Best agent for cat travel NYC-London?
November 11, 2013 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Howdy! We're relocating from New York City to London at the end of this year, and of course we're taking our cat Olive with us. What we're having a little bit of a hard time with is figuring out just *how* to bring her, and we're hoping you can help us.

UK regulations forbid her from flying in the cabin with us, so she has to be shipped as cargo (!). There are a few agents that handle this, but it's hard to get a sense of which one provides the most thoughtful and caring service, if it's possible to book her on the same flight we're on, or how much it should all cost.

Has anyone dealt with this? Who did you use? How did you feel about them? And if you don't mind me asking, how much did you spend?

Here are a few facts that may be salient to an answer:
- Olive is a 7-year-old domestic shorthair who weighs in at about 10.5 lbs.;
- Yes, she has both US and EU-compliant RFID tags ("chips") and current vaccinations, including rabies, and those vaccinations have duly been logged on the tags;
- If she's on the same flight as us, or even on a flight the same day, we can get her to JFK and collect her once she's cleared inspection at Heathrow;
- She's excellent!

Any help you can offer us would be *hugely* and resoundingly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by adamgreenfield to Pets & Animals (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, here's the thing. You can put her in the hold. I'd be willing to do some contortions not to do that to my kitties. I just don't like the idea of my incredibly pampered and spoiled animals in the cargo hold. Pretty much hate it.

There is a loophole. Take Olive to France first. France doesn't have that kind of restriction. Now, you have to get Olive across the channel. You can't do it on Eurostar or the ferry (without a car.) But there are firms that will take your pet in the ferry in a vehicle and you can tag along for that part of the ride. Here's an article about the whole conundrum. Here's a link to the firm mentioned in the article.

The other option is Cunard Queen Mary 2. Cheaper than airfare, and you can bring a lot more luggage. You can travel from NYC to Southampton. They take pets! You have to arrange it early on, because it's popular. Olive will be in a kennel area, but you can visit as much as you like.

So...I'd do Cunard personally. It's 7 days on the ocean, and when you're doing a big move, you'll have a nice chance to rest, read and be pampered.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:35 AM on November 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

It's been a long time, but when my now ex-wife was moving back to her native Turkey from NYC and wanted to bring her dog with her, her vet helped her fill out all the necessary paperwork and located people familiar with importing pets into that country.

Perhaps your vet can offer similar help.
posted by dfriedman at 12:24 PM on November 11, 2013

We did this! (IAV, IANYV.) I was also 16 weeks pregnant and traveling alone (except for fetus and kitty.) I didn't use a pet handler--just called Virgin, who have a really nice pet travel program. My kitty got me frequent flier miles, even.

Go to the vet and make sure you have everything you need rabies test and microchip wise. Check again that your vet understands about the chip and the vaccine and the test and the waiting period before it's okay to ship.

This site: is a good place to start. You'll wind up here: and that will give you the info you need about the 3 month post-vaccine period.

We flew our kittus to the UK on Virgin Atlantic and back on BA. Both times were fine for kitty in cargo and we were treated much better at Heathrow (as was kitty, I think) than picking up in Boston. Kittyboy was 14 when we left and 17 when we returned and he weathered the trip better than we did.
posted by marmot at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

British Airways takes pet handling VERY seriously. I got my kitty while I was in London and flew her from the UK back to the United States, on British Airways, in cargo. Prior to the flight, I went to a pet store in London and asked for a pet carrier that would meet the size requirements for flying; I bought the one recommended by the clerk, but when I showed up at the airport with kitty, the British Airways folks told me I would be required to buy a much larger one before kitty could fly. They brought me a (very) large one from somewhere and I paid for it at the counter. I could tell that the desk people really cared; they fussed over my cat, etc. The whole interaction really assuaged my fears as to how my cat would be treated by the airline.*

Also, don't forget that because the US is an unlisted country vis-a-vis the UK, you'll need to get the blood test, which kitty must take at least three months before you fly.

*Contrast this with the hell of flying a domestic route with kitty. NEVER AGAIN.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 4:00 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Arcticcat is a very experienced traveller. Never to the UK though. He came with us to China from the US and from China to Canada. He's also done Norway to the US prior to that and multiple domestic and US:Canada flights.
The airlines are typically very helpful and we only used an agent for the China inbound and outbound flights. SAS and KLM quoted $1k for Norway to Houston, but in the end, we cashed in air miles and kitten Arcticcat flew in the cabin and got spoilt by the cabin crew.
Getting him into China cost $4.5k using an agent and Cathay, $2.5k to bring him back to Canada. Cost difference was for facilitating payments by the agent to the Chinese agricultural agents (read bribes), but this meant we avoided quarantine in China.
Arcticcat typically responds well to travel, he'll bitch about it but settles down quickly. The long haul flights mean about 2-3 days of discombobulated behaviour, mainly opera singing and being off his food due to the stress of being in the hold. Make sure the litter tray is set up ready for arrival, and food and water is available for her. I've heard some people recommend Feliway as a way to get the car to adapt to new surroundings, but we've never bothered, just let our cat get to know his new environment.
Good luck!
posted by arcticseal at 9:22 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

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