Traveling Across International Borders with Your Cat
When traveling with your cat, every national border crossing is governed by its own set of requirements. While cats tend to be homebodies, not all cats fit the stereotype. Some cats love to travel, and, of course, if you are relocating to a different country, you will want to take the whole fur family along. Most countries make such transitions very easy. By learning how to travel with your cat and gathering all pertinent information, you will make the transitions -both leaving and returning- worry free.
At the least, most countries require a recent rabies shot within one year and 30 days of passage. Speak with your vet about the safest options for rabies shots for cats that will travel frequently. Always keep a current rabies inoculation tag on your cat's harness or collar and keep the documents safe with you while traveling. Putting them in a zippered pocket in your cat's carrier is the best way to keep them close to hand should you be asked to present them. And make a few copies in case an official at point of entry wants to keep the documents on record.
Technically, countries require you to carry a health certificate from your vet done within 10 days of travel. All normal inoculations must be up to date and accounted for. Simply visit your vet, have a check up, and take signed documentation stating that your cat, indeed, is in good health to travel. (Chronic illnesses that are non-infectious do not compromise the health requirement, but always be sure your cat feels well enough to take on the stress of travel. And remember to take a good supply of all regular and emergency meds, carrying them securely in your carry-on bag.)
Pet Passports were introduced in the UK by the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to ensure easy passage of pets into the UK. The passport is associated with information on microchipping and other inoculation and health documentation and spares pets going into the UK from having to undergo quarantine. While some other EU countries have adopted the Pet Passport, it is currently not required for entry into most non-UK countries, nor do most countries acknowledge it.
The microchip is technically required by many countries. Inconsistently, the chip id is rarely asked for when entering. If you do microchip, consider it yet one other precaution. Make sure you have memorized the microchip number and microchip issuing agency call-in phone number.
Difficulties and inconsistencies remain when researching pet regulations for individual countries around the world. The consulate or embassy office has been the traditional place to get answers, although actual practices on the ground rarely conform rigidly to the official information you will receive when calling a consulate or an embassy. In actuality, most of the stringent regulations are not enforced consistently, with the exception of the UK which is a carefully regulated pet border.
Immigration Forms do not require you to list pets.
Quarantines exist for the UK (without Pet Passport), some of the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii and several other destinations. As these quarantines can be for much longer than 5 days, think carefully before casually bringing your pet into such territories. Quarantine conditions can vary widely. Also, in some situations, they can be amended by negotiating a safe isolation facility, but this is an individual negotiation and should never be agreed to without written documentation.
Some countries have signs at the point of entry for "Livestock Inspection." Your cat is not farm livestock and you need not report to those stations. International travel with pets is regulated entirely differently than livestock exchange.
While some countries' regulations are stringent, most are not; traveling with your cat to other countries is usually a wonderful opportunity to move your pet to his new home. Several topics to keep in mind are: travel style, interactions with local animals, and medical emergencies.
Travel style: When arriving with your pet, have all papers at the ready and make it easy for any official who wants to inspect your pet to do so. Since most officials at borders are more concerned about security and safety from terrorists, do not be surprised if your pet is easily waved through. Provide information and opportunities to inspect only when requested.
Local animals: The neighborhood cats, especially in developing countries, may not have been inoculated against rabies and other illnesses. While most street cats are docile and healthy, you will want to avoid street encounters for your cat. Feral cats everywhere host a variety of illnesses.
Medical emergencies: Traveling with your cat requires you to be proactive. In each destination, locate a vet or "animal doctor's" office. In case of an emergency, you will reduce your panic. Do research local health concerns for cats in your destination. In differing climates, differing health issues present themselves.
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, "The Journey of the Shih Tzu," Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.
Photo: Photo Farme