Is it cruel to move pets internationally?
June 27, 2010 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to the Netherlands from Australia in October, and debating whether I should bring my cat. We'll be returning to Australia in two years. Anyone have any experience of moving cats overseas?

I'm mostly concerned that such a move would be cruel to my cat. He gets quite distressed whenever I put him in a carrier just to take him to the vet. I'm leaning towards taking him because he's, well, my cat, and I really believe it's important to honour the commitment you make when you get a pet, and also because I think I'll miss the furry little bastard too much if I leave him behind.

Also, if you have moved a pet overseas, how did you do it? Did you do it through a pet transportation agency? How did they fare?

I'm also aware that Australia's quarantine regulations are very strict, but he'll only have to stay in quarantine for 30 days when we get back into the country.

posted by nerdfish to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could buy 20 cats from the price of moving one.

But seriously, I knew someone who looked very seriously into taking her cat with her to the Virgin islands, even going so far as to call freight companies, but no option really seemed like it would work. High costs, long quarantine in harsh conditions, generally a terrible situation for the cat.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2010

I've often daydreamed about moving to Europe. Every time I do, my wife brings me down to earth is my wife's insistence that our pet cat would have to be quarantined for 6 months. But I just did some research and learned that it's not always the case. It's apparently possible to travel from one country to another in the UK and EU without having to go through the process... so do a search for "Pet Travel Scheme" aka (PETS).
posted by crunchland at 3:26 PM on June 27, 2010

I have moved a cat from Japan to Australia.

It wasn't cheap but also not so outrageously expensive.

Lots of paperwork. My little guy had to be microchipped and have several vaccinations.

I modded out a container for him - Qantas and customs are really strict about the security of the carrier.

He spent a month in quarantine in Victoria which my Dad (who I was giving the cat to) said was a very nice facility.

Was I crazy to do it? My kitty was a stray, no breeding and turned out to be the most expensive free cat I've ever had.

This was about 9 years ago and kitty is still going strong. He was my Dads closest companion during his chemotherapy. Really the month of quarantine wasn't that hard on him and he bounced back wonderfully.

I worked with the Victorian Quarantine facility directly to move him and they were really helpful and understanding.

2 years is a fairly long time to be without your pet. I would say it's not cruel, they bounce back pretty quickly and it would be more distressing for you to be apart for so long.
posted by gomichild at 3:50 PM on June 27, 2010

I have friends who have moved their cat to the UK from New Zealand relatively recently and I'm planning to do the same with my two cats later this year (assuming I get a job). It's stressful for the animal but not overly so as long as your cat is otherwise healthy, and there may be options with sedatives and things.

But it's a lot more stressful on the wallet. I don't know about Australia but going from NZ to Europe costs something like double per cat what it costs for a person. To find out about possible costs and how it would work talk to your vet, if they haven't done this they should be able to refer you to a vet that has (if not then find a cat only vet, they've probably dealt with breeders moving pedigree kittens). Also start talking to a pet moving company, you'll need a special cages and paperwork and stuff and it's much easier to do it all via them (get them to give you a quote now so you know if it's feasible to continue with the plan). For the Netherlands you'll need a rabies vaccine for your cat if you haven't already and it takes time to get the bloodwork and paperwork done, six weeks for the two vaccines and a couple of months or more for the titre (which is done in Australia so may be faster for you), so the vet is the right place to start for that anyway.

crunchland is correct in that you won't need to quarintine and instead work through the Pet Travel Scheme so this is possible. If you only need 30 days coming back in then I think that's doable also, although see if you can find out what the conditions are like (you may be able to go visit, you may be able to do it in your house in the Netherlands before you leave). The transport company should know about this stuff too.
posted by shelleycat at 3:51 PM on June 27, 2010

Wow I've been sitting here for a while trying to think of an answer to your question.

I've never had to transport a cat overseas from Australia, but certainly we've made the decision to give away cats before returning to Australia (though this was when quarantine was ~6 months and not 30 days).

You don't tell us what the alternative is. I'm assuming he can't stay with a family member while you are away. If the only alternative is the unmentionable and I could handle the expense, I would take him with me. I miss my last cat every single day. I would pay many thousands to have him with me right now.
posted by Sutekh at 3:51 PM on June 27, 2010

I moved a cat from Saudi Arabia to California and it was easy, not expensive. This was several years ago, but I was able to fly on an airline that let me bring her in the cabin in an under-seat carrier, charged me $150. I had the cat sedated before I left the land of sand and she was fine through the flights, when she arrived.
posted by ambient2 at 4:36 PM on June 27, 2010

For us, airlining it was easy. The cat carrier was carryon-sized and fit under the seat. The airline had a pet-in-cabin charge. Our destination country didn't have any quarantine, or much of any paperwork requirement. (Australia is probably has something.)

We even brought cat litter and a litter pan for an airport stopover of several hours (but he didn't use it). This was a hide-and-be-quiet-when-faced-with-the-unfamiliar kind of cat, so there was no yowling or panic attacks or anything like that. No sedation.

We used a soft sided carrier with a zipper, so we could pet him from time to time. He managed to stick his head out a couple of times and actually looked kind of curious.
posted by coffeefilter at 8:26 PM on June 27, 2010

Response by poster: If I decide to leave Toki, my cat, in Australia he could live with my ex-boyfriend. We used to live together, and got Toki together, and we're very much on amicable terms. However, my ex told me that he's reluctant to take Toki for the simple reason that he doesn't think he'll have the heart to give him back on my return. I would never, ever contemplate having him euthanized just because I was moving. The cost will obviously hurt, but my primary concern is my cat's welfare.

