temperatures once your pet is checked in, helping to prevent travel-related illness. However, this service does not help when there are gate delays after landing. The most common health problems encountered while flying include hyperthermia, hypothermia and dehydration. With proper preparation, these complications are rare.

Some airlines prohibit transport of certain breeds for the sake of the animal’s health. Brachycephalic breeds (those with “smushed faces” or very short noses, such as Persian cats, Pugs and Boston Terriers) are more likely to suffer from travel complications due to their unique anatomy. These dogs are more likely to suffer from hyperthermia or airway compromise. They also cannot cool themselves adequately when exposed to high temperatures or even when they are very excited. It is best for these breeds to travel on the ground or in the aircraft cabin.

Certain breeds may be banned by airlines or must travel in a special, extra-secure type of metal crate. These include fighting breeds and bulldogs such as Pit Bulls, Mastiffs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. This is not necessarily because the airline views these breeds as dangerous to people; it is because these dogs have especially strong jaws. There have been cases in the past where Pit Bull-type dogs have chewed their way through a plastic crate and damaged the interior of the aircraft cargo hold while in flight!

To minimize stress while flying:

Pick a direct flight to your destination. Lay-overs increase the amount of time your pet is stressed and can contribute to dehydration.
Travel during the coolest time of the day if possible.
Get your pet used to the travel crate in advance. Most crate-trained dogs are very bonded with their ‘den’ and this may make travel less stressful for them.
If your dog is prone to chewing on fabric, don’t place a blanket in the crate. While soft padding may seem comfortable, some dogs decide to ingest it when they are bored – potentially leading to an intestinal obstruction.
The day before travel, freeze water in a container for your pet. Before setting off for the airport, attach this container to the interior of the crate or the door. The ice will slowly melt and help prevent spillage. Many dogs enjoy licking ice!
For other information, please see our Quick Travel Tips pages for Dogs and Cats.

Travel by Train

Train travel can still be stressful for your pet. The new sights, sounds and even the movement of the train itself can be unnerving. If it is possible, take your pet on a few short train trips before the big day. This can help him or her get used to the process.

Most trains throughout Europe are “pet friendly” but contact the rail company for pet policy details before booking.

While travelling by train, remember:

Keep your pet secure. Cats and small dogs should travel within a carrier at all times. Larger dogs should be kept on a short leash and on a secure collar or harness.
A water source should be accessible to your pet at all times. Carry a water bottle with you, as some trains may not offer opportunities to purchase water while aboard or the water in the bathrooms is non-potable.
Travel during the coolest part of the day. In some countries, trains are not climate controlled. If there is a delay, the cabins can become quite hot – exposing your pet to additional stress.
The movement of the train can sometimes cause motion sickness. For helpful tips about prevention of motion sickness in pets, click here.
For more tips on what you should take with you on the train, see our Quick Travel Tips pages for Dogs and Cats and Check List.

continues on Europetnet – Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and more!

The Travelling Cat: Doha via London to Dublin, 2012

The Travelling Cat: Doha via London to Dublin, 2012

Every year, hundreds of cats are being left behind when people relocate to another country. The Travelling Cat Project is a collective effort to demystify international cat travel.

Hopefully, by sharing our stories, it will encourage people to relocate with their cat(s).

We believe if you manage to move your personal belongings to a new country, you SHOULD BE able to move your cat(s) with you.

For a full of list of information and stories, please click here.

Today, we will hear the fascinating story of Petal and Omar. They travelled from Doha, Qatar to London and then on to Ireland.

It is apparently a bit of a complicated procedure, but their humans Kirsty and Bob were very determined to relocate to Ireland with their feline family members.

I chatted with Kirsty by email and she said,

“Sadly it was all too common to see notices up in the vets’ office and supermarkets in Qatar saying ‘We’re leaving and can’t take our pets, please give them a home’. It made us all the more determined to bring ours back with us. As soon as I could, I started saving a cat-relocation fund in cash, in case our bank accounts got frozen!”

This is inspirational! Only if more humans take the welfare of their cats so seriously!

