Expat Ninja: On the (International) Care and Keeping of Kittens
The Care and Keeping of Kittens
So you have a small non-sapien dependent:
Aw, little bundle o' joy! It's true - they are. Especially for folks who work from home and have started talking to themselves, or for folks who want to give their kids a chance to take responsibility for something outside of themselves... Cats can be wonderful company: cheerful and forgiving, usually pretty easy-going, and not all that demanding of your time (important for those of you with Things to Do, People to See). However, integrating a cat or kitten into your life and home does require a little bit of thought and attention. This article will cover some of the finer points of cat-proofing your home and routine, as well as how to establish good habits in your new feline dependent. The difficulty of the latter will vary quite a bit with your cat's personality, but the former is all tried and true through four cats: some urban indoor, some suburban indoor/outdoor; some very young, one blind; three female, one male. All but the last have had canine companions, with relationships varying from patient acceptance to proper partners in crime.
This latest cat is a three-month-old female: recently weaned and absolutely destined to be toilet trained. She'll also be living indoors, in a small apartment - we'll address the particularities that arise from that unfortunate situation as well.
Useful Equipment for Transporting Small Animals Overseas
Some words of caution when getting a pet in a foreign country, or when you know you'll be moving internationally
An international living situation shouldn't automatically preclude pet ownership, but it can certainly make things tricky. From the very beginning, you'll have to be completely on top of vaccinations and keep a meticulous record of vet visits, etc. The better you are at this practical organization, the easier any eventual move will be on all species involved.
Anyone who has had to take a family pet to the vet knows that even short car rides can be a nightmare. Now compound that with public transportation to an airport, gate changes, crowds, a long flight - just UG. So how do you get your pet travel-ready? Plan the fuck ahead.
Before we got our kitten, we purchased a special leash with a harness and a small "airline approved" pet carrier (all international travel carriers have to have ventilation on all four sides) which a couple big companies have committed to allowing on board as carry-on luggage. Almost as soon as the little fluffball had settled into the apartment she was taken on bi-weekly "walks" in the travel carrier, and in a month or so we'll start working in walks on harness. The crucial thing here is to associate the carrier with excitement! adventure!, rather than vet-induced pain and stress. Treats may be called for if your cat isn't super chill.
Points of Consideration
- Check public transport rules. Sometimes animals are not allowed onboard (my sister-in-law was told she would have to put her cat under the bus. Which is just... no. The poor creature will never trust you again- in fact, she'll start vomiting at the sight of a carry-case. Good luck ever having a pleasant travel experience in the future. And while I'm not saying Flout The Laws, there are some nice discrete carry cases out there, and if your animal is quiet or really really cute (say, cute enough to charm any passengers in your immediate vicinity), it might be worth a try to just get on and cross your fingers. If vomiting is likely, try to get a friend or taxi to take you to the airport. That would be hard to disguise and is decidedly not cute - unlikely to win you any friends.
- If you're taking your furry sidekick on as your carry-on, this means you only have a "personal item" in which to stash all travel necessities for both you and the previously mentioned sidekick. I.e. your carry-on is accounted for. You would be surprised how many people forget this, show up at the airport with pet, carry-on and computer. No dice, mister. Plan accordingly.
- Speaking of which: don't pack wet food for your pet. Just, please. Think of how awkwardly hard it is to eat a tuna sandwich in class or on a bus or some other public not-cafeteria setting. Wet pet food smells way way way worse. People will hate you like they hate the new mother who leaves a dirty diaper in the bathroom. Even if they like babies, almost everyone hates a baby on a plane. On a long flight, keep your furry one discrete with dry food.
- Add your pet's records to the list of documents you compulsively check before immigration/passport control.
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Documentation: Pet Visas and Vaccinations
The requirements vary by country. The following apply to dogs and cats being moved into the US.
1.) You pet will need an International Health Certificate, acquired within 10 days of your flight. Your vet is expected to provide this, and should know the ropes. I recommend calling ahead and reminding your vet that you will be needing this form, because the 10-day limit can make it tricky to reschedule if the form isn't on hand.
2.) Rabies vaccination and certificate confirming your pet is rabies-free. If you arrive without this, the custom official is going to whisk your kitters away and confine the crap out of it. You will be expected to pay for this. Your pet will be vaccinated between 4 and 10 days after that stressful flight, and will be in confinement for at least 30 days after being vaccinated. Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. LOOPHOLE: If your cat is an indoor kitters and you don't have the vaccination or the certificate isn't valid, then as long as the poor beast remains confined in an area of your choosing , you're free to go.
Apart from the whole rabies thing, or if you're moving to Hawaii, there's no confinement policy in place in the US at the moment. I hear this changes from time to time, like if there's a serious outbreak of something scary or if all the foreign cats are taking all the jobs away from nice local kitties. But for the time being, we're home free!
And if you're moving somewhere else? It varies by country, but more and more countries are requiring a microchip (expensive, but probably a good investment if you're planning on moving around a lot), and a full five course meal worth of vaccinations. For dogs, this means Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Leptospirosis, (DHLPP) and Rabies within the last 12 months or a minimum of 4 weeks before arrival. For cats, this means Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (all conveniently available in one long acronym: FVRCP), and Rabies within the last 12 months or a minimum of 4 weeks before arrival. Doable.
You'll need the standard International Health Certificate mentioned above, with the same time restrictions (no more than 10 days before departure).
And the EU has a special form, of course. Form EC#: 998 - available online, and maaaaybe at your vet's office, but best to bring it.
So this is the stuff you need have with you (if your pet is) or securely fastened to your pet's carrier, if the poor thing isn't traveling with you.
This dude is set, but sadly he'll have to fly in the hold
Pet-friendly Airlines: esp. if you want to bring 'em in the cabin
Since the economic downturn a couple years ago, airlines have been cutting corners with such enthusiasm that they're practically perfect circles... but it's still entirely possible to get your smallish kitty on a plane with you.
Some airlines, like Pegasus, will ask you to buy another (discounted/child-price) ticket for your pet. This is a perfectly serviceable option if you aren't going too far or you were very clever and set up a trust fund for your cat.
Delta and all of its various subsidiaries have had a pretty good track record - there's a fee (200 USD for most international flights) and if your carrier is soft-sided and fits under the seat in front of you, you're golden. I should note, for the high-rollers out there, that pets are not allowed in the Business Class section. And for the rest of us, only four are allowed in the cabin on any given flight, so do call ahead and make sure there's still an animal allowance on your flight before you buy the tickets. A short-list of other pet-friendly airlines include KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas and United.
Some Pet Relocation Specialists
(these will mastermind the whole thing - take care of paperwork and get your pet where she needs to be safely and hopefully stress-free - and also offer resources to help you if you want to do it yourself)
Forms and Regulation Resources (these do change, so check back often)
- APHIS Vet Health Certificate (form 7001 for international pet transport)
- Thorough Instructions for completing the APHIS form
- Pet Passports
How do you plan travel with your pet?
Have you ever moved with your pet?
Please share your experience in the comments section!