Transpacific cat
June 7, 2010 9:13 AM   Subscribe

How do you get a cat from New Zealand to the USA?

My friend has been studying for a semester abroad in New Zealand, and while there she met a stray cat and fell in love with it. She hates the idea of going back to USA and leaving the cat, so she tried to find out how much it would cost to bring the cat with her. Short answer: more than she can afford.

Has anyone ever taken an animal from one country to another? Is there any good way to do it?
posted by schmichael to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mr. headnsouth brought a cat with him from Sydney Australia to DC, USA. Not too much red tape because Oz is more strict about animals than the US is, but the cat's cargo-hold ticket cost as much as the human economy ticket. Also, he got meds to sedate the cat for the trip, but they only lasted about 12 hours. Door-to-door travel was double that, so it was not a happy trip for the cat.
posted by headnsouth at 9:18 AM on June 7, 2010

The best way to do this is to bring the cat as a carry-on. Small carriers will fit under the seat. You just need to figure out which airlines will let you carry on a pet. I carried my cat overseas once, and my small dog back and forth over the Atlantic two times. It's miserable for them, but it's better to be carried on than to be in cargo.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:44 AM on June 7, 2010

My one tip: get recommendations for the pet handling agent you use. The perils of using a duff one below:

My folks once shipped our cat, The Furry Bomber, back from Africa via South Africa to the UK. Just to check... Mum phoned the receiving agent. The Furry Bomber had, apparently, not arrived. She phoned the person who supposedly loaded the cat. It was definitely put on the plane. She phoned the receiving agent. The cat was not in the transit area. The Furry Bomber, who hated travelling at the best of times, went round on the luggage carousel for two and a half hours before she was found.

The Furry Bomber then travelled back alongside two lions, bound for a British zoo. If she had worn pants, I'm pretty sure she would have shat them. But I digress.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:38 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Definitely bring the cat as a carry on. There should be a small fee for the pet (I think $50 for most airlines?) You will need vet records, etc. I would check out the USDA website. It doesn't appear that there are any major restrictions. It should not be difficult at all.
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:31 AM on June 7, 2010

Actually, you probably don't need records so much as proof of rabies vaccine. That's the big one for getting into the country, especially if the animal is pretty healthy-looking.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:28 PM on June 7, 2010

Best answer: Going from NZ to the US she won't be taking it as a carry on (pets travelling from NZ always go as cargo, there''s no other option) and it won't be a small fee. That's just the reality of living this far away. As an example as of last Easter it costs approximately $3000 to transport a cat to the UK, and while the US is closer so probably cheaper, no way it's anything like $50.

The first person she needs to talk to is her vet. They'll know about the different import specifics, health checks, vaccines if necessary, and will also be able to put her onto a pet transport company (of which there are several). The cat won't be able to go without at least something from the vet (airlines won't transport a cat without a certificate of health at the very minimum) so there's no point skipping that step. I don't know what the US needs specifically but if rabies vaccine is on the list then she needs to start right now, it takes several months to get it done and get the titre results back (I think mine took three and my vet said I got in just before some big delay popped up), and it also costs something like $750. If she doesn't need the titre, just the vaccine, then it takes less time and is cheaper but they generally give two shots four weeks apart so again best to get started now. The vaccine lasts for three years so it's not a problem starting early.

I agree that personal recommendations for a transport company are a good idea if possible, if not then a vet recommendation is a good start. Also it makes sense to do everything via a company since she'll need to hire an appropriate cage and sort out all the paperwork via them anyway (I've had several experienced people tell me it's easier and cheaper to use a company, including my cat-only vet who does this fairly often). They're annoyingly coy about giving quotes for how much it costs but you can always put some made up info into their websites and see what comes back (I have friends who did this), otherwise just start ringing around. The different companies will be able to outline what options there are available but from what I've heard there isn't much difference in price or services.

It sounds like she's already looked into this to some extent, with the more than she can afford comment. Unfortunately that's the way it is and there isn't a way around it. If we were starting somewhere different then there might be other options, but we're isolated and the airlines know they have us over a barrel here (and it's not like transporting your pets is necessary exactly, it's a luxury service and they treat it as such). I do know a few people who have flown cats to Europe, including on recently, and the research group I work for regularly imports animals here from the US. It's a bit stressful but generally OK and the cat will come out of it fine, so there are no worries on that side of things.

(I'm planning on taking two of my cats with me when I (hopefully) get a job in Europe later this year, so I've spent a lot of time researching this, including talking to my contacts within commercial animal transport companies that don't work directly with the public. Now I'm just saving as hard as I can to pay for their airfares.)
posted by shelleycat at 3:22 PM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: Alright, looks like she's going to have to get her heart broken. Thanks for the detailed responses!
posted by schmichael at 11:21 PM on June 7, 2010

You might console her with the fact that moving to another country would undoubtedly be terribly stressful for the cat. If it understood the choice it would probably rather find a new home in a familiar environment than endure the shipping/flight/hassle to arrive in a totally unfamiliar place.
posted by stubborn at 8:36 AM on June 8, 2010

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