Let’s have a look at their story…

Petal

Petal

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Omar

Destination

Doha to London Heathrow, then onward to Ireland by road and ferry a few weeks later

Year

02/07/2012

Human

Kirsty and Bob

Cats

Petal and Omar

Preparation

1. Did you use an agent? 

Yes.

In Qatar: The Veterinary Surgery, Bin Mahmoud, Doha (for paperwork only)

In UK: Ladyhaye International Pet Travel, Blindley Heath, Surrey

Vet and Paperwork

2. What kind of work did you have to do with vet before your cat was cleared for travelling?

We had to have a rabies serology test done on both cats to ensure they had the right amount of rabies antibodies in their system (they were already vaccinated against rabies as part of their yearly vaccinations). This had to be done at least a month after the vaccination was administered.

We were lucky that the quarantine rules for Britain and Ireland changed in January 2012. Had the cats travelled before that date, they would have needed 6 months’ quarantine. We had plans in place to send them to live with a friend in Belgium for 6 months instead, had it been necessary.

Transport

4. How did you travel to your destination? Which carrier did you use?

Qatar Airways

5. How did you book your cat with your carrier? Any specific requirements?

My husband was leaving employment with Qatar Airways so he booked the cats’ flight directly with the airline instead of through our agent. We took the cats in their boxes to the cargo offices a couple of days before the date of travel so they could be weighed and measured. The staff created the air waybill and checklist, and we paid for the flight.

(NB I think the rules changed just afterwards so cargo flights had to be booked by a recognised cargo agent, rather than by individuals)

Cat Box

6. How did you prepare your cat box?

We bought IATA-approved carriers and made sure they fit the requirement for the cats to stand, sit and turn through 360 degrees, which is more space than humans travelling in economy class get.

We put a thick towel and an old t-shirt that smelled of us into each box. We also attached hamster-style drinking bottles to each box door (the kind with a spout and valve) – less likely to spill than a bowl.

Travel day

7. What were the logistics on travel day?

We were required to bring the cats in their boxes to the Qatar Airways Cargo offices at the old Doha airport, four hours before the flight.

Once there, the cats and boxes were weighed and measured, checked in, and whisked off to the DOH airside animal facility where they would stay until the flight was loading.

8. Was it easy? Was it difficult?

I used to run the animal facility at DOH so I knew the people working there and in the cargo offices, and consequently wasn’t too worried about the procedure. It took a lot of time, and of course we were nervous about seeing the cats off on their journey, but on the whole it was relatively hassle-free (nothing in Qatar was ever 100% free of hassle). But our history of working at the airport and for the airline meant our cats had VIP treatment at both ends.

The Journey

9. How is your cat behave during the journey?

No idea! They meowed a lot in the car on the way to the airport but that was normal for them. They were quieter once out of the car. When they reached their final destination, their bedding had been changed, so they both must have peed, pooed or spewed at some point in the journey. That’s not surprising, as it was a seven-hour flight and they were in their boxes for several hours before takeoff.

Arrival

10. Any further inspection or procedure on arrival before you could take your cat home with you?

Our UK agents had to get the relevant paperwork before the cats could be released to them. That meant checking their rabies blood test results and the customs forms.

Our agents collected the cats from LHR and took them to my mum’s house in Sussex. She showed them to us on Skype (we were still in Qatar at that point), then took them to the Alpine Hotel for Cats in Ashurst Wood, UK. The cats stayed there for about seven weeks while we moved out of Qatar and found somewhere to live in Ireland.

Once we had a house in Ireland, I rented a Transit and took the ferry to the UK, where I picked up a load of furniture and the cats. They were stuck in their boxes for another nine or ten hours. They had to stay in their boxes in the back of the van during the three-and-a-half hour ferry crossing from Holyhead to Dublin, but that was probably less stressful for them than being taken into the unfamiliar environment of the passenger lounge.

After travel

11. How did your cat react to the journey?

On arrival at LHR, our agent emailed saying ‘They are both curled up together in a cattery, a little shell shocked, but they are all ok.’

They soon settled in at the Alpine Hotel for Cats. It was their first time seeing grass, trees and rain.

