How to get my cats to Japan as painlessly as possible.
September 22, 2010 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have any recent experience bringing a pet into Japan and avoiding quarantine? Advice about the formidable paperwork?

Possibly moving to Japan from U.S. within a year for husband's job. No way am I going without my cats. I've already read a lot on the Japan Animal Quarantine Service site. The paperwork and procedures looks daunting, but I'm up to it. I'm looking for reassurance from someone who's been through the process successfully (or accounts from anyone who had a bad experience). The thought of putting my babies in extended (up to 180 days) quarantine horrifies me.

Also, wondering what it's like, if you take your cat as carry-on, going through security. I understand you must remove the cat from carrier. This seems like it could be nightmarish with a scared struggling 12 lb cat.

posted by dmvs to Pets & Animals (4 answers total)
I've taken a 13-pound cat through security (going between countries that don't require quarantine, so I can't help with that). You do have to take the cat out of the carrier. The carrier goes through the x-ray, the cat goes through the metal detector with you. I don't think there's any way around that for a carry-on animal.

However, you can leave a harness on the cat. That's what I did (I had to use a harness made for small dogs, in this style). The harness gives you something firm to hold on to. I would definitely use a harness, not a collar.

Even with the harness, I didn't set off the metal detector, but I'm guessing that if you did, they'd either use the wand or pat you down while you continue to hold the cat. However, they might make you put the cat back in the carrier or let a TSA agent hold the cat.

In my case, the cat was too freaked out to fight me, but that's pretty hard to predict (I definitely thought my cat would lose her mind but she was silent and just close stuck to me). My planned strategy was to be super-polite to the TSA people and hope a cute cat face would encourage them to be polite back. I had no trouble at all.

I found a top-loading cat carrier to be a huge help when getting her out and putting her back in. I love my Sherpa!
posted by neushoorn at 9:39 AM on September 22, 2010

Talk to your vet about the possibility of mild cat sedation prior to the flight.
posted by lizzicide at 9:51 AM on September 22, 2010

Talk to your vet about the possibility of mild cat sedation prior to the flight.

But test it on your cat at home first. I drove 8 hours recently with my two, and one didn't tolerate the sedation well AT ALL.
posted by MsMolly at 10:23 AM on September 22, 2010

My experience is from 20 years ago, so it's not necessarily recent, and I don't know how much or how little things have changed.

My family moved from the U.S. to Japan in 1988 with our dog (a collie/retriever mix, so a typical American dog size, bigger than your cat). We put her in a dog crate and tranquilized her and she flew in her crate in the cargo bin of the airplane from New York to Tokyo. Upon arrival at Narita Airport, she and her crate rolled out at baggage claim along with the rest of the luggage. Then we took her to the appropriate desk at Narita for quarantine. She was only in quarantine for two weeks (although I still remember the sound of her anguished barking as we left her there -- she was probably confused and scared).

After two weeks, we drove back to the airport to pick her up, and she was just fine: healthy and incredibly thrilled to see us.

She lived with us in Japan for three years, and then for 10 more years back in the U.S. So she did just fine with quarantine.

I hope this helps.
posted by Tin Man at 11:31 AM on September 22, 2010

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