To cat or not to cat (when moving a lot), that is the question
February 22, 2010 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a cat? Problem: career involves international relocation every few years.

I'm thinking of getting a cat but my job requires that I move to a different country approximately every 2-4 years. Will this kind of lifestyle be too stressful on a cat (therefore making it a bad idea to get one)?

I'm aware of the financial, caregiving, and emotional responsibilities of pet ownership in general, including costs and relocation hassles associated with dealing with quarantine restrictions. What I am more concerned about a cat's ability to cope with this kind of travel and change in its living environment every few years.

I know it's hard to generalize across all cats but any advice or anecdotes about relocation/ international travel with a cat is welcome.

Other general info: I am currently located in Ottawa and will be here for 1-1.5 years until I am sent on my first posting. I've grown up with a dog and my family went through a incident-free-but-still-mildly-stressful trans-Pacific move with him. I like cats but have never owned one before and would be looking to adopt one from the humane society.
posted by kitkatcathy to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it's probably a bad idea.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Maybe you could foster animals for a shelter, being very clear with them (and yourself!) that you will need to pick up and move away within a certain period of time.
posted by zadcat at 5:11 PM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

No, don't get a cat.
posted by fire&wings at 5:12 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Some countries require up to six-month quarantines on pets. Others have animals with a variety of displeasing diseases just wandering around. If you travel a lot, or if you will be traveling and don't know where yet, don't get a pet.
posted by mhoye at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Could you give up said cat if you had to for the cat's benefit?

My girlfriend transported a cat from the UK to the US. It was pretty traumatic for said cat (from stories I've heard). It was also expensive (not a concern of yours).

The big factor here is that this particular cat is wonderful, but has now been identified with a heart condition that would preclude her from doing this again.

I know she'd never be able to leave the cat behind. We don't need/intend to move any time soon, so this works out fine for us, but she'd be devastated if we had to give the cat up to move, which we would have to if we went overseas.

I doubt she could do it. So unless you think you could, I'd say don't get one.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:15 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

No. Do not get a cat. You might have to move to a place which has restrictive quarantine requirements, or where housing that allows pets (or just cats) is scarce and expensive, or where cats are rarely kept as pets and thus it's difficult to find cat food and litter AND people think you're strange for keeping a cat as a pet (not that being thought of as strange bothers some people, but it does bother others) - you might regret the decision and resent the cat.

What zadcat said - you might be able to do some short-term fostering. Or you can maybe volunteer at a cat rescue or a shelter (volunteer with a no-kill if you can't stand the thought of euthanasia). This will satisfy your cat cravings without potential trauma to the cat and you should an above scenario happen.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No, totally unfair to the cat. Cats tend to be attached to places, not people (unlike dogs). Plus, you may inevitably run into quarantine issues depending on the posting.
posted by meerkatty at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It would be hard on the animal. I suggest fostering, and here's an organization in Ottawa. I fostered for 4 years and it was a good experience.
posted by Cuke at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I doubt she could ["give up" the cat]. So unless you think you could, I'd say don't get one.

Considering her circumstances, I don't think the OP should get a cat whether or not she thinks she could give it up of she had to leave. The decision of owning a pet should involve what the pet wants at least (!) equally as what you do, and pets don't generally want to be gotten rid of.
posted by applemeat at 5:25 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

FOSTER, you are a PERFECT candidate.
posted by vito90 at 5:28 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

No. Because applemeat is right, owning a pet should involve what the pet wants, too.

*eyes water and tears spring forth as I remember the one I left behind, how he fell sick and died from grief after 9 years as my faithful and loving companion upon my departure abroad*
posted by jbenben at 5:32 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ditto the foster suggestion. Look into foster programs in the areas you're moving into! Or you can go to the Humane Society and see if they possibly have a really easy cat that may fit your specifications . . .
posted by TwiceTheRice at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2010

Foster. You will help many cats who need love, some of them desperately, and at the same time not cause possible distress and anguish to a cat who might need to be quarantined when you move. Thank you for considering it!
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 PM on February 22, 2010

Response by poster: Ah AskMe, thank you for resetting my instinct that this is a BAD idea; my judgement was skewed by two coworkers who have adopted kitties!

Best answers to meerkitty for the sentence that really lit a lightbulb: "Cats tend to be attached to places, not people (unlike dogs)" and applemeat since my main concern is absolutely the well-being of the pet.

And cheers to everyone who suggested fostering (thanks Cuke for the local rec)! Why have I not thought of that before?!
posted by kitkatcathy at 6:11 PM on February 22, 2010

Seconding meerkatty's remarks.

Dr. Temple Grandin speaks to the issue of cats' attachment to their homes in Animals Make Us Human.
posted by xndr at 6:12 PM on February 22, 2010

I grew up a child of the U.S. Foreign Service, and we had the same set of cats through Maryland, Thailand, Poland, Virginia, Norway and Virginia again when I was young. They had to be in quarantine a few times, but they always came out again. They were certainly shaken up each time we moved, but they made it around the world OK and were good pets through all of it.

I've moved five times with my current cat over the last five years, although always within the U.S., and he's fine. OK, he's a little weird, but that's what cats are like.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:24 PM on February 22, 2010

I know you've already received the answers you need, but I'll nth the "not a good idea." I've had two cats and both made international moves once. The first with me from US to Europe. She passed at the age of 18. The second is living with family in NZ as I've moved to China. I know this is a temporary move and that I would be travelling extensively, so very much not fair to the cat. She'll come back home once I'm back in Australia or somewhere that will be a long-term home.

Do the foster thing. I might try it myself.
posted by michswiss at 12:20 AM on February 23, 2010

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