They were fine after the van and ferry journey to Ireland. We let them out of their boxes and confined them to one room overnight. Within an hour or two they were their usual selves and having a good sniff around their new home.

12. How much did it cost in total? Can you provide a break down if you don’t mind?

Agent’s fees Qatar: no record, sorry.

Agent’s fees UK: £450 (paperwork, clearance and delivery to Sussex)

Flight: QAR1873.00 (about €385)

Boarding in UK: no record, sorry, but we did get a reduced long-stay rate

Van rental and ferry crossing: about €1300

13. Any other information you think other cat people should know if they want to do the same journey?

It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s much better to send animals as cargo rather than excess baggage. Cargo staff are more likely to have had special training in handling animals than baggage staff. Also, never sedate a pet for travel. Some airlines won’t accept sedated animals, and it’s against the IATA Live Animal Regulations.

Thank you very much Kirsty for sharing your amazing story with us today. If she can get two cats out of Qatar I think we can travel with a cat ANYWHERE! 

Have you made similar journey? Have you travelled with your cat(s) internationally? We need to hear from you.  Your stories might give helpful insight to other cat people who are making the same journey. Altogether, we can make effort to make sure less cat(s) left behind. Knowledge is power. You don’t have to worry about the writing. We will send you a questionnaire like the one above, you just need to answer them. Please be in touch! 
The Travelling Cat: Chicago to Dublin, 2011

The Travelling Cat: Chicago to Dublin, 2011

Every year, hundreds of cats are being left behind when people relocate to another country. The Travelling Cat Project is a collective effort to demystify international cat travel.

Hopefully, by sharing our stories, it will encourage people to relocate with their cat(s).

We believe if you manage to move your personal belongings to a new country, you SHOULD BE able to move your cat(s) with you.

For a full of list of information and stories, please click here.


 

Today, we will hear the story of Akira & Archie + Fiona who travelled from Chicago to Dublin on 2011. The interesting part of the story is, it has a 5-hour road trip to meet Aer Lingus flight.

Let’s have a look at their story…

back to back Turf Dachshund

Destination

Chicago to Dublin

Year

July 2011

Human

“A U.S. expat living in Dublin”

2 Cat+ Dog

Akira & Archie + Fiona

Preparation

1. Did you use an agent? 

Yes. We used Pet Express (www.petmove.com)

Vet

2. What kind of work did you have to do with vet before your cat was cleared for travelling?

Moving from the U.S. we had to ensure that our cats were tested for and vaccinated against rabies, and also ,microchipped.   The actual order of those three things was very important. We had to get them microchipped, thn tested, then vaccinated, so the chips would be directly tied to the rabies chain of documentation.

Paperwork

3. Was there other paperwork you had to do?

We also had to fill out paperwork for the U.S. Department of Argiculture so they would process andapprove the rabies titre test.

Transport

4. How did you travel to your destination? Which carrier did you use?

In order to guarantee a direct flight we actually drove the cats (and our dog) four extra hours in a van to get to Chicago. In Chicago we met our Pet Express contact and handed over the pets who were then placed on an Aer Lingus flight direct to Dublin.

5. How did you book your cat with your carrier? Any specific requirements?

Pet Express handed all arrangements. They are the exclusive agent for Aer Lingus in the U.S. If you are going to fly your pet on Aer Lingus from the U.S., you must use Pet Express without exception

Cat Box

6. How did you prepare your cat box?

Our crates were a standard size dictated by the airline and a regulatory agency. They needed a few extra air holes that I drilled with a standard home drill. We also bought extra water dishes to clip on the front door. These we filled and froze in advance so the water would not spill and they could drink it as the water thawed during the trip. We also had small cardboard disposables given to us by our vet. They fit in the travel crate at the back.

Travel day

7. What were the logistics on travel day?

We drove five hours to Chicago, and had a stash of cheap disposable towels ready to put in the crates if the cats/dog got nervous or carsick and soiled their crates. They all did, and we didn’t bother cleaning the soiled towels. We would simply put clean ones in and threw the cheap old/soiled ones away.

