Should my friend ship her cats to Dubai?
August 11, 2012 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Moving cats from New York to Dubai - advice?

A friend is moving from New York to Dubai in a couple of weeks. She has two lovely cats who have been with her for 10 years, since they were kittens. She's considering having them shipped but very concerned about the hazards of shipping, enough so that she's considering re-homing the cats, although that would be very sad and difficult.

Has anyone successfully shipped cats via airline, particularly overseas?

Can anyone speak to the potential of the cats dying or suffering during flight?

Is the potential trauma of shipping greater or lesser than the potential trauma of adjusting to a new owner?

If she does decide to ship, what should she be aware of?

Are there other good alternatives that haven't been considered here? Her budget is about 2000 USD (1000 per cat).
posted by bunderful to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
She can bring them with her (but probably one would have to fly cargo). She should research the quarantine rules for UAE.

She could also consider having a friend bring them.

A couple of weeks is probably not enough time. Many countries need 30 days since vaccination.

She can also pay to figure this all out for her.
posted by k8t at 4:00 PM on August 11, 2012

Also, Dubai is full of expats. Bringing pets should be fairly easy. I was with someone going to Tajikistan with 2 cats in a month and she can't even get the embassy on the phone.
posted by k8t at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2012

Best answer: I did this - LA to London this spring. I have also flown cats within the US several times. All cats were fine, not thrilled, but no worse than cats moved any other way IMO. The airlines that do this treat them well and have certain protocols for handling, temperature control, crates etc. Her vet should be able to give an opinion on whether the cats are healthy enough, and the airline will probably want a letter to that effect.

We used British Airways to London, no complaints at all, we handled the drop off and pick up and the the paperwork (which is a big PITA for the UK) ourselves and had to book a week or two ahead. It cost about $1400. Happy to answer anything else by MeMail.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:11 PM on August 11, 2012

A couple of weeks is not enough time if they're not up to date on their vaccines. Here are the UAE policies (may not be up-to-date). She also needs to talk to the airline ASAP-- they have a limited number of "pet tickets". If she's putting one in cargo she might as well put both there; it also might be a good idea to have them shipped a few days after she moves unless she already has her residence set up. Navigating a new city with a bunch of yowling cats is not fun.
posted by acidic at 4:27 PM on August 11, 2012

I think the first step is to figure out which airlines fly pets on her route. For LAX-LHR it was just Virgin and BA. The just call the airline pet desk and they should be able to walk you through all the policies, costs, and paperwork and possibly suggest a handling company if she wants one.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:32 PM on August 11, 2012

As of 2010, Air France would accept two cats in the cabin (though it's very expensive).

I work for a company that sends a lot of people abroad. We have a dedicated logistics department for getting their household goods out and back, staffed with extraordinarily knowledgeable professionals. They will not touch pets, because it so very rarely goes smoothly. YMMV.
posted by charmcityblues at 4:33 PM on August 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the answers so far - a quick note that I should have included before - while she is leaving in 2 weeks she had arranged for the cats to stay with a friend until she gets settled and sorts out the kitty shipping. She's done research on the UAE policies and has talked to the vet, she's mostly concerned about whether they might suffer or die in cargo.
posted by bunderful at 4:35 PM on August 11, 2012

Well, here are some numbers on the frequency of pet deaths. It's relatively rare (less than .2% of all pets) and even rarer when you exclude old/snub-nosed/unhealthy animals and flights during hot summer months.

FWIW, I shipped my cat internationally, through a broker, and had no problems. My cat soiled himself in transit, but I wouldn't really consider that "suffering".
posted by acidic at 4:48 PM on August 11, 2012

Cargo is a special climate controlled animal section in tied down crates of a standard size - not thrown in with all the bags. I've been told and personally feel that it's not less stressful for pets to be in the cabin. You also have to be able to fit any carrier in the cabin under the seat in front, I certainly couldn't do that with my single cat. I guess your airline may vary.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:59 PM on August 11, 2012

My cat flies with me fairly regularly on domestic flights of about 2 hours. However, I probably would not do an international tranfer because:

a) Experiences where she has spent overnights at the vet have not gone well. She does not do well being around barking dogs and crying cats that she can't see (doesn't know where sound is coming from) very well. If she were in the underside of a plane with that amount of noise from the jet engines and barking dogs and cats, I know she would be extremely stressed out.

b) The whole quarantine for 30 days in many countries would also concern me.

c) In many countries, the care of animals is not viewed the way it is here. Thus, I don't know how the animals will be handled when they arrive at the final destination.

I would try to keep the cats in the cabin. But, note that the only way you can do that is probably to have someone else traveling with you. Most airlines allow each person to carry only 1 pet and there is a max of 4-5 pets in the cabin overall.
posted by superfille at 8:24 PM on August 11, 2012

Best answer: They will be totally fine. People send their cats all over the world all the time in cargo, it's not the big horrible thing that some people seem to push it as. Tell your friend to work with a reputable pet moving company, one that has a good history and comes with recommendations if possible, and they will also be able to give her statistics about risk etc based on their experience. It may also be worth talking to whatever local vet the big cat breeders use because they're likely to have experience with sending cats internationally, although I'm not sure if Dubai is much of a breeding centre so that might not be applicable.

I flew my two youngish, fairly neurotic cats from New Zealand to Ireland last year. It took them a bit over two days of travelling to get here including a longish car ride at the end. They arrived totally relaxed and clearly healthy, hydrated, fed, and ready for a welcome cuddle. There was no change to their personality at all and it was totally worth bringing them along. It was more stressful for me waiting for them, which is exactly what the moving company said it would be.

The things that are more of a worry are medical requirements/quarantine (because they can be time consuming and expensive) and the actual cost of sending the cats. In my case it was half as much again to send the two cats as it was to send the two people, so your friend should get some quotes before deciding if it's worth going ahead with the move.
posted by shelleycat at 3:08 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd check one or two dubai expat forums for personal experiences.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:58 AM on August 12, 2012

Best answer: I travelled with my cat from Rome to Dallas, via Philadelphia. It cost around $200 I think. I couldn't find any airline that would allow me to take her in the cabin (15 lb kitty) so she had to travel as checked baggage.

My flight was with AA and you just have to show up on the day--can't book in advance. They have strict conditions about the temperatures at the departure, transit and destination locations. Perhaps they would lift those for Dubai otherwise it would be very difficult. (I mention AA only because that was my experience--I'm sure most airlines are similar.)

When I arrived at my transit airport I had to wait in the baggage claim area, near oversize baggage. (This is probably only in the US since you have to declare all baggage at first port of call. Otherwise I would imagine the pet is routed straight through.)

I had used a pad of diaper type material for my cat and she had wet it during the flight. I changed that before I handed her back over.

Note that, unlike dogs as I understand it, cats should not be drugged for travel. (For reasons I am sure you can find online.) FWIW, my cat settled into her new home quickly and didn't seem to shaken by her experience. But she's a tough kitteh so YMMV.

If your friend needs to send cargo--as you have indicated--here are the AA details. regulations. Note "Due to USDA regulations, American Airlines is unable to transport warm-blooded animals on flights over 12 hours in length."
posted by NailsTheCat at 6:26 PM on August 13, 2012

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