He's a very energetic, curious cat, and also very vocal. He yowls up a storm whenever I take him to the vet, so I'm not sure it's an option to carry him in the cabin, though I'd obviously prefer to have him with me so I could keep an eye on him.

Thanks for the feedback so far! Much appreciated.
posted by nerdfish at 9:15 PM on June 27, 2010

Data points:

My friend moved from the US to Australia with her elderly cat. Quarantine is "6 months" but that really meant something like 5 months of observation at home in the US before a 30-day true quarantine in Australia during which the cat lived in a facility (not in a cage) and my friend could visit her daily.

I remember my friend was very worried about the move since the cat was about 15 years old. She had previously moved with the cat to Korea for ~2 years, which required no quarantine. The cat ended up living to be ~18 in Australia, and my friend eventually had to put her down due to old age. I believe if given the choice she'd decided to take the cat again.

I also had a couple of friends who moved from Houston to Bahrain with their elderly dachshunds, ages 12 and 15. No quarantine required, but obviously care has to be taken with pets that old. They've lived there almost two years and the oldest dog recently died of old age.

In both these cases the owners had had their pets for a decade plus. I think it would be harder to leave behind a pet you've had for a long time, but the age of the animal is a more weighty factor.

I moved from Houston to Korea with my Boston terrier (obligatory) who was 3-4 years old at the time. We lived there for almost three years, then moved back to Houston with him. When we moved to Korea it was the middle of May and many airlines have summertime restrictions for short-snouted dogs, so we actually hired a pet transport company to handle all the paperwork and protocol, which included forms and exams from the vet and microchipping.

Complicating matters for us was that our most direct flight was from Houston to Narita to Busan, SK, and Narita (Japan) has a 90-day quarantine, even if you're *just passing through the airport*. So obviously, he couldn't go that route. Instead, we dropped him off with the transport company on a Wednesday, he flew to a facility in Amsterdam and stayed overnight — got fed and walked and had a chance to rest — then flew to Seoul, where he was driving south to Busan. We left the following Friday, and when we got to Busan airport he was there waiting for us. Total cost for this was almost the same as our own plane tickets.

When we moved back home we knew better. We booked our own flights from Seoul to San Fran, which actually has a dog park on premises for exactly this reason. Check the dog as cargo for something like and extra $130, and he flew on our flight with us. I know a lot of people are weird about letting their pets fly cargo but I felt much better knowing he was with us the whole time, and he went through it no problem (he's larger than the average Boston and too big to ride in the cabin — note than many airlines also have restrictions on crates, that the crate be big enough or the animal to stand up in with a certain amount of clearance above and that they can turn around in it too).

*I highly suggest you go this route. Do not waste money on a pet transport company.* I am glad we had the help the first time but now I know better. On the trip home, I got a lot of help from the airline in terms of them answering my questions and helping me find the best method of moving him. You can find out a lot of info on both the Nederlands agriculture website and the airline websites.

Houston, being as it is a home to many expats, has several vets who are experts in the process of moving pets overseas. Not sure where in Australia you live but surely you can find a similar vet who can help you through the paperwork and requirements.

Given the chance to do it again, I would. Absolutely no question. Obviously, cats are different than dogs but I wouldn't dream of leaving my dog behind for two years.
posted by Brittanie at 12:28 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second the previous commenter in that having your cat fly with you is the less stressful situation and it works. The pet will need its own booking — check with the airline.

Here are some links about the paperwork for the Netherlands:

- Official regulation from the Ministry of Health / Agriculture

- Pet passport

- Expats with pets

General PETS information:


- EU regulations (details)
posted by knz at 1:18 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can also find the forms to fill by the vet at the bottom of this page.
posted by knz at 1:21 AM on June 28, 2010

My family have both moved cats and left a cat behind with friends before. The cats got moved about a fair bit anyway within the UK and it never really phased them. The UK used to operate a six month quarantine rule even for cats and dogs coming back from mainland Europe.

Mog 1 did two six month stints in quarantine, ten years apart. He also got left with friends for two years between the two stints in quarantine.

He lived to 16 years and died of old age. Mog 2 we had we found as a stray when living abroad. She joined Mog 1 in quarantine for the second time and also did another 6 months of quarantine three years before that and lived until her early teens. She died from being hit by a car, sadly.

I personally hated seeing the cats in quarantine but they were well looked after and if it were a month or so I'd be fine with it. But it is fiercely costly to move/quarantine a cat, as others have said.

Mog 1 - who did two stints in quarantine and was also left with friends - we agreed with friends that we'd pay bills and pick him up two years later. When we appeared at their door it was almost Hollywoodish how pleased he was to see us. He was always a very sociable cat, a pedigree Siamese, and he clicked back into his old ways in minutes. But it was painful for us to leave him and although his temporary keepers were lovely, kind people, they weren't cat nuts like us.

Mog 2 hated being in a carrier and had a ropey trip back to the UK first time round but showed no side effects. It feels cruel, but I guess it comes down to how you see the quality of life argument - both yours and theirs and where they meet. Within reason - and I'd say six months of quarantine in their lifespan is enough - I'd venture no ill effects although anecdotally one hears about animals that just give up in quarantine. We had unusual circumstances and the cumulative year the cats spent in quarantine over their lifetimes was never a preference.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:36 AM on June 28, 2010

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