8. Was it easy? Was it difficult?

We’d planned ahead, so it wasn’t too hard. But I think the cats/dog were pretty stressed. So we took time and kept them air conditioned and gave them lots to drink, but no food.

The Journey

9. How is your cat behave during the journey?

They seemed fine. When we arrived at Lissen Hall, the Irish import facility, they were all cleared and waiting for us calmly in their kennels.

Arrival

10. Any further inspection or procedure on arrival before you could take your cat home with you?

A brief inspection at Lissen Hall, but that’s all. No quarantine.

After travel

11. How did your cat react to the journey?

They seemed to adjust quickly and fit right in.

12. How much did it cost in total? Can you provide a break down if you don’t mind?

We got a total price for two cats and one small dog (so can’t provide a breakdown). Including airfare it was approximately $2,200 USD. I couldn’t find my notes with the exact figure, but that’s within $100USD.

13. Any other information you think other cat people should know if they want to do the same journey?

DO NOT sedate your pets. We got that advice from everyone. Even if you think they’ll be stressed, it’s far worse if they can’t stand up or get to their water because they are too heavily drugged.

Also, do everything possible to fly direct, or at least limit the number of transfers. The real danger is not in-flight problems, it’s trouble on the ground (being left in a too hot or too cold room or luggage cart, etc.)

Thank you very much “A U.S. expat living in Dublin” for sharing your story with us today. He also writes a very interesting blog called “An American in Dublin” talking about his experience as a modern immigrant in Dublin, I follow his blog myself, please go over and say hi!

Have you made similar journey? Have you travelled with your cat(s) internationally? We need to hear from you.  Your stories might give helpful insight to other cat people who are making the same journey. Altogether, we can make effort to make sure less cat(s) left behind. Knowledge is power. 
 
You don’t have to worry about the writing. We will send you a questionnaire like the one above, you just need to answer them. Please be in touch! 

The Travelling Cat: Hong Kong to Paris, 2003

Every year, hundreds of cats are being left behind when people relocate to another country. The Travelling Cat Project is a collective effort to demystify international cat travel.

Hopefully, by sharing our stories, it will encourage people to relocate with their cat(s).

We believe if you manage to move your personal belongings to a new country, you SHOULD BE able to move your cat(s) with you.

For a full of list of information and stories, please click here.

Destination

Hong Kong to Paris

Year

2003

Human

Myself – Alice Chau Ginguene

Cat

Larmlarm

Preparation

1. Did you use an agent? 

No.

Vet

2. What kind of work did you have to do with vet before your cat was cleared for travelling?

I needed to go to the vet to get rabies shot for Larmlarm and a health certificate before departure. After getting the health certificate, I needed to make an appointment with the Government Veterinary Officer to counter-sign to certify the vet’s signature. 

Paperwork

3. Was there other paperwork you had to do?

Yes. Since Larmlarm had another name when I adopted him from the shelter. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries needed me to write an affidavit to say the two names belonged to the same cat.

Transport

4. How did you travel to your destination? Which carrier did you use?

I travelled with Korean Air, because I wanted Larmlarm to travel with me in cabin. He was only 6 months old. I didn’t feel comfortable for him to be in the cargo. 

5. How did you book your cat with your carrier? Any specific requirements?

Since I travelled with him in cabin, I needed to contact the airline in advance to arrange as they only allow one pet per flight. I also needed to pay a fee as he is considered to be ‘extra baggage’. They do have a specific measurement regarding the cat carrier. Also, it is compulsory for the carrier to have a water bottle, but the cat is not allowed to have food during the flight. 

Cat Box

6. How did you prepare your cat box?

I prepared the water bottle and his toys.

Travel day

7. What were the logistics on travel day?

I arrived at the airport early to allow some time in case there was any issue at Customs. I went through Customs in Hong Kong, they looked at the vaccination record and the health certificate from my vet and the Government Veterinary Officer. Then I went straight to the gate to wait. That’s all. 

We had a transit flight through Seoul. There was 8 hours between flights, so we checked into a transit hotel in the airport to rest a bit. 

But during the flight from Hong Kong to Seoul, there was this Hong Kong woman complaining about the cat. She was convinced she could smell the cat! Crazy, I know! The cabin manager freaked out and asked me if I would put the cat in the storage cupboard! I said, ‘Of course not! Babies smell too! Why don’t you put the babies in storage then? My cat has his ticket! If the lady has a problem, you should move the lady, not me, not my cat, coz we are happy where we are.’

They backed off.

Ah well, there is always one cat hater anywhere we go, right?

(Author’s rant: As cat lovers, we all know there is no way she could smell the cat. Maybe in a house where the cats have been inside for one week with window closed because their human are away on holiday. Yes, you might be able to smell some cat smell in that situation. But this woman was not talking about cat PEE smell, she was talking about the cat body odour (if there is such thing…). Give me a break! ON A PLANE? There are more odour on the plane than the cat!!! People’s fart, dirty seat cover, yucky plane food in the oven heating up, people’s smelly feet, STRONG air freshener to cover the all of the above odour I have just mentioned, come to mind…rant over.)

8. Was it easy? Was it difficult?

It was quite straightforward. But it was my first time so I was pretty stressed out nonetheless… 

Arrival

9. Any further inspection or procedure on arrival before you could take your cat home with you?

No. The Customs staff in Paris didn’t even look at the box. 

After travel

10. How did your cat react to the journey?

He was happy to be outside and went straight to the litter tray. Then went straight to sleep. 

11. How much did it cost in total? Can you provide a break down if you don’t mind?

It was 11 years ago, so I don’t remember accurately. But it was something like: 

Rabies shot – 50 Euro

Health Cert – 20 Euro

Government Counter-sign – 10 Euro

Airline fee – 200 Euro

Total = 280 Euro to 300 Euro

12. Any other information you think other cat people should know if they want to do the same journey?

– Make sure to be discreet. There is always one cat hater on board. If you don’t want to get into an argument with people, stay low. 

– Prepare ahead if there is a transit. If you need to wait for a long time between flights, ideally you should book a transit hotel room, so the cat can rest a bit and the same for yourself! I wish I had a water bowl and litter tray with me, I didn’t have either. 

– Ask for an extra blanket from the flight attendant. You can then cover the carrier, so your cat will sleep during the flight. 

 

Have you made similar journey? Have you travelled with your cat(s) internationally? We need to hear from you.  Your stories might give helpful insight to other cat people who are making the same journey. Altogether, we can make effort to make sure less cat(s) left behind. Knowledge is power. 
 
You don’t have to worry about the writing. We will send you a questionnaire like the one above, you just need to answer them. Please be in touch! 
A quick guide to international cat travel

A quick guide to international cat travel

If you have read my story here, you will know my cat Larmlarm has moved with me from Hong Kong to Paris 11 years ago when he was only 6 months old. I organised the logistics myself and got approval to take him with me in the cabin on the plane. Later, we moved with him to Dublin by ferry. In total, he has travelled 10627.48km with me. Whenever I tell people about this, they usually find it very amusing, or feel very curious about how we did it. So here is a quick guide based on my experience, and stories from my customers who did international cat travel, I hope you will find it useful.

1. Plan early

I really can’t emphasize that enough. Depending on your destination, different cat travelling laws apply. Some countries might require you to go to your vet to get your cat passport at least 6 months in advance. So it’s never too early to start. Don’t wait until you get that job offer. I am not joking. Or you will risk having to leave your cats behind when you start your job in the new country. That will involve a different bunch of painful logistic arrangements – to find a foster family for your cats while they are waiting to join you in the new country. That will create a lot of stress for you and your cats who are being left with your friends or family. If you are reading this, the chance is you are thinking about moving to another country, so start today!

2. Do-it-yourself vs hiring an agent

You can either arrange all the logistics yourselves or hire a transportation agent who will do everything for you. I have never used an agent, so what I am going to do is – I will share my own Do-it-yourself experience with you. But a lot of my customers have used an agent to move their cats internationally, please go through the stories below to read about their experiences with using an agent. If you go down the DIY route like myself, you should start to…

3. Find out about the cat travelling law of your destination

Depending on the country, different government departments could be responsible for the enforcement of cat travelling policy. Usually, it’s the Department of Agriculture of the destination country, but it’s not always the case. When I first moved to Paris, it was the Ministère de l’agriculture, de l’agro-alimentaire et de la forêt . Later on, when we moved with my cat to Ireland, it was the Department of Agriculture. But recently, when my mom helped her friend to ask me how to commute with a dog between Macau and China, I found out it’s the Department of Food and Animal Inspection and Control (link: http://www.iacm.gov.mo/sis/default_e.htm) . So yes, it’s very confusing and it’s going to take you some time to do your research. If reading this paragraph gives you a headache, maybe you should hire an agent, because this is actually the easiest part.

4. Find out the law of your departing country

You might think the departing country can’t care less about what you are taking OUT of the country, but think twice. In my case when I left Hong Kong with Larmlarm in 2003, the Hong Kong Government had specific rules regarding exporting animals. So make sure to check you are covered on both sides.

5. Choose an airline (or ferry)

After finding out about the law bit, now you have to deal with the logistic bit. The government of your destination saying you can bring your cat in the country doesn’t mean you will be able to find a carrier to do so. No, I am not joking. A lot of airlines do not handle animals, period. No ‘what if’, no ‘but’. They just don’t do it. For example, I know Aer Lingus don’t handle cat travel within Europe, even though you can most definitely bring cats to Ireland. They wouldn’t let me bring my cat from Paris to Dublin, for example. We took the ferry instead. As a result, most of my customers came into this country with their cats via United Kingdom or Germany. Also, ‘cat travelling’ has two meanings. You have to check if that means you can bring your cat with you in the cabin or does that particular airline only allows cat being checked in as cargo. When I moved from Hong Kong to Paris with Larmlarm, he was only 6 months old. I was so worried about him being in the cargo by himself for such a long journey. So I decided to go the ‘cabin route’. If you decide to go the ‘cabin route’, be prepared: you will need even more time to research for an airline that does that. Most airlines don’t. As a result, you may end up having to take a transit just so that you can choose a certain airline. In my case, I finally found Korean Air allows small cats being taken on board in the cabin and we took a transit in Seoul. Different airlines might have different requirement regarding their ‘cat passenger’. Make sure to check with them and follow their requirement to the T. This is not the time to take your chances. If you don’t fulfill their requirements, they might not let your cat travel and you will be stuck or your cat will be left in a quarantine facility to await further arrangements. Make sure to double check the measurement. From my experience, most Customer Service staff in airlines and ferry companies don’t handle animal travel very often, so they might not know where to look for this information and could provide you with outdated information. With Korean Air, they have a specific measurement regarding the cat carrier box in cabin. So that takes us to…

6. Buy a good cat carrier box

Make sure to buy a good quality cat carrier box to ensure your cat’s comfort during the journey. Make sure it fits into the measurement requirement of your airline. There are cat carrier boxes out there which are specifically design for air travel, make sure to get one of those. They are usually more solid and can handle being ‘bounced-around’ a lot better. No matter how careful you are, the airport is full of people who don’t watch where they are going. They might be looking at the Departure / Arrival screen while walking or trying to run to their departure gate because it’s the last call. The last thing you want is the seam of your carrier box falling apart when moving around in such an environment. In my case, I double checked and double checked the required measurement for a cat carrier with Korean Air. I called their customer service 4 times to make sure the measurement was correct. We still ended up having problems with that. Due to an internal misunderstanding, the information their Customer Service department initially provided was different from the ground operation. I put in a complaint since I purchased this particular box based on the information I got from their Customer Service. They finally let me ‘slide off’ and use the box with the wrong measurement. You might want to get the confirmation of the measurement of the carrier box in an email as written proof, as my experience tells me airline companies and ferry companies tend to be unclear about this and might go back on what they told you earlier.

You might also want to buy a harness or have a soft cat bag handy. I heard some horror stories from some customers who have travelled out of Dublin airport. They said when they went though the security check, Dublin airport staff wanted to put the box through the x-ray belt. But since the cat obviously can’t go through the x-ray, they asked them to take the cat out of the cat box. Imagine holding a freaked out cat in the security line in front of hundreds of impatient people!!! We don’t know if other airports will do the same thing, but as far as we know of, there is at least Dublin airport who would have such a request. And no, they won’t let you use one of their rooms, someone have tried asking that question already.

7. Book and pay for extra luggage or freight

Depending on your airline’s policy, you will be required to pay a fee to bring the cat in the cabin. With Korean Air, Larmlarm was considered to be excess hand luggage. I paid about 200 Euro. I can’t honestly remember the precise amount because it’s 10 years ago, but it’s about that amount, it’s not something crazy.

If your cat travels as cargo, you will probably need to deal with some paperwork for freight and pay for that accordingly.

8. Vet visit

As soon as you are thinking about moving with your cat, talk to your vet immediately. Not all cats are fit for travelling. Cats with health issues or older age might not be the ideal candidates for travelling. If your cat tends to have ‘accidents’ on the short car journey between your house to the vet, he/she is not going to do well on a plane for 12 hours. You will need to discuss the options with your vet. Your vet might prescribe your cat with calming tablets.(You might want to consider taking some calming remedy yourself at this stage of preparation!) They should have a general idea what’s needed regarding vaccination and health certification. However, there is no way your vet knows the cat traveling policy of every single country on this planet. Make sure to bring along the print out of what’s required from the government authority of your destination, so that your vet is informed. Make sure to get documentation for all the vaccination or health checks done as required. Make sure to check the date is correct! I know it sounds like a small detail but the difference of one day can mean your cat will be left in quarantine. Your vets are only human and they could make a typo and put the wrong day or the wrong month. You want that to be corrected immediately and not when you are already in the airport. In my case, Larmlarm needed to make sure his regular vaccines were up to date. Since he was only a kitten, he had just had his shots, so he was ok. But he needed a rabies vaccine for his destination country – France. So we got that done at our local vet.

9. Second Vet Visit

Depending on the requirements of your destination, you might need to go back to your vet after a certain period of time for a second check. It could consist of a blood test to check if the vaccine is working, or a booster of the first shot you had at the last vet visit. That’s why planning ahead is so important in case you need more than one vet visit and you might need some time before the vaccine is activated in the bloodstream of your cat.

10. Government vet approval

In my case with Larmlarm in 2003, the Hong Kong Government required his health certificate being co-signed by the vet of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. I hope now you understand why you need to plan ahead, as you can see, the whole process can involve a lot of ‘appointment making’. For example, this government co-signing service had very limited appointment slots available.

11. Prepare the cat box

Your cat will be spending a long time in this box, make sure to make it as comfortable as possible. Soft towels, your smelly t-shirt that they like, and a water bottle are in order. Don’t forget to spray some trusty Feliway spray. Make sure to lock the door securely, you might want to tie it with something just to be sure there is no accident. We have already established that there are lots of people bumping around in the airport.

12. Before the travel day

If you are moving internationally, the chance is you have packed up your life in the old country. Your house is sold or the keys of the rental have been returned to the landlord. You might have to stay in a hotel for a few days waiting for your big move day. Extra thought is needed on where you can stay if you are travelling with your cat. I was lucky enough to get to stay at my mom’s, so that was all good. But if you have to stay in a hotel for a few days, you need to do extra research on finding a cat-friendly hotel. If your cat travels separately, you might need to check him/her into a cattery while waiting for his/her flight. I do occasionally get requests to be the ‘cat handler’ to bring the cat to Dublin airport to check in when the humans are already at the destination. (Of course, you can get in touch with me here if that’s what you need!)

13. Actual travel day

You might need to go to the airport way ahead of your flight, as you will need more time for customer clearance than other non-pet-carrying human being. Also, in case of a problem with the paperwork (typo, bad handwriting, etc), it will still leave you enough time to contact your vet if you need to. If you have to check your cat in at the cargo hub, you will also need to arrive at the airport early to drop the cat off before you deal with your own check-in.

14. On the plane

Two tips from my own experience. First, try to be as discreet as possible. There is always one person who hates cats on the plane. I can guarantee you that. A passenger on my plane to Paris complained to the cabin manager saying she wanted my cat moved to the kitchen. I told the woman to move herself into the kitchen. My cat has his plane ticket. End of. Ask the flight attendant for an extra blanket and cover the cat carrier immediately. Number one, you avoid further stares from said cat-hating-passenger. Number two, darkness will encourage your cat to sleep immediately. That’s one good thing about cats – they can sleep loads. A 12-hour flight, for an animal that needs 16 hours sleep a day, shouldn’t be a problem.

15. In the case of transit, book a hotel

As I said earlier, I needed to take a transit with Larmlarm in Seoul. I had to wait 8 hours for my second flight, so I checked us into the pay-by-hour hotel. I took a shower, Larmlarm drank some water and fell asleep in bed next to me. If I were to do it again, I would remember to bring a mini litter tray though. I am pretty sure he would be happy to go to the toilet. So you might want to do that. I also want to give a special mention to the wonderful Frankfurt Animal Lounge. If your cat happens to take a transit in Frankfurt, as lot of cats travelling out of Ireland do, you might want to know they are in a world-class luxury facility.

I have never used the facility myself, but it looks pretty good! I am hoping to do an interview with the lounge in the future. When I do, I will come back here to add more information.

(photo credit: http://www.frankfurt-airport.com/content/frankfurt_airport/en/business_location/cargo_hub/animal_lounge.html)

16. Arrival

On arriving to your destination, you might need to go through custom clearance or health check by a government designed vet. But for most Pet Passport Scheme participated countries, you can just take your cat straight home with you.

From my own experience, on arriving to Paris, the Custom Officer didn’t even want to look inside the cat box.

17. Settle in new home (upset stomach – boiled chicken)

After such a long trip, it’s only normal that your cat feels a bit tired. Just like humans, the stress could have upset their stomach. I know you will be tempted to pile on their favourite treats to praise them for being a good cat during the journey. Refrain from doing that. I don’t know about you but I can’t be eating a heavy dinner after a 12-hour-flight. I generally feel pretty crappy and want to pull my hair out. Your cat might also want to be left alone so they can take their time to explore their new territory. Set up beds, water bowl, food bowl, litter tray the moment you arrive to your new home. Keep the first meal light and simple, so as not to overload their stomach. Cold boiled chicken is handy if you want to give them a treat without upsetting their stomach. If your cat feels too overwhelmed by the new space, keep them in only part of the house. Set up all their stuff in one of the rooms and spend time with them. They will fall asleep soon enough.

Extra Tips

Here are a few extra tips I have learned from my experience:

  1. Make sure to double check and triple check any information the airlines and the ferry company give you. Most staff in these companies have never handled an animal traveller, so they don’t tend to know where to look for the information. Don’t just trust what one staff member told you. Take the information he/she told you. Wait a few days, call again to make sure the second person says the same thing.
  2. If you are travelling in cabin, make sure to be discreet. There is always one cat hater on board. If you don’t want to get into argument with people, stay low. I got into an argument with a passengers on the flight from Hong Kong to Paris.
  3. Prepare ahead if there is a transit. If you need to wait for a long time at the transit, ideally, you should book a transit hotel room, so the cat can rest a bit and so as yourself! I wish I had a water bowl and litter tray with me, I didn’t have either.
  4. Ask for an extra blanket from the flight attendant. You can then cover the carrier, so that cat will sleep during the flight.

Further reading

International Cat Care has a very good article on Travelling with your cat. You might want to have a look.

All in all, bringing your cat with you is not as difficult or as impossible as people imagine. It’s not even as expensive as people think! I paid about 400 to 500 Euro for my trip from Hong Kong to Paris, that’s including special cat carrier, vet bills, airline fees, etc. Having a cat is a life commitment. So if you love your cat, there is no excuse, and telling me you can’t bring your cat with you and HAVE TO surrender them to a shelter? It’s a whole bunch of bulls.

Have you travelled with your cat(s) internationally? Do you mind sharing your stories so to help other cat lovers?

I am starting a project to collect as many stories as possible on international cat travel. If you have travelled with your cat(s) internationally, we need to talk! Please get in touch here!